Today I was sitting in one of my graduate school classes and the topic of conversation came up about having a class critique about a speaker than spoke to the class. This particular speaker spoke about alcoholism, their personal history of it, and how they were working at an alcoholic recovery center.
I raised my hand and told the class (a summary of what I actually said), “I felt that the speaker should not have gone into as graphic detail. They should have just kept it at that they went through a very dark period with their alcoholism and should not have gone into exact details of their experience. It is not appropriate for an audience of 20+ people, since it’s very possible someone in this class has had a history with substance abuse and said graphic details could have easily triggered a panic attack or traumatic flashbacks to a time when they were struggling with substance abuse.”
My class (as in majority of the class) was not a fan of my comment, stating that they actually liked the fact that the speaker went into graphic detail. The teacher of the class then said something along the lines of “Well when I deal with a subject that makes me uncomfortable, I try to question why I feel uncomfortable. I grew up in a super-Christain town so the subject of sex makes me uncomfortable.” I bit my tongue, doing my best to remain calm. I did not speak further on the subject in class because I honestly did not want to deal with the verbal argument that would ensue with the teacher and/or the rest of the class (nor did I have the energy).
This is a completely uncomparable experience.
The reason is that just because something makes you uncomfortable due to the values you grew up with, is in no way shape or form the type of “this makes me uncomfortable due to the trauma I experienced.” It would be like saying “this lukewarm-warm water is just as hot as boiling water”, which we all know is false.
If the brain goes through a traumatic experience (substance abuse, assault, stalking, I could go on and on here), it takes many years to attempt to recover. Anyone can experience a “trigger” that causes a flashback to said trauma, which might result in a panic attack (anything from sweaty palms and a racing pulse to a full blown heart attack or stroke).
People who are uncomfortable with a topic due to the values of the culture they grew up in, they might feel uneasy or nervous, but it is in no way shape or form comparable to having a full blown panic attack, because someone mentioned something that caused your brain to trigger a flashback to a traumatic event in one’s life.