When Gallows Humor Triggers

One of my first articles was an attempt to explain Gallows Humor

Now, I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea, I acknowledge this and have seen people respond poorly to it before but, well…

Let’s set this up.  A friend posted a picture on Facebook that was unpleasant.  I responded as I do, a comment that was so over the top, so fantastically inappropriate, it did not occur to me that someone would take it seriously.

Someone took it seriously.

Now, I don’t know this person, nor does she know me.  Rather than give me the benefit of the doubt and ask what I meant, I was attacked with burning poison darts right out of the gate.

Shocking no one, there was no discussion to be had.

This woman decided I was evil incarnate (seriously, she called me evil) and in a block of text ripped apart my character, motives, and worth as a person.  I suggested that might just be a bad idea, with a reminder that she had no idea if I was in a serious depression and if that might be the last straw to cause me to take the 15-minute stroll to the Golden Gate Bridge.

A laughing face reaction and a “Poke” were my replies.  Did you know that Facebook still has a “Poke” thing?  Neither did I.

gallows misfire 1
Neat!  Now please tell me I can still throw snowballs.

She made a fine point that she was 70.  She’s 20 years older than me, and therefore I have no voice?  Something like that. She was sputtering by that time.

My point is simply this, you don’t know what’s in a person’s heart.  You cannot read their mind.  If an offhanded comment hits you the wrong way and your response is to go on a spittle-spewing, hate-filled, character destroying attack, maybe it’s time to go ahead and glance at oneself in the mirror.  Maybe a response that is juuuuuust a tad over the top is trying to tell you to look inside, instead of ascribing hideous motives to someone you know nothing about.

This brings me to triggered.  Like so many other things that started off with good intentions, this has become a means for some to behave as our not-at-all-irrational 70-year-old did.  To expect the world to cater to their specific issue or pain, for the world to be sensitive to them or they’ll be hell to pay.  Something there seems kind of incongruous to me.

The likelihood that I would have been in a depression is good, the way the world is, a recent death in the family, I well could have been unable to handle such an attack.  What if I had taken that walk? Why am I not afforded the same consideration she demands?

Well, because she was triggered.  Because I hit something deep inside her and she lashed out.  I get that intellectually, but it doesn’t excuse it.

Now, I was not in a depression, and I just found the exchange surreal and annoying.  I tried to explain my joke, explain gallows humor, but that just made her angrier.

Triggered is being misused.  It is not meant to be cover for potentially dangerous behavior.

It was meant to be a tool for healing oneself.  Someone says something, it hits a button, I get triggered.  OK, I get to a safe place, and I try to examine why that statement hit me so hard.  What should I be looking at?  What should I work on, speak to gently, and try to heal?

What is the triggering trying to tell me, about me?

What I said was from the way that I cope, the way I survive, I was not setting out to hurt anyone.  Her comment, on the other hand, was intended to hurt me, was intentionally vicious.  There was simply no discussing it.  I am evil, and she is the victim.

Oh, it’s not real easy right now to give the benefit of the doubt, I get that.  Nerves are frayed, tempers on edge, and patience is wearing real thin.

But this is all the more reason to practice kindness whenever you can. Smile at someone in passing now and then, say something nice to someone, anything at all.  Tell your best friend you are going to bake brownies for them and wrap them up with a Hello Kitty plushy.  Hypothetically.

But try, really hard, to keep that hair-trigger venom in your pocket.

I hope this woman is able to see and address these unknown issues, I really do.  But they are not my issues, and my voice is not going to be silent on the chance that something I say will hit someone the wrong way.  My humor is my humor, my voice is my voice.

OK, I love the show Family Guy (and The Orville is the only Star Trek on TV right now, and if someone can get this to Seth McFarlane tell him he has a group of geeks who will forever be grateful for that show.)  Anyway, Family Guy sets out to offend just about everybody at one point or another.  For the most part, I think it’s hilarious, but there was one little throw-away that got to me.

It’s one of the cut-aways he does.  Margo Kidder comes to dinner and then is depicted as going “crazy” screaming and gibbering, flailing her arms around and leaping out the window.

For those who don’t know, Margo Kidder was bipolar.  She was homeless for a time, lost everything, and died very young.  I am also bipolar, so this hit me hard.  I actually had to turn the channel to regroup.  I was angry, how dare he make fun of her!  How dare he make light of mental illness!  Fuck that guy!

After I calmed down it occurred to me, I think “Prom Night Dumpster Baby” is hilarious.  I expect that song hits some people very badly.  I think it’s damn funny.

So how is my pain greater than someone who had a miscarriage, or stillbirth?  I cannot imagine a worse pain, I cannot imagine being in that position and seeing cartoon babies swinging around their umbilical cords like canes as they dance.  To their eyes and hearts, that must be unspeakable.

But I thought it was hilarious.

Not because I have no sympathy for them, I have a dear friend who lost her little baby.  It just struck me as funny.  But I totally understand someone else hating it.

As I hated the Margo Kidder bit.  I hated that with every fiber of my being.

But do I think Seth McFarlane is a heartless asshole?  Actually, I have no idea, he might be.  But I know that that bit hurt because it is specific to me and my pain.  But my pain is not worth more than people offended by any other of the thousand inappropriate bits in Family Guy.

gallows misfire 2
“It’s like that time I put on my fanciest hat and took my crate for a ride.”

The point is, I don’t know.  I don’t know if he’s doing these things to be hurtful or if he’s just super juvenile and dark like me.  I don’t know his intention or his heart, all I do know is that he’s smokin’ hot…sorry, trailed off there.

gallows misfire 4
Neil deGrasse Tyson and Seth McFarlane.  There is still hope for the world.

Taking it back to the woman in question, she intended to hurt me.  She was attacking based on no information and was not interested in getting it.  She didn’t listen when I tried to explain it, she didn’t have an ounce of compassion when I told her I well could be suicidal, all that mattered was that she was offended and hurt and seemingly thrilled to have someone to unload on.  My husband and I refer to that as sitting on the edge of your chair in cat-like readiness hoping to be offended.  Offended as a drug, as a shield, the opportunity to be better than, more righteous than, more adult, (I’ll give her that one, I am shockingly immature.)

gallows misfire 3
Halloween decorations, or as I call them, decorations.  <adult!>

If I can offer a takeaway, it would be this.  If you are offended by something, if you are “triggered,” please use it as an opportunity to look inward and see why.  Maybe you can sit with it, embrace it, speak to it softly, and try to heal it.

Come back after you calm down and ask if you can talk about it.  Maybe you get rejected, maybe not.  But you tried to be heard.

I know one way you will not be heard, and that’s when you call someone you don’t know evil.  That’s likely to shut down any consideration for you.

One last thing, in all of the interwebs someone reading this must know Seth McFarlane.  Just sayin’.

 

 

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