Trigger-Happy vs. Bag of Onions, AKA Dr. Who is my Favorite Therapist

I'm about to add "trigger" to the list of catchphrases that should be retired due to misleading connotations.  I've seen the term used by people (read: internet trolls) whose only goal is to cause reactions  for the purpose of some creepy short-term gratification.

Triggers can be personal and polarizing:  mention the poet Robert Frost and I'm triggered immediately, because how you feel about him is going to impact how I feel about you.

The concept of  trigger in therapy has been extremely useful for people who have difficulty navigating every-day life.  Using the word this way implies an element of surprise:  something new sets off a knee-jerk reaction  founded in an unrelated traumatic event.  Therapy can help you create a tool that works to keep you in control of yourself when you're triggered.

The phenomenon I'm talking about here needs a different word. It's not a trigger; it does not present as surprise.  It's the thing you know could hurt you, and you are aware the entire time you approach it.  You just don't know how uncomfortable it will be, or when. Like cataract surgery.

A good real-time example is memoir-writing.  A lot of audible cheering, laughter, and real tears are involved in this bag of onions.  For some topics I have to schedule a block of freak-out time in case I need it.  Approaching the project intentionally is not a trigger but there may be a few actual triggers during the work process.  It's like walking into a mine field.

For now, I'm going to call this the Bag of Onions Process.  The concept is derived from a bit of photography by Lollie Stunell, who took a picture of watermelons in a bin labeled "Onion Bag."  Like Schrödinger's Produce, the fruit is both a watermelon and not a watermelon until you cut it open.  Your afternoon of memoir-writing is just that until you come to the part where you have to eviscerate yourself and lug the guts into the neighbor paragraph.  You don't know what you're dealing with until you cut it open.  The onion bag itself is not a trigger; I assure you, though, if you want to proceed with your memoir you are going to have get out the knife.

It's not that simple, but it is.  The thing that's freaking you out is not new; maybe freak-out mode is a default setting?  If you don't think you have a different setting, build one - you already have the foundation.  Leave yourself some wiggle-room in case it has to happen.

"Survival is just a choice: choose it now." - Dr. Who

Further reading: 

Hill-Climbing Heuristic 
The concept of hill-climbing as a problem-solving technique may or may not be useful in writing memoirs. It's an exercise in shifting perspective and determining how to achieve the best result as directly as possible. 

...And There Was Light 
On the topic of memoir-writing, here's one in progress. *Rob Coapman is chronicling his personal journey - "the only way out is through."

Hamlet Part 1: Crash Course Literature 203  
"We have to remember: Art is also Commerce."   Shakes couldn't have said it better, bruh. In this installment of Crash Course, author John Green provides an EXCELLENT psychological interpretation of the Danish Prince. My favorite was when he cast Simba the Lion in the role of Hamlet - best 12 minutes I've ever spent. Make sure and stick around for Part 2, and in fact the whole series. 

IFL Science 
The cat is another version of the tree which fell in the forest but nobody heard it.  Until you measure it, does it exist? 

An Aside:  I do believe there's sort of a selfie in the top photo. In the window reflection you can see a man with a hand on his head.  I think that's my hand terrorizing my ex husband!

photo by Lollie Stunell, Isleworth, UK


  1. Chuck TingstadMonday, 16 July, 2018

    Not unlike the Spanish Inquisition, no one ever expects JOHN CENA!

    1. I AM SO GLAD someone else saw that! I could have died. I almost went looking for a different link, but then I realised that one demonstrated my point!

  2. There are several ways to approach the evisceration. Seriously, but with LOTS of distance. This downplays the pain and the easiest for you, and for anyone who cares about you, to read, but it makes for dull writing, right at a time when your writing needs to scream. Or you can take the stand-up-comedian's method, which is better, but doesn't really tell the story. It's better because everyone who has experienced the same pain can laugh WITH you, and it's more readable. I cheat and write everything third person and try not to do first person stories. The only way to do that is to do it honestly. Tell the story. YOU are your character. Hold nothing back any more than you would for any of your fictional ones. And cringe when you experience running through Times Square totally naked.

  3. Also, I love the way your mind jumps. Your illustrative links are perfect, especially "the good illustration" one. :-)


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