Created By: neoYTPism on March 26, 2011 Last Edited By: StrixObscuro on July 13, 2014
Troped

Trauma Button

One character inadvertently triggers another character\'s emotional trauma

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Trope
Butters: What kind of competition is it?
Stan: It's a dance-off, we heard you were tap-dancing state champion two years ago.
Butters: (terrified) No...
Stan: ... But you were, weren't you? You went to the nationals in Nebraska?
- South Park (it turns out that Butters had caused an accident that killed 8 people at the said Nationals.)

This is when someone suddenly suffers from the onset of repressed traumatic memories because of some trigger, such as another character unknowingly saying or doing something related to the memories. This typically results in the traumatized individual getting extremely anxious, and may even lead to them breaking down in tears or engaging in sudden violent behavior.

A trauma counterpart to Oblivious Guilt Slinging and closely related to Berserk Button. Compare Innocently Insensitive and Trigger. May involve a Shell-Shocked Veteran.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In Monster Rancher, Genki gets chewed out by Seuzo for asking Holly about her family (turns out she has a Disappeared Dad.) She decides she needs to talk about it, anyway.
  • In Ranma ½, the titular character is deathly afraid of cats, as a result of the time his idiot father bound him up in fish sausages and threw him into a pit full of hungry cats in an effort to teach him the "Cat Fist" technique. His secret is accidentally revealed after Kasumi brings home a cat that she'd promised to take care of.

Comic Books
  • When the Runaways visited Avengers Academy, Reptil shows off his dinosaur-impersonation abilities by turning into a deinonychus. This doesn't go over too well with Klara, who was once trapped under a deinonychus corpse. It's apparently enough of a trigger for her (and her teammates have enough awareness of it) that Karolina is compelled to immediately run over and try and calm her down.
  • In Batgirl, the Mirror manages to induce a panic attack in Babs by pointing a gun at her in exactly the same fashion as The Joker did when he paralyzed her. He probably hadn't known how effective it would be.
  • In Avengers: The Initiative, Terrance "Trauma" Ward has the ability to morph into the worst fear of anyone around him. He was quickly reassigned to the black-ops Shadow Initiative after causing severe anxiety attacks in several of his fellow trainees.

Film Animated

Film Live Action
  • In Iron Man 3, any mention of what happened in New York, or anything that makes Tony think of it, causes him to have a nervous breakdown, which makes it tough on him when kids, who now idolize him as a hero, keep asking him about what happened there, not realizing the effect it's having.

Literature
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, when Captain-Supervisor Grammel mentions an Imperial Governor, Princess Leia remembers her interrogation in the Death Star while she was Grand Moff Tarkin's prisoner. She starts breathing unevenly, beads of sweat appear on her forehead, and she starts crying.
  • In More Tales of the City, a rose peddler accidentally causes a panic attack in the amnesiac Burke, though it also enables him and Mary Ann to begin figuring out how he lost his memory - his memory loss was the result of discovering a cannibal cult, who tried to compel him to feast on a human arm with a tattoo of a rose.
  • Possibly subverted (depending on your interpretation) or played straight in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Professor Moody seriously upsets Neville Longbottom by displaying the Cruciatus Curse for the class - Neville's parents were driven incurably insane by the Cruciatus Curse. The possible subversion comes in that "Professor Moody" was actually one of the people who tortured Neville's parents into insanity and, as a thoroughly evil bastard, may have known and enjoyed what he was doing to Neville.
  • Played with in Venus Prime 2, in which Sparta hires massage therapists to work over her whole body, hoping that their ministrations will trigger some of the memories that the Free Spirit stole from her.

Live-Action TV
  • In one episode of The Drew Carey Show, Mr. Wick grows tired of Mimi's outlandish outfits and garish makeup and tries to seal her up inside a cubicle so that he won't have to look at her. However, she turns out to be severely claustrophobic, and Drew ends up convincing Wick to remove the partitions, because her usual bitchy self is far more preferable to the nervous wreck that she's turning into.
  • In one episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a young man at a party suddenly goes berserk and kills one of the revelers. Goren and Eames learn that the young man had been locked up in a basement for long periods of time and subjected to loud house music as part of some cruel therapy for his Ambiguous Disorder, so when he heard the same kind of music being played at the party, it caused him to want to kill.
  • In Halt and Catch Fire, Cameron meets Joe McMillan's father, Joe Sr., and they actually get along for a while... until Joe Sr. says that Cameron must make her own father very proud. Cameron lost her dad when she was only 10 years old, and the mere mention of him upsets her so badly that she retreats into another room to cry.
  • In the pilot of Tyrant, Barry's carefully-maintained stoic façade is jarred when, during his nephew's wedding, his brother Jamal fires a gun into the air and then hands the gun to Barry, expecting him to do the same. This causes Barry to experience a flashback to the time his father tried to force Jamal to shoot someone, but Barry ended up having to do it because Jamal was too scared. Barry hands the gun back to Jamal, and quickly walks away before his panic starts to show.
  • In an episode of Necessary Roughness, TK hires a massage therapist to try and speed up his recovery after getting shot. However, he repeatedly throws her out because she keeps touching the area where he got shot, causing him to remember the shooting. After he finally relents and actually starts to remember the shooting, he shows up at Dr. Santino's house looking utterly wrecked.
  • Narrowly averted in the pilot of Defiance; Tommy goes to arrest Irisa, but Nolan talks him out of using handcuffs, saying that Irisa had some really bad experiences with being chained up, and if Tommy tries to put cuffs on her, she will flip out and probably kill him. Since Irisa happens to be a ferocious-looking catgirl, Tommy wisely decides to follow Nolan's advice.

