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Trigger Warning: The Fine Line Between Speaking Our Truth and Censorship
For a long time now, I’ve been talking about adding a T-shirt to my branded range that simply says ‘Trigger Warning.’
Why? Because, every so often, someone will listen to one of my talks and complain that my topic areas trigger them.
I talk about the darker times in my life quite a lot. I talk about going through domestic abuse. I talk about depression. I talk about breakdown. I talk about my failed suicide attempts. I also, of course, talk about taking responsibility for everything in my life, how I turned things around, how I went from a struggling, spiralling, shadow of a human being into the vibrant, pink powerhouse I am today.
That’s the whole point. When we speak publicly about the challenges we’ve faced – for me, at least – it needs not just be a giant, cathartic splurge. It’s not about venting our spleen. It’s about showing the world there’s a very real way back from that place.
Even if we feel like we’re peering into an abyss, there’ll be a path back to wholeness, to happiness, to calm, love, joy, abundance – all the good stuff – if we’re brave enough, and determined enough, to make it happen.
Not all days are easy. Not for any of us. I still have dark days and scary thoughts from time to time. The difference now is that I know they’ll pass and I have tools in my kit to help me shift my state faster and start recalibrating my mood and energy.
And that’s part of my message too… we shouldn’t be under some crazy illusion that personal development work means we’re full of joy 24/7. That’s just unrealistic BS. This ain’t Stepford, baby! This is real life and – sometimes – a huge dollop of shit will hit our personal fan and send us reeling.
So, it’s not about having a perfect life (whatever that is) – it’s about taking ownership of our lives and recognising that WE have the power to change them.
Nobody else can do it for us and, if we just step out of that victim mentality for a moment and stop worrying about what we’ll do if we’re not allowed to blame anyone else for our current mindset, we might just realise there’s a HUGE power in that.
Think about it… the second we stop blaming other people and external forces, we reclaim our own power and give ourselves the absolute potential to create positive change.
By now, you’re probably realising I’m really passionately committed to talking about this stuff, and that I have no intention of stopping.
I’ve always been really careful about my choice of words.
I don’t shy away from talking about the word ‘suicide’, or wanting to die, but I do tend to shy away from graphic descriptors.
Hell, some people say they’re already ‘triggered’ by the topic, without me going into detail.
Honestly, I’ve long been a bit of a hard-ass when it comes to the whole concept of people being ‘triggered.’
Maybe it’s because of all those medicine path teachings that are so, so clear about self-responsibility and sorting out our crap. I don’t believe it’s healthy, or wise, to go through life trying to avoid anything that might remind us of past challenges that upset us – far better, I believe, to actually work through our stuff and collapse those anchors so they no longer control us.
What’s more, I believe we need to be talking about suicide and mental health more than ever – we shouldn’t be sugar coating it OR trying to close down those people being courageous enough to speak out about their own battles and how they overcame them.
Now… if YOU haven’t worked through your issues enough, or sought the help you need to come back into balance, that’s your business, and I wish you well, but we cannot go around trying to silence everyone whose words rattle our cages.
There are a gazillion and one ‘difficult’ issues that need to be talked about more and more – abuse, rape, murder, human trafficking, FGM…. the list is endless.
So, while I’m a massive believer in keeping those all-important topics live, we can at least be mindful of others, and we can do that without losing our message.
This week, however, I messed up.
I used words I would never usually incorporate into a talk. They were absolutely in context, but I did end up inadvertently triggering someone, and that resulted in a conversation with an individual afterwards, who gently reprimanded me about my choice of words.
What can I say? I’m human. Every other person in that room, I was reassured later, gave really great feedback.
Of course, I apologised, reiterated that, although I do aim to challenge people’s thinking, I would never deliberately upset someone.
Want to know what my ill-considered words were that caused so much concern?
Look away now if you’re easily triggered…
I was talking about using social media to speak about our challenges, about using our platform in a power-full way to motivate, inspire, and show people there’s always hope.
In explaining the difference between vomiting a cathartic splurge that benefits nobody but the author, and creating a story of hope and triumph over adversity, I used the following ill-fated words. They weren’t planned, I hadn’t thought them through, they just spilled from my lips like water from a fountain…
“For instance… it’s not about talking about reaching for the razor blades, it’s about leaving people feeling uplifted.”
That was it. It was the mention of razors that caused all the upset. That was the trigger.
I’ve talked about suicide – and self harm – so many times before. I have *never* used the word ‘razors’ before because A) they simply never featured in my story and, B) that reference has the potential to trigger a little too much.
I still don’t even know where it came from but, the second those words spilled from my mouth, I had a horrible feeling I’d crossed some invisible line. And I couldn’t do a thing to take it back.
I still believe, in context, it made perfect sense but, take it out of context, and it just doesn’t sound like the wisest sentence I’ve ever uttered.
I guess we need to find that line – the one between not being silenced, but being careful with our words, just in case. That’s something I’m usually pretty good at but, this one time, I failed.
We live, we learn, we pledge to do better in future.
Keep talking, people. It’s not about censorship, it’s about mindfulness. We don’t need to overly sanitise, but we do need to be careful with our words.
Do you agree?
Until next time,
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