Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Weasel Tactics 1 - The Anger Games. 21.04.15

"You're getting angry at me! I'm not talking to you when you are angry!"

And he was right. Although I was keeping my words and tone calm and polite, I was getting angry enough that I was talking through gritted teeth. I was trying to carry on the conversation, though, so I was doing my level best not to explode. To him, that wasn't good enough. The fact that I couldn't keep my feelings in check - my feelings, not my behaviour - was justification enough to cut me off.

I couldn't particularly blame him at the time. I was getting worked up, which I consider to be 'ungood', and I was obviously not doing a good enough job of controlling it. On reflection, though, I was a complete idiot, because the previous sentence the man had said was:

"So, you gonna get married again or wut? Cos your eggs are none the fresher."


All my life, I have worried about losing my temper. It was partly because I had this mental picture of me doing a "HULK SMASH!" routine, albeit on a much smaller scale. More realistically, though, I was concerned about the loss of respectability. I'm an unprepossessing enough figure, being 2/3 the size of a normal human (and yes, that matters; people may say it doesn't, but it does) without losing my shit in public. I'm not intimidating enough to control people by being aggressive, at least not long-term. I also have an aversion to being punched inna mouth. Mostly, though, I knew that going bananas would give people the opportunity to completely discount me and anything I had to say.

As tactics go, this one sucked ass. Firstly, rather than learning to express my anger in constructive ways, I just learnt to swallow it. I've now got enough stored background anger that if I ever do blow it's going to be spectacular. Secondly, and most significantly, it allowed me to fall for the very common weasel tactic displayed above.

It's the simplest trick in the world. Someone says or does something pretty much guaranteed to anger or hurt you, depending on your psychological make up. When you react to it, they then shame you for your reaction. It doesn't matter that your reaction is precisely that - a reaction to what THEY have said or done. It doesn't matter that most normal people would have had precisely the same reaction to that stimulus. The important thing is that your behaviour is now sub-par, so they can pull you up on it. Basically, they've got you coming and going.

Most of them, if you pull them up on it, will then justify their actions: they are just being straight with you, or telling you something you need to hear, or speaking for God, or whatever. They are merely the messengers, and your anger at them is a sign that you a. need the message and b. are a bit of an asshole. That would make perfect sense, if only it wasn't total bullshit.

The whole thing is a ruse - whether conscious or subconscious on their part, it doesn't matter. They are aware that they're pushing your buttons. Some of them will even preface their statements: "don't get angry/upset, but..." "Don't take it personal, but..."  Yet their knowledge that what they are saying will most likely anger or upset you is not enough to stop them, or to make them word their message in a less provoking manner.

That's the thing: unless you are a terminal asshole, or their capacities for language and/or empathy are sorely limited, there's pretty much always a way to sweeten any blow. More than that, a blow that isn't sweetened tends to miss - rather than listening and absorbing the message, the receiver will be completely wrapped up in emotional reactions. If someone truly wants to help you, they can't do that by pushing you into your monkey brain - and if they don't know or won't accept that, then the problem is with them, not you.

Really, all these people are doing is engineering situations so they can get away with shooting off at the mouth. They are exploiting the fact that our society frowns upon escalations of force. They are being calm, so why are you angry? They are speaking softly, so why are you yelling? And heavens help you if you go physical on them, even though 50 or 100 years ago (or 500 miles away) it would have been almost a requirement to fight for your honour. We don't do that anymore. We're civilised now, which apparently allows us to be willfully rude, get away with it, and feel righteous about it...

So what can one do about this? I'm still playing with various solutions. Calling them out seems to work: "why do you feel the need to tell me something so obviously upsetting?" Most of them will have an excuse, mind you, but most of the time it won't be a good one. Anyway you'll have achieved one thing, which is to move the conversation away from the original topic, which was the cause of your anger, and towards a whole new one, i.e. why they are being such asshats. So far it seems that if you do this once or twice the problem stops. They seem to lose the taste for that game.

If anyone has any better solutions that don't involve bloodshed, please let me know.

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