Last night, someone was very cruel to me. This person intentionally said hurtful things in an accusatory tone in order to make me feel like I’m not doing enough of an important, care-related job.
I know this person was frustrated, lashing out, and perhaps (probably?) didn’t mean what he or she said. I know that I shouldn’t take words said in anger to heart.
But too often in these situations, my sensitivity gets the best of me, and I react in some traceable patterns. They’re much like the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief, only more avoidable and less compelling.
1) Obliviousness. The degree of anger doesn’t register at all. I’m usually not looking for intense rage directed at me–I’m a good person, right? In the conversation, I simply act politely and respond gently, as I would with your low-to-average levels of meanness. I’m on autopilot, but the wheels will start to turn soon somewhere under the surface.
2) Epiphany. Replaying what was said in my head, I realize, maybe a minute later, that the person I was speaking with was really, really mean to me.
3) Second Epiphany. I feign putting on their perspective–with no perspective from that perspective. Oh my God, they think this. They are right. It’s like the epiphany of cruelty makes room for a more painful epiphany: that cruelty stands on solid ground. It speaks the truth.
4) Single-Minded Self-Searching. I run through all evidence to support what they’ve said. I wail, and wallow in my failure as a human being.
5) Self-Searching from the Opposite Side. They’re human, too, I think, and I amass evidence to support how their words say more about them than about me. They’re not omniscient. There’s also so much to support the opposite of what they said about me.
And then 4 and 5 can cycle back and forth–between thinking and feeling the person is human and fallible and thinking and feeling the person is right and has a valid perspective. It’s something I need to keep working on. I know I’m not what they said I am, but then I know I really don’t know, and there’s always evidence to the contrary.
I guess this all illustrates how attached I am to sensing I am always being and doing good. Maybe I’ll try to sit with that epiphany today.