My sister asked me what do you do if someone lashes out at you in anger? It was her comment for my post re-program (one of my favorites). My first reply would be don’t take it on. That’s what my therapist would say. That is what all the wise books say. I have tried it and in my Zen moments, it works. But most of the time, I am not that enlightened. How can I not take on someone’s anger when it is directed at me? Especially if I think I am helping them. Today, I had that experience and realized there is no way I can stay calm. No Way!
When someone gets angry at me, I turn around and get angry at them or I get sad and cry, pure reflex. Or better, I get passive aggressive. A quiet aggression which is harder to detect as aggression. It is more insidious because all I do is act hurt but inside I am boiling with anger, it spills out like green ooze, burning everything it is touching. I look passive but I am aggressive.
Anyway you put it, anger directed at me = anger directed at you. Lately though, I’ve been experimenting. I do love my experiments. I tried to talk calmly in the face of anger by keeping myself calm with breathing and reality checks. This is a reality check: what they are saying is not true, it is their own anger talking. At first it worked, but if the person ups the anger, it gets more challenging. And I never know if they will reach my threshold. I do not know how long I can hold down the fort, while they are firing away.
The only thing that has worked so far is to walk out of the room. Time out! This may seem like I am avoiding it but I am not. It is the only way I can deal with it. My intention is to calm myself and try to help the other person get calm. I am no Buddha. If I stay in that room, I will take it and multiply it. My therapist says, anger spirals down. Energetically, I think that is what happens. We go down lower and lower in a spiral into our darkest selves. When we spiral into our most hidden ugly places everything is painful. I picture that inside of us we all have our own hell. Once in a while we descend there. At that point we can only use defense or offense.
Isaiah is now 20 months old and he has been acting like it. With more control of his hands and new teeth, came hitting and biting people, including his own mama and papa. To discipline him, we have been giving him time outs. Time out is when I take him to his room and close the door for ONE minute. It is revolutionary what change can happen in one minute. The time out experts say it’s a minute for every year of your life. For me, its 33 minutes, that sounds right. During that minute he screams like he is being burned alive, a healthy way to get his aggression out in the privacy of his own room. I used to stand by the door with my heart aching, but now I know we both need it. Most of the time he walks in there a devil child and comes out smiling, transformed and calm.
These timeouts are sometimes more for me then him. I can get angry when he is screaming and kicking me while I am trying to put on his diapers. I know that is what babies do, but I don’t like being kicked when I am helping someone, do you? Instead of taking out my anger at him, I put him and me into a time out. We separate for one minute and return calmer and in love again.
The timeout saves mine and Isaiah’s relationship so why not save my other relationships with a little time out. One day, I got really mad at Yura and shouted “Time out! I am putting you in Time out!” It is funny now. Unfortunately, we cannot put our husbands or our parents into a time out. All we can do is give it to ourselves.