No, not Tiggers! Triggers.
April 15, 2014 3:11 PM   Subscribe

I would like to give a short awareness talk aimed at raising awareness of triggers. Five minutes or less, keyed towards the safety issues for the trigeree. What key points should I include?

Anon for this one because it involves work.

I work for VeryBigCo ("VBC"). VBC loves to raise safety awareness, and safety presentations are a daily phenomenon. Some are well thought out and are very effective. These are usually based on personal experiences of someone in the room and are either told by that person or with their permission. (We'll call these type A for Awesome.) Others not so much. They can be hastily thrown together and are muddled through with a level of discomfort and "let's just all get through this and move on" feeling for everyone in the room, complete with awkward giggles and statements. (We'll call these type B, for, well, fill in the blank.)

The trouble with the type B presentations is that the level of safety awareness raised is zero. And the presenter is running the risk that someone in the room will be triggered by the material in the presentation. (And then doubly triggered by the disrespectful hatchet job someone just made out of their personal demon.) There is a net loss of well-being (safety, health and otherwise).

Today I was the trigeree of a type B presentation. This got me thinking that it might be good to do a safety presentation (of the type A variety) regarding triggers. What they are, how they happen, how they affect the safety and health of the person who is triggered.

Since my trauma, this site has been very helpful for my understanding of my own triggers, so I would really appreciate hearing from the Council about (a) what they would like to hear in such a presentation and/or (b) what resources or references are "musts".


A few notes before I say, Ready? Robes on!-
This presentation would be to a different group than today's, so it isn't intended as a call-out.
I did speak up today to the effect of, this is something very personal and important to me, and I would like to highlight x, y and z that will actually help raise your safety in those situations.
I am aware that we are each the person best placed to handle our own triggers, and that we can't control others. I am in therapy and have been since the trauma, and am making a lot of progress on that front.

Ok, now- Ready? Robes on!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a person with PTSD, I don't know how this would work. People are not mind readers. How is someone to know what my triggers are? For me, it's rarely visible that I've been triggered.

I think your heart is in the right place, but I don't know how a training would be implemened.
posted by kathrynm at 3:43 PM on April 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

What do you mean by "safety" in this case? Do you mean personal safety a la Gift of Fear, being aware of your surroundings, etc.? Or are you talking about "safe spaces" and staying away from things that might trigger panic or other feelings that could compromise your ability to feel safe and comfortable in your surroundings?

To be perfectly honest, these presentations in general sound like a Very Bad Idea for a large corporation -- or any organization. I understand the impulse to try and help others understand how things work and certain behavioral patterns/impulses, but the way you've described the situation seems like this is not a well regulated phenomenon, and that it's ripe for causing people to be misunderstood on a topic about which they feel very deeply.

I was at a talk last week where someone asked about how we can grab regional journalists' attention with press releases. "So how can we convince you to take a release like 'Kid gets scholarship funded by Wonderful Local Corporation' [read: dry as toast] to draw readers in?" someone asked.

"Well, who is that release for?" asked the presenter. "Sure, every press release highlights something cool going on at your organization, but is this truly for the public, or is it basically just an opportunity to highlight the corporate partner, who might not have much to do with your org at all? Is that something that the public really wants or needs? How does that affect their desire to pay attention to it?"

The answer is: most people don't care, unless there's some direct connection to their lives.

So that's the hard choice you have here. It's obviously a very important topic to you, one that affects your daily life AND your ability to succeed in your work environment.

But if the people who are giving (and paying attention to) these presentations haven't thus far shown that they care about triggers, perhaps a similar presentation isn't the way to deal with this. I say this partially because, as you've stated, everyone has different triggers and responses.

Given the details you've outlined here, I think the way you handled it in today's presentation sounds very appropriate, both given the subject matter discussed in this presentation and making others aware of your own needs.

So I would think about your audience and how they might respond to your topic. Is this presentation meant more for them -- i.e., do they want to hear it, and are they in a position to be receptive to such a thing -- or is it for you? Because I think from what you've described that your response today probably made more of an impact than ANOTHER presentation, within what sounds to me like a poorly regulated system, could do.
posted by Madamina at 3:47 PM on April 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

5 minutes? You should focus on a particular group of trigerees. They could be typical clients of VBC, returning veterans, trauma victims, people recovering from a particular medical condition, etc. 5 minutes is too short for a general overview, if you want people to get any usable information out of the talk.
posted by yohko at 4:37 PM on April 15, 2014

I don't know much about triggers, but aren't they sort of unique to people? What are they talking about at the safety trainings that is upsetting to you? Would it be possible to speak to someone privately (like in HR or something) and ask to make a discreet exit from the meetings?

This is just off the cuff really, but it seems like one of the things about triggers is that, even though you are in a heightened emotional state and the heightened emotional state was brought about by the trigger, you are still responsible for taking care of your emotional state however you need to do that. What is the goal of the trigger training, because it seems like it could be misinterpreted as "Please don't talk about thing" where maybe the most productive route is "How do I personally deal with my emotional response to thing in a way that works for me and VBC both?"

Or maybe you can just tell someone, "Hey, I and others feel uncomfortable with the personal stories at so and so meetings. Is there a way we can make the point without getting personal?" No trigger conversation needed.
posted by mermily at 5:46 PM on April 15, 2014

I think most people in professional settings already understand that it's inappropriate for them to say things that cause their co-workers emotional distress, and that if they see that their comments are hurtful, they should probably stop talking. I can't see what a general presentation on the topic, particularly one that is couched in "trigger" terminology that does not have broad currency in office settings, will add to the corporate cultural conversation.
posted by killdevil at 6:07 PM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Slightly confused by the nature of presentations you're referring to but I guess it really doesn't matter.

Very few people spend their working days being unprofessional on purpose. As such most people don't intentionally upset their co-workers. In an ideal world we'd all be aware and sensitive to a lot of things but as triggers are intensely personal you'll never get to a point where they can be avoided at all times.

If the workplace culture is generally based on respect what's left is people being people and getting it wrong in some instances. If the workplace culture is characterised by disrespect and is accpeting or encouraging unprofessional/offensive/hurtful behaviour that's something that would cause me to look for a new job.

But given the range of traumatic experiences in your average workforce in VBCs they'll never be able to fully avoid this. Presumably people do know the topic of the presentation beforehand and can make their excuses, perhaps with reference to urgent deadline/tasks/whatever if they believe the topic is likely to trigger them? If the topics are not properly communicated ahead of time I'd make a suggestion around that, perhaps asking for the topic and slides to be circulated ahead of the presentation?
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:27 AM on April 16, 2014

I disagree with the others above, and I think the way to make this presentation doable in 5 minutes is to narrow the focus to PTSD rather than the very, very broad subject of triggers which means something completely different for each of the various mental conditions that can be triggered.

So you'd want to outline it something like this:
-What is PTSD?
-What does it mean when someone is triggered? What is the mental process that is happening, and what are some ways the person might react?
-What can I do if someone I am working with is triggered to keep the situation safe?

In this case, I'd say you don't want to focus on personal experiences but actually keep this very textbook-like and formal.
posted by capricorn at 7:51 AM on April 16, 2014

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