AS ABERDEEN student union vote for "trigger warnings" on lectures, it’s worth noting that it is our uncritical embracing of the modern therapeutic culture that inevitably leads to the creation of some young people who find it hard to escape from their “lived experience”.

Trigger warnings are, as the name suggests, warnings about ideas or issues that are said to “trigger” a traumatic reaction amongst certain students.

When used, these warnings are put into university course work descriptors and mentioned before lectures or tutorials to help ensure that students are not upset by these issues.

We have already seen examples of this in places like Glasgow University where a variety of courses were shown to use trigger warnings, including an English degree course where Brothers Grimm fairy tales received a warning note.

The original idea of trigger warnings was developed to assist people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was used for individuals who had experienced severe trauma, like soldiers coming back from a war zone. However, as the idea of PTSD and indeed trauma, expanded to incorporate an ever-wider number of experiences, it was only a matter of time before some people adopted these therapeutic terms to understand their “lived experience”.

Louise Henrard, vice-president for welfare at Aberdeen University Students’ Association, supports trigger warnings and challenges the idea that this is about being a “snowflake”, or someone who is “overly sensitive, offended and upset”.

Louise then goes on to explain that the mental health of students is at risk if they come across material related to something like sexual abuse. Other issues are raised, about racism, homophobia, bereavement and graphic violence, but the list could go on, indefinitely. Because something might be part of a student’s “lived experience”, she explains, trigger warnings are needed to assist them to deal with what could be a traumatic issue.

Of course, these issues were not understood through a therapeutic lens in the past and very few issues and ideas were thought about as trauma inducing. This is a new development, a new constructed way of thinking and indeed experiencing.

In the past, universities in particular were not thought about as “safe spaces” where student “wellbeing” was a constant preoccupation. They were serious places of learning.

Part of the learning experience was, and is, about stepping outside of yourself. This is what makes knowledge universal, our ability to engage with ideas at an abstract level, where we learn to step back from our common sense, our experiences and our emotional reaction, and to engage with ideas at a distance, especially ideas we find difficult or that we spontaneously dislike or even hate.

Rather than being preoccupied by the “lived experience” of students, university life was the other way around, about encouraging you as a student to put who or what you are to one side and to have the maturity to open yourself up to every idea, issue and possibility.

Today, this idea that there is something far more important than ourselves and the narrowness and one-sidedness of our “lived experience” is being lost. Indeed, society finds it very difficult to defend values that are not directly associated with the self, in particular, with the vulnerable self.

Rather than society, knowledge and wider universal principles guiding our outlook we have developed and encouraged an “in-look”, a narcissistic world view that traps young people in their immediacy. In the process we have encouraged a sense of introspection and fragility, and an inability to distance our thinking selves from our emotional selves.

As a result, anything that makes any individual feel “uncomfortable” is now seen as being problematic, dangerous even. Indeed, why stop at trigger warnings, if these ideas are so trauma inducing, should we cancel some lectures or exclude some students from them, for their own good?

The classic work by Emile Durkheim on the sociology of suicide has already been taken out of the A Level curriculum in England. What’s next?

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Herald.