Western Animation
  • The page quote comes from an episode of South Park where Stan attempts to recruit Butters for his dance crew because Butters used to be a champion tap-dancer. This being Butters, he has traumatic memories associated with his tap-dancing days.
  • The Family Guy episode "The Fat Guy Stranger" has Peter dressing up as Ralph Kramden and repeating the phrase "Pow, right in the kisser!" in front of Lois' brother Patrick, who had been traumatized as a child from seeing his mom have an affair with Jackie Gleeson. This causes him to go on a fat-man killing spree.

Real Life
  • The recent trend of "trigger warnings" is intended to avert this trope.
Community Feedback Replies: 64
  • April 1, 2011
    StrixObscuro
    Anime And Manga
    • In Monster Rancher Genki gets chewed out by Seuzo for asking Holly about her family (turns out she has a Disappeared Dad). She decides she needs to talk about it anyway.
  • April 2, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye. When Captain-Supervisor Grammel mentions an Imperial Governor, Princess Leia remembers her interrogation in the Death Star while she was Grand Moff Tarkin's prisoner. She starts breathing unevenly, beads of sweat appear on her forehead and she starts crying.
  • April 4, 2011
    neoYTPism
    I was thinking of using that as an example for my another YKTTW of mine, "victim breakdown." Should I put it there too? @ Arivne
  • April 5, 2011
    Arivne
    ^ Yes, it fits in both YKTTWs.
  • April 23, 2014
    Omrega
    Might this be Innocently Insensitive combined with Dark And Troubled Past?

    Happens in Wreck It Ralph when the lovestruck Felix calls Calhoun "Dynamite Gal." Unluckily, that happened to be her late fiance's Affectionate Nickname for her.
  • April 25, 2014
    Arivne
    The Description was an unnecessary Alice And Bob Example As A Thesis. I have changed it to a simple description of the trope.
  • April 25, 2014
    HellKillUsAll
    • The Family Guy episode "The Fat Guy Stranger" has Peter dressing up as Ralph Kramden and repeating the phrase "Pow, right in the kisser!" in front of Lois' brother Patrick, who had been traumatized as a child from seeing his mom have an affair with Jackie Gleeson. This causes him to go on a fat-man killing spree.
  • April 25, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comics
    • When the Runaways visited Avengers Academy, Reptil shows off his dinosaur-impersonation abilities by turning into a deinonychus. This doesn't go over too well with Klara, who was trapped under Old Lace's corpse.

    Western Animation
    • The page quote comes from an episode of South Park where Stan attempts to recruit Butters for his dance crew because Butters used to be a champion tap-dancer. This being Butters, he has traumatic memories associated with his tap-dancing days.
  • May 27, 2014
    Omrega
    More?
  • May 27, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    Does it count if the person is reminded of traumatic experience (as ambiguous as it may sound without further explanation), but is unfazed (perhaps, he's gotten over it by now)? Would it count if the person becomes sad or annoyed, but only lightly, nowhere near being incapacitated or hysterical?

    Description is lacking on this, and the title suggests emphasis on obliviousness, hence the questions.
  • May 28, 2014
    Arivne
    • Unspoilered the information in the Description as per Handling Spoilers ("No spoilers in the main body of the description, above the "Examples" line. Just don't do it.").
    • Namespaced and italicized work name(s).
    • Capitalized (nationals).
    • Created Examples section.
  • May 28, 2014
    Mozgwsloiku
    Related to Trigger
  • May 29, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • May 31, 2014
    DAN004
    Who's managing this?
  • May 31, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Don't know.
  • June 1, 2014
    Arivne
    ^ ^^ The OP neoYTPism hasn't been on TV Tropes since 2011 or so.
  • June 1, 2014
    DAN004
    Who wanna grab this?
  • June 1, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    I'll take it.
  • June 1, 2014
    Larkmarn
    Needs a new name. Oblivious Trauma Triggering maybe? The current makes it sound like someone tried to bring someone back from the dead and it wound up being traumatic.
  • June 1, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Alright, I've added the examples from the comments, so we now have examples.
  • June 1, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Okay, the name's been changed...
  • June 2, 2014
    Synchronicity
  • June 2, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Any more examples? Anyone want to give this a hat?
  • June 11, 2014
    DAN004
    Moar examples plz.
  • June 11, 2014
    ktera
    I think this is just Trigger.
  • June 11, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Bad name, TBH.
  • June 16, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump
  • June 16, 2014
    henke37
    • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Lets just say that it can get awkward to discuss political history when one of the princesses sent the other to the moon for a thousand years.
  • June 16, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    ^ Maybe it's just me, but I'm not seeing where the "trauma" part comes in on that example...
  • June 16, 2014
    bitemytail
    ^^ Zero Context Example. I haven't watched the show, so I don't know what that's supposed to be.
  • June 17, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    What do I need to do to get the hats required to launch this thing?
  • June 17, 2014
    surgoshan
    ^ Gimme money, get a hat.

