On Getting Triggered

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As a person who has gotten triggered often in her life, my observation is that letting yourself get triggered can open yourself up to all manner of manipulation—not the least by the media, but also by politicians, assorted demagogues, and so on.

This situation needs to be confronted head-on, as it is difficult to make the necessary thoughtful choices in this chimeric and volatile political/financial/ideological landscape when continually triggered by persons, narratives, and so on to sway you this way and that.

To me, this is a bipartisan issue. People on the right get triggered, and people on the left get triggered. We sometimes get triggered due to traumatic issues from our past—or simply from remnants from our poorly-understood primal origins. Something short-circuits our ability to make a rational assessment of a situation. We see or read or hear something—and our mind just “blanks out” in alarm, rage, flight-or-fight reflex.

After so many years, I have been able to get a handle on that triggered reflex—triggered often to the never-ending avalanche of headlines parading on my social media. After this U.S. election period especially, I’ve been very very conscious of the amount of manipulation that can be involved…how easily I can be “played,” as it were.

We should honor the feelings that we have, and the difficult moments we have been through. But when we let ourselves be so open to such knee-jerk, immediate emotional reactions—don’t be surprised if there aren’t people out there who are anxious to “cash in” on it, grab your vote because of it, control what you read because of it, and so on.

And meanwhile, nothing really gets fixed<–this is the most important part. All this emotion, all this fighting, all these hastily-scrawled (typed) invectives…and meanwhile, none of the important stuff, the stuff that’s the do-or-die fundamental stuff, gets addressed.

Potential species-ending asteroids, massive global unemployment due to AI, the next pandemic—fuck all those things. Because Donald Trump had the temerity to insult Meryl Streep on Twitter…and in my mind, for that split-second, it was like he was insulting me. And the next step from him insulting me (me, the most important person in this entire dramatic tableau, the “silent partner,” if you will), is of course the real-life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. So better stay on-point, better stay with my tribe, better push out those tweets, better stay vigilant.

And who really wins in that scenario? Who benefits from my being triggered? Trump benefits, because I give his Twitter more free advertising (as if it needed it). The media benefits, with gleeful pundits on the left and right writing even more triggering “think-pieces” on the controversy—every post, every headline, every click giving them more (albeit shrinking, in the current market) revenue. It’s even possible (and I’m going to give her the benefit of a doubt here that this was not a conscious decision on her part) that Streep benefits, by keeping herself relevant and in the news.

And fuckI benefit, because I’ve just played the entire psychodrama in my mind, replaying dozens if not hundreds of events from my own life, and have come to the conclusion that I AM RIGHT—I am right, and Meryl and so many other retweeters are on my side!

And so I fill my days with automatic adrenal reaction to situation after situation like this, fighting the good fight, continuing to replay psychodrama in my mind, continuing to project. And the media gets richer, and the demagogues get more powerful, and that asteroid keeps getting closer and we still don’t have that defense shield up oh well at least I was right.