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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

I’d Like to Replace the Word “Triggered”

I don’t like the word “triggered.”

In our highly polarized and politicized culture, “trigger” is frequently associated with “too sensitive liberals” who “want everyone to cater to them and their needs.”

When a word gets co-opted, it loses its power and original intention. It becomes difficult to use the word without knowing the biases a listener may have about it.

Furthermore, the word places the blame on the individual - “I’m triggered.”

It carries an implicit assumption that the triggered individual has some unresolved issue within their life, and because they have not properly healed from it, they get “triggered.”

Like if they just did enough therapy, they wouldn’t get “triggered” by scenes of rape, torture, suicide, or violence.

Maybe those things bother someone because they should.

Maybe the real tragedy is that scenes of rape, torture, suicide, and violence are so ubiquitous that the majority people are numb to seeing it.

Maybe instead of “trigger warnings,” movies should have “callous warnings."


The word “trigger” does have its useful moments though, such as when something within us gets activated by what we are experiencing in the world.

For such moments, I suggest we simply use “activate.”

Marker Illustration of what it feels like to get activated, for the article "I Don't Like the Word Triggered" by Art Therapist Jackie Schuld who runs an art therapy studio in Tucson, AZ
"Activated" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

A misogynist remark can activate us. It enlivens our anger that something we value is currently being trampled. It brings forth our sadness that this is something we experienced before and continue to experience. It ushers in frustration at having to discern the best, safe way to deal with it.

All of these things are appropriate responses. We should be activated.

It comes from our power within that says, “Wait a minute, something is not right here" (which I write about in my essay "Honoring When You Sense Something is Off.")

Language naturally evolves with time. Sometimes we can reclaim words. Maybe one day we can reclaim trigger, but for now, I’m retiring the word and replacing it with “activated.”


Learning to work with your own feelings is a process.

I provide therapy for individuals with overwhelming thoughts and emotions.


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