“Triggered” – Why I Wish People Would Stop Misusing Terms

Over the past few months, in CPD, work, studies and my social media, I have been met with a variety of words and phrases that have bothered me. Stigma, stereotypes and ableism is present everywhere and it appears to be completely unavoidable. As a trainee therapist I was often met with negative comments about my “resilience” if I was “triggered” about particular terms – but I don’t think that is fair. As a human being I have thoughts and feelings. Just because I am a therapist, it doesn’t remove that sense of humanity. So when terms are thrown around without a consideration of the consequences, I feel obliged to call them out.

As a content warning (CW), there are some words, phrases and examples that some may find challenging and difficult. Please exercise self-care, and you are welcome to reach out to me on Twitter (@BuddingTherapy) or email (BuddingTherapy@gmail.com).

TW: Biphobia, Homophobia


The Cambridge English Dictionary defines the word “Triggered” as “experiencing a strong emotional reaction of fear, shock, anger, or worry, especially because you are made to remember something bad that has happened in the past“. Whilst in relation to something like PTSD the word appears to be treated respectfully, I’ve noticed more and more people throwing it around as a weapon and an insult, much like the term “Snowflake”. Using it in a more colloquial manner, it makes light of the impact on individuals who have been triggered by something.

Google books "Triggered: How the left thrives on hate and wants to silence us" Donald Trump Jr (2019) 
"This is the book that the leftist elites don't want you to read - Donald Trump Jr. exposes all the tricks that the left uses to smear conservatives and push them out of the public squar, from online "shadow banning" to rampant..."

For example, the Trumps have used the term for years to “bait” those of opposing political views. Donald Trump Jr. even wrote a book about it.

Weaponising someone’s trauma – whatever that trauma is – is unpleasant and cruel. I truly don’t understand why people revel in the pain they cause to others. But I am often of the mind that ‘hurt people hurt others’, so it’s probably true that they’re doing it for a reason, even if that reason is what I can’t quite comprehend.

Sexuality – Biphobia and Homophobia

Stigmas and stereotypes are so damaging to individuals within minority groups. On a personal level I have witnessed and experienced stigmas around my sexuality for as long as I can remember. It’s why I’m so sensitive about it, because it reminds me of my internalised biphobia from my teenage years.

As an awkward teenager I experienced a lot of bullying. For this reason, I would say and do things just to fit in. It was common for children to state things such as “that’s so gay!” or to laugh at out bisexual people, calling them “greedy” and suggesting that they “pick a side”.

It was only when I attended a lecture by an old CEO of Stonewall at De Montfort University who asked the lecture hall to “raise your hand if you ever said ‘that’s so gay'”, and roughly 80% of the attendees did so, that I realised how much I had internalised. I felt a deep sense of shame that I had taken part in that behaviour. It meant that when I returned to work that week in a secondary school, I became increasingly sensitive to students using that phrase in the playground.

As a teenager I knew that I wasn’t heterosexual – I was attracted to both men and women. But there was no education about different sexualities, and it certainly wasn’t something I could talk about at home. So my bisexuality was kept completely secret for years. I had seen many friends come out and be referred to as:

  • promiscous
  • greedy
  • indecisive
  • going through a phase
  • closet gay
  • someone who will cheat in relationships
  • polyamorous
  • a swinger
  • deceptive

All of those misconceptions and stereotypes made coming out challenging. When I eventually came out I was met with warmth and acceptance, but also, some of those terms were used against me. It was painful to have a loved one make assumptions about me based on my sexuality, and this triggered strong emotions that required a lot of support and therapy.

It’s Not About Being “Too Sensitive”

When someone is “triggered” by a situation, this can be quite serious. To laugh at another person who has been impacted by something shows a distinct lack of empathy. If you are arguing with someone and they react strongly, it might be worth taking a break from the conversation, to protect both yourself and the others involved. If you are the one triggered, it does not mean you aren’t resilient or that you are “too sensitive”, it means that something has truly affected you at your core.

If this is a frequent thing, then it might be a good idea to look into personal therapy so that you can break down these triggers and find ways to manage your resultant emotions. You can contact me or visit the counselling directory website to find an appropriate therapist.

Published by Budding Therapy

Person-Centred Counsellor

2 thoughts on ““Triggered” – Why I Wish People Would Stop Misusing Terms

  1. Sort of related. I was thinking yesterday how, when at school my dyslexic son, (who after school was diagnosed with dyspraxia and autism) was said to suffer from ‘learned helplessness’. A disgraceful description of a young boy and then teen, who was suffering so much at school due to refusal to adequately assess his needs, in order not to meet their statutory duty to provide support for his needs. He was bullied to hell and back by other kids and in fact some of the teachers.
    ‘Learned helplessness’, I wonder who thought that up, I’d love to have a word with them for sure. Labels designed to undermine a person or blame them for their disability, have no place in the 21st century.


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