Emotional reservations will limit progress in the long haul

Daniel Flynn, Contributor

Each of us copes with emotional trauma differently. Some of us treat it symptomatically with drugs and alcohol. I know after a trying day at work that a drink or two can be very soothing. I am not advocating for others to do the same. I am merely relating what works for me.

In the long term, however, drugs and alcohol wear out our bodies, and the soul can only take so much poison. Therefore, other, less toxic methods should be employed to find ways to cope.

In the modern era, counseling and psychoanalysis are the most prevalent way of coping with emotional trauma. They have their drawbacks, though.

Some of us are unwilling to commit the many hours that are spent in a shrink’s chair, which can often require years of continual therapy. Others are unable to pay for the cost of these sessions, and insurance companies are inconsistent on mental health care coverage.

Another drawback that seems less obvious, but is equally as confounding, is the societal stigma associated with psychoanalysis. Why there should be a stigma born by people who are seeking help – people who are trying to control their emotions – is beyond my comprehension.

People with mental illness are ill by no fault of their own.

I believe this stigma derives from skepticism, yes, but also from fear of unpredictable behavior associated with mental illness.

I have heard it said before that people who require counseling are unable to control their emotions. I imagine this presents some people with a degree of uncertainty that they find deeply unpleasant. While there may be some validity to this fear, I believe that a person who has elected

to confront their emotions displays a certain conscientiousness that deserves respect and empathy.

What are the other alternatives? Become an alcoholic? Bury one’s emotional turmoil beneath a facade? It is nonsensical, exhausting, and counterproductive, but this is the way many of our parents and grandparents chose to bear their pain.

Personally, as someone who has endured my fair share of emotional trauma, I have definitely benefitted from counseling, but I have also taken a page from my forebears and have occasionally opted to just grit my teeth together and bear it.

I have begun to associate this kind of behavior with adulthood, i.e. it is more mature behavior. This may not always be true, but I believe something must be said for learning how to restrain one’s emotions in the public sphere. I realize that for some people this is not an option, but I often wish some of my more sensitive peers would adopt this practice.

Presently, the subject of “trigger warnings” has precipitated many contentious conversations with my friends and colleagues. For those who are ignorant of this concept, a trigger warning is a verbal or written warning given to another person asking them to refrain from using harmful language or discussing touchy subjects that may “trigger” an unintended emotional response from the issuer. This practice derives from the belief that students have a right to feel safe in their surroundings, including but not limited to classrooms, dormitories, and administration buildings. I wholeheartedly agree with this premise.

Furthermore, it certainly takes some guts to reveal to one’s instructors that there are certain topics that a student might find too troubling to discuss in classrooms. Many instructors have taken to issuing disclaimers in their syllabi about controversial subjects in their courses in an effort to provide full disclosure to their students as to what they can expect to hear. This is an admirable

measure with an obvious strategy; to deter hypersensitive students from issuing trigger warnings and encourage them to withdraw from the class.

While I can foresee no other alternative for our instructors, I believe students wary of trigger warnings should not be deterred from taking a course they are interested in. Instead, I think they ought to consider withdrawing from school altogether. While I am sympathetic to their concerns and agree that every student should have a right to feel safe, safety is unquestionably a relative concern.

We are all entitled to feel unthreatened at school, but if you cannot control your emotions in a college classroom, then you ought to learn how to cope before you enter what is unquestionably an adult setting.

The classroom is a place of inquiry, and some subjects are inherently uncomfortable, but not unworthy of study. I would encourage all instructors to have this conversation with students who issue trigger warnings, but the administration would find this deeply troubling as their primary objective is to increase enrollment by any means necessary, even if that means infantilizing academia.

Some students are just not emotionally equipped to withstand higher education. While I respect the idea behind the concept of trigger warnings and the students who issue them, I would like to remind my more sensitive peers that the outside world is not nearly as accommodating as academia is.

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