Trigger Warnings, Snowflakes, and Safe Spaces

In this episode of the Psych Bytes podcast, we discuss trigger warnings, snowflakes, and safe spaces, specifically in the workplace or education system.

Before we jump into the episode, let’s discuss some of these terms from a mental health perspective and our feelings/beliefs on these terms.

Trigger Warnings, Snowflakes, and Safe Spaces

From a mental health perspective, a trigger warning is a psychological stimulus that can very clearly be pointed to a thing (it can be a certain person, place, situation, circumstance, etc.) and how that thing “triggers” an individual’s identifiable trauma.

Our problem with the term “trigger warning” is that this term and phrase has been watered down. This very important term was (and still is) used as a psychological “cause and effect” for trauma. Nowadays, people use trigger warnings to describe when they are uncomfortable or upset with a particular situation.

For an individual actually struggling with a traumatic event, let’s say PTSD, this significantly minimizes their experience.

Here’s a comparison for example.

Let’s say an individual is walking down the street and a stranger looks at them in a disgustful way. In today’s culture, that individual might say “ugh, the way that person looked at me triggered me.”

Now, let’s say the same individual who is walking down the street has been clinically diagnosed with PTSD. Now, when the individual walks past the stranger, the stranger’s smell and appearance remind them of their traumatic experience.

That’s how the term trigger warning has been watered down. There should be a clear cause and effect when using this term.

Snowflake (aka the snowflake generation) is typically used to describe a person or a group of people who believe to have an “inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are overly-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.” (Wikipedia)

This term was popularized during a confrontation that went viral between Yale students and faculty Head of College, Nicholas Christakis. Due to its origin, snowflakes and the snowflake generation typically represents “the young adults of the 2010s.”

Safe space refers to places created for marginalized individuals, allowing them to safely and freely come together and talk about their experiences with marginalization. The first safe spaces were created for the gay and lesbian community, but it has grown since then.

Nowadays, there are safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community, minorities, women, religious groups, and more. These places are typically found on college campuses and in the workplace.

This topic is very polarizing. Some view safe spaces as a necessity for certain communities, whereas others view safe spaces as a way for “individuals to retreat from thoughts and ideas at odds with their own.”

What are your thoughts and beliefs on trigger warnings, snowflakes, and safe spaces? Let us know in the comment section below. While you’re at it, let us know what other topics we should discuss on the Psych Bytes podcast!


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