If I had to pick my own spirit animal, this week I’d choose a deer. Imagine driving at dusk, a deer runs into the road and in front of your car, it freezes. I am that deer in headlights. Or at least, I was this week. In the fight or flight response I prefer freeze. My freeze is automatic and non-conscious.
At work this week I was the target of someone’s anger. I know this certainly isn’t something unique to me yet, it’s important that I respond as, in the moment, I froze.
The only way to describe this individual’s action is an adult temper tantrum. It was irrational, uncontrollable rage. I have worked with children and know how to handle a child throwing a temper tantrum but when someone in your workplace behaves irrationally – I’m unsure what to do.
Being the subject of someone’s anger in the workplace is belittling and can easily deflate ones self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It creates an unhealthy environment where you cannot express yourself without fear—where you cannot speak up or defend yourself without consequence.
Immediately after being yelled at, I cried (and called my dad). Despite him and others in whom I sought solace reminding me I have worth, I spent the rest of the workday feeling worthless.
Upon a few days reflection I’ve come to realize a few things:
Despite being the kind of person who often thinks that bad things occur to bad people, I’ve realized I did not deserve this treatment. Treating others without respect is not a reflection on the person being disrespected. Treating someone disrespectfully does not enable someone to gain respect but sometimes, it does enable brief control over another person. Power and control are what this person was trying to gain through my fear. Nothing more.
Temper tantrums (in this case, adult temper tantrums) are a performance of anger, power and control. Think of a child throwing a tantrum – while yes, they may actually be hurt or upset that they did not get their way; much of their tantrum is an act. This performance is intended to gain control (of the parent, in most cases)—to make them behave a certain way, to make them do what the child wants. In this instance, the person’s performance of anger was intended to gain control (over me or the situation) because they felt that their power had been violated or taken away.
I am moving forward and resisting my own feelings of worthlessness. I’ve decided to 1) let myself feel hurt. I have a right to my feelings and it’s totally okay and normal to experience them however they come. I’m working to get over that by 2) reflecting with others who I trust. Talking about my feelings is important. And 3) responding (through this post) in order to process and understand my experience.