So today after teaching my yoga class, the wonderful staff at the front desk were telling me about a lady who, before taking class, refused to pay for a yoga mat rental, grabbed a mat, and stormed off and in to her yoga class. The front desk employee at the time didn’t know what to do, so she let her go. When the manager got in, she was dealing with the situation, prepared to take disciplinary action when the lady got out of class. When the lady returned to the front desk, before the manager could even say anything, she teared up, told the front desk staff that she didn’t know what got in to her, or why she did that, and she deeply apologized.
As the manager was telling us this story, we realized so clearly: the woman’s outburst was about whatever she was dealing with, not about a yoga mat, or the yoga studio, or the staff. It was about HER, and her upset. She just happened to take it out on yoga mats at that moment.
What I think is important to look at here is the fact that the manager, disciplining her for her actions would have done no good. I mean, perhaps she would have learned her lesson not to steal yoga mats, but she wouldn’t have learned her lesson about how to interpret her own anger/upset/reactions. Luckily, in this case, she did it on her own (well, through the power of an hour of yoga, baby!). But in other cases, the manager would have had to deal with it.
So what is the best course of action here? We spent about an hour talking about this, diving into related topics. And I was reminded of this:
Every time someone does something rude/inconsiderate/disrespectful/wrong to someone else, it is about THEIR own problems/upset/trauma. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
This one is hard to remember, so let’s think about it. When someone cat calls you from their car in a super disrespectful manner, it’s about them not having power in their own lives, and needing to grab it from anything they can. When someone screams at you for cutting them off in traffic, it’s about them not taking into account the amount of time it would take them to get somewhere, and being pissed at themselves. When someone breaks up with you via text message and refuses to talk again/ignores your attempts to communicate, it is about them being too avoidant/cowardly to deal with their own feelings, and how to talk about it. (And I won’t dive in to this because I know it’s complicated, but even abuse and violence comes from the same thing - their own shit.)
So YES. Every. Single. Time.
If every single time someone does something to disrespect you, it’s about them, how should we treat them? I mean, does yelling back at them really make a difference? I don’t know. I think yelling back at them, in a way, gets them what they want (subconsciously), which is you being affected by their upset. *Note that this is most often not on purpose nor a conscious decision. It is usually based on some lack of power in their own lives, so you responding to their upset whether in a good way or a bad way, makes them feel important.
What can we do then?
We can be there for them. I mean, really, be there for them. Ask them if they are okay. Figure out a way to communicate to them that you are not okay with their disrespect, AND be kind and compassionate towards whatever it is they are going through. Because what happens if we get upset by their outburst, is that we go into this cycle of triggers. What I mean by triggers, is anything that causes you to react based on fear; a reaction based on a pattern developed at a young age, usually due to some sort of trauma (small or large). So, if I let myself get triggered into a fear-based reaction because of them, then they will most likely get triggered into their fear-based reaction once again, and then back to me, and so on and so forth.
What would it take then, to step out of reaction, and into response? How can we respond intentionally, rather than based on some defense that we developed when we were 7 years old? We have to locate our defense. What is your go-to fear-based reaction? It might be something that has been useful in the past. For instance, mine is “baby Jessie”. Baby Jessie has been useful in the past in various facets, one of which is that I know if I cry, you will probably feel bad, and you will stop pushing me. (Oh yes, the guilt trip of all guilt trips). And that gets me out of confrontation or dealing with difficult situations. I mean, I can literally remember getting pulled over for speeding, and crying to the cop. He felt no empathy and wrote me a ticket anyway, but the point is - yep, that’s my defense.
Identify your defenses (there could be more than one). Notice when you are doing it authentically (for instance, sometimes my sweet side is a little bit like baby Jessie, but it is authentic and loving), and notice when you are doing it based on fear and protection. The more clearly you can see it, the easier it is to untangle it. Then, when it comes up, look at it, question it. Ask it if it’s real, or if it’s defense. Ask it if it’s serving you. Instead of simply reacting, and getting triggered by their trigger, look to respond intentionally, thoughtfully, and peacefully. Perhaps, even considering that they must be coming from their own upset, and offer them some love.
Stop screaming, start listening. Stop fighting, start accepting. Stop defending, start trusting.