I recently had a receptionist scream at me at the top of her lungs to stop giving her attitude. Uh…what? That was her response to my request for better diligence on some recent covid protocols that included checking the vaccine status of students. Luckily there were no clients in the space when this child lost her control and started frothing at the mouth.
Wow. From zero to one hundred in less than a second. Unfortunately, she is not the only person I have encountered who missed that important lesson towards adulthood which is learning to control your emotions and behave in a civilized manner. Violence begets violence. If someone attacks you, your reaction is usually to either fight back or to run. And yet neither reaction helps in solving the conflict. That is only achieved in calm, rational dialogue.
For all those people yelling at their fellow human beings. Ask yourself, when is that last time that you felt motivated and happy to do something after being yelled at. Did you feel good about yourself or were you simply shamed? Yelling at someone doesn’t work, unless you’re in the “beaten dog” camp, where you think that beating, starving, and torturing an animal into fearful submission is a good way to go. For the record, that’s called animal abuse and when you apply those same tactics to humans, that’s a human rights violation.
Now I know that it’s a large leap from a screaming twenty-year-old receptionist to the horrors inflicted on humans around the world, but I would argue that it’s not such a big leap. Once you allow yourself to cross that line, where’s to say you won’t cross the next line, then the next line, and then the next line? Simply look at the out-of-control actions of the people who overran the USA Capital on January 6th. Demonstrations are by nature about dissatisfaction, anger and about taking action against something, however somewhere in that movement on January 6th a line was crossed where physical violence was acceptable. Responsible adults do not inflict physical violence on other adults. Period. I can already hear the argument, but what if they’re threatening you? I would hate to live my life in fear of what someone else might do to me and I would never arm myself for fear of physical harm. No wonder all these people are on edge. They are living in a constant state of fear and that takes an enormous toll on the mind.
I am no saint. I am blunt, self-centered, undiplomatic, and opinionated. I’m sure my friends could help me add a few more adjectives to that list, which is why I love them. They have no fear about telling me when I’m being an ass and trust me, all of us have those days. One of the side effects of controlling your emotions as a rational adult is that you have days when it’s like a pressure cooker…you’ve dealt with a nonending litany of idiots and stupid ideas and along comes one problem too many. The pressure cooker was full and now it’s going to explode! Exploding is fine…we all need it but learn how to explode safely without causing others harm.
I used to use a method for angry and anxious dancers back when I was touring which was this: We would go off into a place where we couldn’t be heard by others. I would take out my watch and say “go”. The dancer would just yell and say the most awful things that you would never imagine could come out of their mouths. I would nod “yes” and say things like “wow” and “unbelievable”. At the end of five minutes (and sometimes they would stop beforehand), it would be over. They felt better for having let it go, and we never talked about what was said. My function in this exercise was to simply be a witness and validator to their distress.
I live with my best friend, and we have found that after so many years of knowing each other, that we can generally pick up on the warning signals of the other’s moments of being overwhelmed by life. And we’re both pretty good at helping each other diffuse the anxiety either by talking it out or finding the humour in the situation. I do know that when I’m feeling overtaxed by life that the first person that I’m going to be snippy with is the person in front of me. Isn’t that always the way? There’s some truth to the saying that you only hurt the ones you love. Again, friends are the ones who can tell you when you’ve crossed a line and are acting like an ass. It’s important to keep those people close to you, to trust them and to let them pull you back from the edge. That’s what best friends do.
Back to the twenty-year-old screamer. My first reaction was to walk out of the studio and let her explain to management and the students why I wasn’t teaching. But I’ve been trained to act like an adult. I apologized for the delivery of my request and if I hurt her feelings, I asked her about herself and found some common ground. The report of this incident to the manager was that there was a conflict and that we made up and all was perfect. Oh, please child…I’m an old lady who used to travel the world with a bunch of high maintenance prima donnas. In what world do you think that I can’t talk a temper tantrum diva off the wall and make them do exactly what I want…and get them to think that it was their idea? Yep.