Trigger Warning: This Isn’t One

Posted on Jun 27, 2013 in God | 9 comments

Trigger Warning: yeah, okay there isn’t one here.

I came across this phrase browsing Elizabeth Esther’s facebook page for her blog the other day. Under a video of a preacher discussing the 10 sins Christians commit without knowing it (cos that’s totally helpful), she had written:  “Trigger Warning for spiritual abuse survivors.  This video is triggering.  I could only watch about 2 minutes.”

At the time this didn’t bother me.  I’m not a spiritual abuse survivor, I thought.

I’ve always had quite an aversion to that term.  It sounds victimish to me, dramatizing something for the sake of getting attention.  My thinking was; ‘When I was in the evangelical church, I loved life, mostly.  Now that I’m out of it, I love it even more, mostly.  Nothing about abuse going on here… right?’

So I watched the video, stopping 2 minutes in as well.  Life’s too short to be worrying about sins you don’t even know you’re comitting, you know?

The weird thing was, ten minutes later I was sitting at the table again, this time with tears making creases in my make up, feeling lost and worried and unsure about life on a grand scale for seemingly no reason.

I know I’m not alone in these episodes and I’ve been working out how to deal with them to the point where they become less and less.  Sun and sangria in Spain helps.  So does thinking back to what happened in the past few minutes that could possibly have brought it on.

Use the bathroom?  Nope.  Text lover boy about how gorgeous we both are naked? Nope. Watch a video of someone using words like sin…

Yep, yep, that does it, I thought as my arm crossed my freshly clenching stomach.

Something about the way he tilted his head to the right and paused before sentences.  The eye intensity.  The authority.  The bottled anger over sins like Facebook.

Whatever you decide to call it, reactions like that to something as simple as a video of a sermon aren’t normal.  I’m still hesitant to use the words ‘spiritual abuse survivor’ but…

…if you find yourself responding the same way to stuff from the past, maybe it’s okay to take the label on.

Maybe the label will be the bowl you can put around the jelly-like emotions.

Maybe you’ll find a lid for the bowl so it can be stored away for a while or you’ll be empowered to carry the contents away and tip them down the sink.

At the very least it’ll give you an explanation, at least just one possible theory, for out of control reactions to a simple video… and keep you away from anything labelled ‘Trigger Warning’ if you’d just like to enjoy a delicious egg omelette for breakfast in peace.

Since then I’ve recognised some limits I have with ‘dealing with stuff’ from the Old Life.  I’ve given myself permission to leave something, to not watch something, to stop reading and go outside.  I recognise that there’s some parts of my brain and emotions I can control and other parts that I have to protect.  That sometimes I need to dig deeper to understand and remember and sometimes I need to leave it and enjoy the present.



With that in mind, some of you have asked to see the video.  TRIGGER WARNING: This may upset Spiritual Abuse Survivors.  I could only watch two minutes. 😉 Thanks to my sister for trawling through Elizabeth Esther’s facebook page.

Bit of light reading over your coffee?

  • WagnerPV

    Hi Clair,
    I know what you mean, and as weird as it may seam: would you care to share the link of the video?
    edited: typo fixed.

    • Haha Wagner, I can direct you to Elizabeth Esther’s blog page? This was probably about a month or so ago so have a scroll down…

      • WagnerPV

        Hey Clair,

        Thanks for your time, unfortunately her posts aren´t public.

        But don´t bother, it was just a dark craving to have a “trigger warning” experience. hahahaha

        • Hahaha fascinating. like the Page! Maybe it doesn’t work if you’re trying to manufacture it? Maybe you’ll have to do like an elimination diet on triggers to find out what it is that sends you over the edge. whole other blog post there…

  • Darrin Parkin

    Hi Clair,

    Good piece. I found myself going back and forth between recognizing the spiritual abuse and minimizing it. It DOES seem so dramatic a term and feels like it should be reserved only for torture survivors or people like that. The subtle stuff is hard to see and once seen, hard to admit its’ impact. I recognized numerous experiences during my ministry where that term applies but then kept pointing myself to the last number of years of ministry where I had a relatively free hand and respect and support. That’s where I was tempted to minimize the spiritual abuse. But I think abuse must be subtle and insidious…

    The video pushed a few buttons not because I had voices like his over my life over the last number of years but more so because I think I became my own personal voice in that very tone! Ew! I can’t really point to individuals like that over me for many years (since being a younger Christian) but I think I internalized a good deal of it (which I understand is the impact of abuse!)

    Anyway, it’s good to be free…

    • Darrin I heard myself in it too! That voice always condemning yourself… maybe that’s why it upset me.

      Good to be free! 😀

  • Well, when he paused dramatically before say “Face. Book,” I burst out laughing, so I guess I’m not too traumatised. But this has given me an excellent idea for a post about the things that do give me flashbacks to my old ways of thinking. Thanks.

    • Guest

      I’d be very keen to read it! 😀

    • I’d be very keen to read it! 😀