An Odd Experience

7 09 2012

Note:  The following post is a tad intense.  You’ve been warned.

An experience that I had just over a week ago was nothing less than bizarre.  A casual interaction with friends turned into an attacking and almost verbally-abusive situation that I wasn’t easily able to remove myself from since the friend was my ride home.  I stayed up most of the night disconcerted about the occurrence and am using this space as a reflection zone.

I am a happy, expansive and light-giving person.  But being in the presence of someone like this made me feel small and silent.  The experience was even more reality-warping because I was essentially alone with the person without an outside “rational observer” backing me up.

Feeling Small and Like I Wanted to Hide.  Yelling is Not Okay.

Feeling Small and Like I Wanted to Hide. Yelling is Not Okay.

For a few hours, the experience even made me question and doubt my own modus operandi.  Perhaps what I was experiencing was on the range of acceptable adult human behavior?  Perhaps this was a positive thing that someone could so fully experience their emotions and let them flow out as an uncontrollable force?  But I don’t believe that to be true.

I have four observations / lessons learned:

1)  When certain types of people become heated, you can’t reason with them or reasonably expect them to be reality-based and empathize with you.  But is it worth it to include these types of people in your inner circle?

2)  I’ve only ever twice been in a situation resembling verbal abuse – once with an extended family member in New York and once with the tour guide of the Costa Rican summer camp that I directed two years ago.  My gut reaction has always been to apologize and to reconcile, but this will often only embolden the person doing the chewing-out to carry on.

3)  If you would like to give the person a second chance (“there were extenuating circumstances”, “they were under a lot of pressure”, etc.), that is fine.  But only a second chance.  Otherwise, you are enabling both the person and the situation to continue with unacceptable behavior.  Go with your gut.

Breathe Deep.  Be Kind.

Breathe Deep. Be Kind.

4)  I don’t have the baggage that other people do.  I went through a roller coaster of a summer, but worked to make it a beautiful and positive time.  Yair and I have brought each other to a place of healing and goodness – and we’re less than three weeks out from the get.

I don’t deserve to be dragged down by and attacked for other people’s baggage.  I consider myself to be a good friend and a very considerate person, but I shouldn’t have to tamp down my glow and my happiness in order not to make others jealous or insecure about their own selves and their own lives.

So to close out this disturbing experience with an apropo song…

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

posted by ayo

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8 responses

7 09 2012
Cautious Cathy

Amen, sista!

7 09 2012
Yair

I am so glad to have been able to talk to you this afternoon. Your experience is one that no one should have to go through. I am here for you and hope that you can bounce back quickly and strongly – with your huge smile and friendly personality. Shabbat shalom from Austin :-)

8 09 2012
Conor Poull

I have found that the best thing I can do, in the case of a verbally abusive person, is to remind myself that they must be in so much pain that they have lost the ability to empathize with other human beings.
For my self care after being abused verbally (I work in customer service) I try to review my actions and “keep my side of the street clean” and not internalize someones baseless poor treatment of me.
Sounds like you learned from the experience, so it ends up being a positive thing :)

9 09 2012
anonymous

I’m sorry about your experience. It is unfortunate that others toss around negativity so easily. Facing your inner demons and deciding to be a positive light in other’s lives takes so much more effort. At least you you did not compromise your values and dirty yourself by participating in the muck throwing contest.

I recently (today) escaped an abusive experience myself. Like you I was stuck with the abusive individuals without a way to escape. Unfortunately, I was stuck with them for two weeks as I was on a vacation with them in a foreign land. It started with what appeared to be innocent enough jokes at my expense. It didn’t really bother me at first, but the jokes became more and more pointed as the trip went on. They did other things like not include me in conversations, did not make eye contact with me, and scoughed at every little thing that I said.

It consumed a lot of my daily thinking and made me start doubting myself (Did I do something to to cause this? Am I not asserting myself enough? Am I just being too sensitive?). I had it all planned out how I was going to confront them with my feelings and request that they stop, but they played nice that same day and so I put aside my plan thinking they realized their negativity. It only got worse after that day though. I ended up not speaking to them and going on day trips by myself for the rest of the trip.

I haven’t felt like this since I was a teenager (a long time ago). It really left me perplexed asking similar questions to your own. How should one handle these scenarios as an adult? Should one be friends with them afterwards?

Alas, it is probably best not to dwell and just to move on. Let your light shine indeed.

10 09 2012
kayakdov

There’s nothing little about the light you bring to this world.

13 09 2012
ayo

:-)

4 11 2012
allbayknee

I grew up in a home situation where my Mom verbally abused me (and more).

These are two strategies to cope with such people:
1) (This is based on the ideas of NonViolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg — http://www.cnvc.org.)

Most of what other people say and do has to do with them and not you. That is, it is the people who are verbally abusing you that have the problem and not you. Another way of saying this is: don’t take it personally.

When they are attacking you, you need empathy. Either call someone or do self-empathy.

2) It is important to protect yourself from their violence. It is a wrong to let someone else hurt you. Use your creativity and your inner sense of knowing what you need to do to choose the path that is right for you.

There is no one perfect response to every situation. Sometimes getting away from them is the right thing to do. Sometimes speaking up and pointing out how what they are saying isn’t true is the right thing to do. Sometimes putting yourself in a cocoon and gritting and bearing with it is the best you can do. It all depends on things like your level of power in the situation and whether you are able to leave it right now and whether they have any inclination at all to listen to you.

Not only can you do more than you think; you can also bear with more than you think.

Hoping this helps,
Denise

2 01 2013
ayo

Thank you, Denise!

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