    • Possibly ultimately subverted (depending on your interpretation) or played straight in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, when Professor Moody seriously upsets Neville Longbottom by displaying the Cruciatus Curse for the class. The possible subversion comes in that "Professor Moody" was actually one of the people who tortured Neville's parents into insanity and, as a thoroughly evil bastard, may have known and enjoyed what he was doing to Neville.
  • June 17, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    But I don't have any money...
  • June 17, 2014
    surgoshan
    NO HAT FOR YOU
  • June 17, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Lol?
  • June 17, 2014
    Tallens
    • Iron Man 3: Any mention of what happened in New York, or anything that makes Tony think of it, causes him to have a nervous breakdown.
  • June 18, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Hooray! We only need one more hat to launch!
  • June 24, 2014
    DAN004
    Launch plz.
  • June 24, 2014
    Tallens
    Should probably have a link to Shell Shocked Veteran.
  • June 24, 2014
    DAN004
    How could this lose 2 hats?
  • June 24, 2014
    Tallens
    Dunno. I've noticed that removing one hat can remove two by accident, but that doesn't explain why they removed one in the first place.
  • June 24, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Can we still launch it, even though someone removed two hats?
  • June 24, 2014
    DAN004
    Let's wait a bit more and try to see if something needs fixing.
  • June 24, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    How long should we wait? Whoever removed the hats has apparently not seen fit to explain why they did it...
  • June 25, 2014
    DAN004
    I would argue that description needs help, for one.
  • June 25, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Okay. What needs to be added to the description?
  • June 25, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare Trig Ger.
  • June 26, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Okay, I've added that.
  • June 28, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Is anything else needed?
  • June 30, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    Description has it so someone says something. At the same time, some examples have trauma stirring by something other than words. Either description is not fitting, or those examples do not fit.

    My previous question has got conveniently ignored. Even the description now reads that things typically lead to hysterics or somesuch. What if they don't? (edit: but trauma is there and it's reminded of)

    For the lulz, yeah, tropers did scour their memory of examples when there's trauma (as a predetermined device usually, to escape the ymmv aspect of degree of traumatism) in the past and some kind of going-ballistic moment in the present. But that's not what the title says. Trigger is a neutral word for me (remembering a trauma can cause more simple, innocuous things or even beneficial, like reassuring current mindset and driving force). If this trope candidate is people breaking down due to a clueless reminder, then write that as the description instead of what it is now. If not — then perhaps clarify what are other than "typical" reactions covered by this trope and look for examples of those.
  • June 30, 2014
    Arivne
    Changed "someone says something" in the OP Description to "someone says or does something" to make it a little broader.

    This will at least make all of the current Comic Books entries valid examples of the trope.

    However, it still leaves the A Clockwork Orange and Law And Order Criminal Intent examples which don't involve another character at all.

    Maybe:

    "This is when someone suddenly suffers from the onset of repressed traumatic memories because of some trigger, such as another character unknowingly saying or doing something related to the memories. This typically results in the traumatized individual getting extremely anxious, and may even lead to them breaking down in tears or engaging in sudden violent behavior."
  • June 30, 2014
    Tallens
    I changed my Iron Man 3 example to make it more in line with this rather than just a repeat of the example on Trig Ger.
  • July 2, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    One more hat to go.
  • July 2, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    I've removed the Clockwork Orange example, because that involved deliberate trauma triggering. I'd say that the Criminal Intent example counts, because someone had to have chosen that music, not realizing that it would cause the guy to go berserk and kill someone.

    Also, I replaced the opening blurb with Arivne's suggestion.
  • July 3, 2014
    DAN004
    Where would deliberate trauma triggering go to?
  • July 3, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    It would go to trolling looks like.
  • July 3, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    We could always create a YKTTW for Deliberate Trauma Triggering if people felt a need for it...
  • July 4, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Anyone want to give this one a fifth hat so we can finally launch the damned thing?
  • July 6, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Any more examples?
  • July 12, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    How many more examples do we need before this can be launched?
  • July 12, 2014
    Arivne
    ^ We have 20 examples, which is more than enough.

    We could use another hat, though.
  • July 12, 2014
    DatLonerGirl
    ^ You've been hatted. Launch before you lose it.
  • July 12, 2014
    DAN004
    Hold your horses, I think this can be titled Trauma Button (like Berserk Button). Covers both this and deliberate trauma triggering, too.
  • July 13, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    I'm amenable to the name change. It's certainly less of a mouthful.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=6z103xub9z4n8sne3rkc20r0&trope=TraumaButton