Reaction management

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

So, how should I react to what that back-stabbing little blankety-blank (fake name redacted for HIPAA compliance) said or did to me? 

As a legendarily sensitive person with a heart as soft as Canada goose feathers, I've grappled with this problem often enough to create a handy test, which I urge you to laminate and self-administer whenever you feel righteous anger rising during any interpersonal long-term care altercation. 

If you find any of the unapologetically scripted answers to be demonstrably wrong in any life situation, I'll … doubt you're being entirely honest with yourself:  

Q: Is the person who did that awful thing innately evil, and even if I think so, can I prove it? 

A: Maybe, but I guess I can't. 

Q: Was he or she driven solely by the desire to hurt me, or might there be other contributing factors of which I'm unaware? 

A: I don't know. Anything's possible these days, e.g. Donald Trump.

Q: Am I just trying to be happy? 

A: Yes!

Q: And is it possible my hurtful antagonist also wants to be happy? 

A: You're starting to annoy me. But yes. 

Q: Am I perfect? 

A: Absolutely and completely. OK, no. 

Q: Since I can't crawl inside someone's head, do I ever have any way of knowing why anything is really said or done? 

A: I'm rolling my eyes, but I see what you're getting at.

If those questions don't somewhat diffuse your anger and invite at least a ripple of compassion, break the glass and use the following time-honored emergency question:

Q: By getting angry and thinking about this all the time, am I drinking poison and waiting for my enemy to die? 

A: Didn't the Buddha say that? Or was it Pema Chodron? Regardless, you're right. So maybe I'll just muster a smile and move on.

Good idea. I'm glad we talked.