Monday, September 5, 2011

A dialogue

I'm choosing to feel really angry.

How come?

Cause this person asked me a question that appeared to be sincere, and as soon as I answered it they attacked my answer and me personally.

And given that they asked you a question and then attacked you and your answer--how come you feel angry?

Cause it felt like a setup--like ... I felt excited that they were engaging me as a human being, that they wanted to know about my beliefs and experiences, and then when I shared myself, they said my answer was clearly wrong, and accused me of unkindness toward my wife.

So which part do you want to talk about--the statement that your answer was wrong, or the accusation of unkindness toward your wife?

Both, really--it was more the whole setup. I feel like I fell for it--like I should have ... been aware that this person wasn't a safe person, and thus I shouldn't have shared myself. I feel like I set myself up for being vulnerable to being attacked.

Given that you knew that this person wasn't a safe person, why did you make yourself vulnerable like that, Benjamin?

I feel like I was sucked in by the question. I had shared something about myself, and the question they asked about it was just so inviting--as if they really wanted to understand me.

Okay--so given that you saw the question and felt really invited to share, and then this person attacked you after you shared--how come you feel angry?

It doesn't feel so much like anger anymore--it feels more like a feeling of not being safe.

What do you mean by not being safe?

I mean ... it feels like there are just these people out there who are going to ask questions that look really inviting and curious and non-judgmental, and then when you stupidly go for the invitation, they attack you. It feels like this nasty setup like a clever fisherman making a really alluring lure, I feel angry that this person would treat me like that--pretend with the pretty lure and then take out a knife and gut and scale me.

So how come you're seeing this person's response that they believe you're wrong, and that they believe you're unkind to your wife--how come that bugs you so much?

It's 'cause I grew up in this system (haha--that's funny 'cause 3 weeks ago I decided to stop believing in systems). Anyway I was gonna say that I grew up in a system where I was treated like this a lot--there was this superficial niceness, but it was contingent on agreeing with the consensus belief framework. So ... I felt like I had to really fight to get out of that system(haha--there's that word again)/community, and now somehow that makes me vulnerable to this sort of thing.

What do you mean by "vulnerable"?

I mean that I feel like I'm a bit of a sucker for this sort of thing.

What do you mean by "sucker"?

I mean that I set myself up for the fall on these things. It happened last week too with another unsafe person. I open up a little bit and be authentic with people who are pretty clearly unsafe--the sort of people who just attack other people's beliefs and opinions willy nilly, and they inevitably respond by attacking me.

Why do you do that, Benjamin?

I don't know.

Take a guess.

I do it because I'm hoping/longing for genuine connection. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. ... I want to change them. WOW. there's a huge insight. Yep. I feel like somehow giving these people an opportunity to interact with me--a person who is self aware and safe, will help them come to understand what fucks they are, and thus enable them to become less of a fuck and more of a self aware safe person like me.

Why do you choose to feel unsafe around certain people?

It's the element of nasty surprise. Oh my God. I totally do that to my kids--that nasty surprise thing. Like everything will be going along hunky-dory, and then I'll see that they've caused some shocking mess somewhere, and I'll use anger to motivate myself and to get them to do what I want.

Why do you believe that this person saying they believe you're wrong and accusing you of unkindness toward your wife is nasty?

Because it's not what I expected. I wanted them to respond by either saying that my answer made sense to them, or else saying that it didn't make sense to them, but then follow that with another question. Or at the very least to respond by talking about their own experience. I massively dislike it when people talk about my experience in a judgmental way. Why can't they just shut their face?

Why did you dislike it and feel angry when this person talked about your experience in a judgmental way?

Because ... I think I disliked my own sort of instant response--it felt very sympathetic nervous system. You know that fellow who is the cello teacher in Boston, he talks about how his students when they make a mistake they have this judgement about it, and they can then freeze up and get all tight--like a rat gets when it's scared--that frozen, curl in on yourself thing. He makes his students who do that put down their cello and stand up and throw their arms out in the air and shout with exuberance "HOW FASCINATING!". He makes them do it every time, 'til it's habit. Wait a moment. What if I chose to have that response instead today to this person attacking me. I'm gonna try it--one second.

Wow that felt really good. I'm gonna imagine that I just had that experience where this person attacked me, and I'm gonna do that response immediately. Hold on.

OK. Hot damn that feels so good and so much better than my original response. In future, whenever someone verbally attacks me, I'm gonna do that right then and there. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!

Do you feel finished with that?

Yep! Thank you! =)


  1. Nice post in many ways.

    1) I like the "two voices" structure

    but before that

    2) I like the concept of "unsafe person". I don't believe I have ever spoken of that category, although I use it all the time. Sort of child minded.