About Trigger Warnings

Upcoming Holidays

10/22 – 10/29 Preparation for All Hallows’ Eve
10/31 Halloween/Samhain/All Hallows Eve
There are two previous posts on Halloween:



11/S Full Moon
11/3 Satanic Revels
11/23 Thanksgiving
12/3 Full Moon
12/21 St. Thomas’ Day/Fire Festival
12/21 Yule/Winter Solstice
12/24  Christmas Eve/Satanic and demon revels/Da Meur/Grand High Climax
12/15  Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve
Important dates in Nazi groups
11/9 Kristallnacht
11/11 Veteran’s Day: Armistice, 1918


About Trigger Warnings

I know Halloween is fast approaching; it’s just around the corner. Part of me says that I should be writing about it because there are so many people who are suffering as they remember what happened during this season. The two major Satanic holidays are Beltane and Halloween, and I believe that Betane is organized around sex and Halloween around death. To me, death is far worse than sex . . . as long as sex does not culminate in death. So the memories of Halloween are horrible and the feelings are so intense that they are nearly unbearable.

But I have already written about Halloween.  I don’t think I could write anything as useful as those posts and there is something else on my mind. So I am only going to acknowledge the importance of Halloween and write about the pros and cons of trigger warnings.

First, how “trigger” is defined. It varies from person to person and time to time. I find it helpful to distinguish the ways it is used in everyday speech.

1. “Triggered” means being upset. There are many, many things that upset us, and most have nothing to do with cults. War, famine, storms, fire, dishonesty, abuse of power, and cruelty of all types. All of these things upset me, sometimes to the point of thinking that the world would be a lot better off without any people.

Now it is impossible to write about ritual abuse without upsetting people – at least people who have not dissociated and walled off their feelings. I should then, according to this definition, use a trigger warning  each time I write about, or even mention, ritual abuse.

2. “Triggered” means that something has elicited a memory. The memory may be just a glance at part of a past experience, a slight sound, or a whiff of a smell. Or it may be full-blown, as vivid as it was originally and accompanied by extremely strong emotions. The memory may be accompanied by switching, as one alter cannot bear to experience the whole flashback.

If people think that what they are about to say may bring up memories in others, they are apt to use trigger warnings. They would feel feel guilty if they learned they had triggered somebody, even inadvertently.

3. “Triggered” means acting on a post-hypnotic suggestion. If the relationship between the stimulus and the action is unconscious, one usually automatically does what the cult wants. If one is tempted to act but can resist the temptation, the link is usually conscious. Gestures, combinations of words, a series of numbers, a song, or an object may all be used.. For example, if the cult wants a person to go to a certain place, they may flash a series of hand signals, or may wear a necklace with special significance.

Although situation number three is the most dangerous of the three, it is less apt to be given a trigger warning than the first two. This may be because cues are not given  innocently. Even if they are given unconsciously, one part of the system is cult-loyal and knows what is going on. Using a trigger warning would draw attention to the cues and defeat the whole purpose.


I use “upset” for meaning #1, “triggered” for meaning # 2, and “cued” for meaning # 3. It helps me think clearly.

So much for the use of the word “trigger”. Now on to trigger warnings.

At first, the warning was called a spoiler or spoiler warning. This came from giving away the ending of a book or movie. It didn’t seem to be a totally accurate description and “trigger warning” soon came to replace it. Next, a description of what one was going to talk about was added. (“Trigger warning” or “may trigger”. . .. for talk of sex.)  Then a long blank space was utilized in the body pf the post so that people didn’t glance at the text by mistake and get triggered. That’s pretty much the way things are today.

Different survivor groups have different customs. Some are pretty lax about trigger warnings, others will hold a post or letter until the moderator feels that the trigger warning is adequate. Some groups feel that they can identify enough cues so that they can exclude people who are dangerous.

Now I don’t ask people to use any trigger warnings, and haven’t for years. I feel that anything a person can say might trigger a memory in somebody at some time. It’s impossible to protect everybody in a group all the time. Realizing this, many members of the group walk on egg shells every time they write something.

I think that a better system is to ask each person to be responsible for their own actions. I am sure that this is not the first time that the person has had a flashback, and they have experienced what is helpful and what is not.If they are upset or go into flashback, I ask them to seek support from friends, their therapist, or a hot line if needed. Journalling can help, and soothing objects or routines can help keep one foot in the present. Knowing that they are considered to be capable adults give people confidence and strength.

