“For Pete’s sake, Sir, teach the men not to be ‘trigger happy.’ (Note: an expression used on Guadalcanal for men who are very nervous and who fire without seeing the enemy. This man is dangerous and has caused a lot of trouble . . .)”
Russel P. Reeder, jr. Fighting on Guadalcanal (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1943).
Skittish souls say they are “triggered” when a traumatic and allegedly repressed memory is recalled by a “triggering” phrase, image or act. And souls even more sensitive therefore tell us we must set out “trigger warnings” whenever there are “triggers ahead.” Devising a “trigger warning” that is not itself “triggering” requires uncommon subtlety and skill, such as might be demanded of a highway department that was forbidden to mention roadwork, or a janitor sworn to silence on the matter of wet floors.
Freudian repression lies at the back of this theory. Freud tells us that the unconscious mind is a seething cauldron of dangerous desires and shameful memories, and that the lid on this cauldron is held in place by stout clamps of ego defense. Indeed these clamps are so stout that the human psyche more closely resembles a pressure-cooker than a cauldron, but the lid nevertheless leaks jets of neurotic steam. In Freud’s mind, relieving the psychic pressure of his patients was only somewhat less important than depositing their fees in the bank account of S. Freud.
There are, no doubt, genuine and pitiful cases of repressed trauma. But like all genuine and pitiful cases, they have been swamped by a crowd of impostors–in this case trigger-happy impostors. These impostors are trigger-happy because they are happy to be triggered, and they are happy to be triggered because triggering excuses wrath.
And what is happier than that!
You will know an impostor by the fact that his traumatic memory is not repressed. In fact, he thinks and talks about little else. The Freudian neurotic cannot live with the traumatic memory; the trigger-happy impostor cannot live without it. A “survivor” of the remembered event (sometimes altogether imaginary) is who he is. And if you trigger one of these trigger-happy fraudsters, the object of his wrath is who you will be.
And this is the key to the essential difference between the pitiful cases who have repressed their traumatic memory and the impostors who are obsessed by their traumatic memory. If you trigger a pitiful case, you will hurt him. If you trigger an impostor, he will hurt you.