I do not forbid the use of trigger warnings. If a person feels better using them, I would not take away that support. I often suspect that if a group member uses trigger warnings, it is for the benefit of parts of their system, not the other group members. And if somebody slips into guilt if they have triggered another, that is understandable. I’ve done this myself, embarrassing myself immensely.

This approach has worked well in the groups I have moderated. I think it is starting to become the norm in the comments section here. Anybody have feelings about whether we should use trigger warnings, and under what circumstances? I’m open to all points of view.

Counting, License Plates, and Crosswords

When I was away, all those obsessive symptoms disappeared. It’s been four days now and they haven’t come back. They may be back tomorrow, in a week or a month or a year, or they may not come back at all. Perhaps it was just a cameo appearance? Who knows.

I thought I would write about some related things. One is reading license plates, the other is crossword puzzles.

Several of you commented on license plates, which must mean there are thousands of people out there who are obsessed with them. Ideas suggested were a program or memory and needing to memorize them in case you had to report them to the police. A related reason would be to spot cars that had followed you before or belonged to people who had harassed you.

I don’t know how common this is, but for me, I am looking for secret messages. (So did my first RA client.) This isn’t quite as nutty as it sounds because some programmed cues were seemingly random series of letters and numbers. So it would be possible, if they wanted me to perform a certain action, for them to send a car out with a plate containing that sequence and have it drive along around me. Maybe they said they would do that, maybe I thought it up on my own.

Many of the cues were plays on words;  they could be quite intricate. Sometimes opposites were used in a sentence, sometimes words that sounded alike, sometimes words that meant the same thing. I’ve not discussed this with other survivors, so I don’t know if others have the same kind of programming or if my programmers were just in love with puns and other word jokes.

Anyway, crosswords are the perfect places to look for such pairings. As a teen, I did two every day, the New York Times and the Herald Tribune. The rule was that the significant words had to come from different crosswords. I was still being abused during this time.

Now I do the easy puzzles that appear in the San Francisco Chronicle or the Washington Post. They take only about 10 minutes but almost every day they have a work pair that qualifies. I notice them, but they do not bother me any more. What does bother me is that most crosswords are done by software these days and the definitions are often wrong. Very annoying.

Oh, as a PS — I noticed that after the trip I no longer avoid using numbers instead of spelling them out. Looks like the programming using numbers has finally lost its hold. Hooray!

Triggers and Cues

Like any oppressed group, the survivor movement is developing its own language, complete with in-group jokes, slang, and coined words. Usually we know what we mean, but sometimes we confuse people who are new to their memories. Sometimes we confuse ourselves, as well!

Take the word “trigger” as an example. We all use it; we all assume it has the same meaning to everybody. I don’t think it does.

(I hate the word “trigger.” It’s so darn violent. It also — shall I say it? — triggers me, since guns were used a lot in my abuse. It would be great to find an alternative word, like “catalyst” or “reminder,” to express what I mean.)

“Triggered” can mean anything from being mildly upset to the activation of a serious cult program. Let’s look at a few examples.

My computer crashes. I am not triggered; I am upset. They didn’t have computers when I was being abused.

I step in cat barf in the middle of the night. I am not triggered; I am startled and disgusted. If this midnight gross-out stirs up a memory of my abuse, I am triggered. The present-day cat’s indigestion has catalyzed a memory or caused a flashback to a time long ago.

I disappoint somebody important to me and immediately feel suicidal. This minor failure has triggered old feelings from my childhood, when disappointing a powerful adult had grave consequences.

Somebody approaches me and says a phrase three times in a sing-songy voice. I feel light-headed, ‘trancey’, and have a strong urge to withdraw all the money from my bank account and go to East Podunk without telling anybody. I have been triggered — or more precisely, a cult program has been triggered within my system. Some people call the phrase a “cue” and say that a program has been cued or activated.

Being triggered, in itself, is neither good not bad, neither helpful nor harmful. It all depends on the circumstances. If you are flooded with memories, one more can be total overload, but if you are in a calm period, you can learn a great deal from being triggered.

Understanding the past is a wonderful way to free yourself from its hold, and in this case, the trigger is truly a gift. Of course, it doesn’t always feel that way at the time.

Being triggered doesn’t always feel unpleasant, either. The tranced-out state may feel euphoric. Giving in to a program may bring a sense of relief and calm, despite the danger.

This one word, “trigger,” covers a wide range of internal states, feelings, and external actions. When somebody says they are triggered, I always try to find out what exactly they mean by the term. If it’s not crystal clear from the context, I ask, and ask again, until I understand. Only then can I give an appropriate response.

from Survivorship Monthly Notes, Vol. 1, No. 12, November 1999