Monday, August 22, 2011

Verbal Assault—Détente, Defense, Depart

Capturing light after dark situations is difficult, but it can be done.

Verbal assault is nasty stuff. On a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, myself and a few others were enjoying the peace and pastoral environment surrounding us. Like most successful assaults, this one came out of the blue, all the better to wage a successful battle, I suppose.
Friendly words were exchanged, and then came the surprise attack. Mea culpa: I fessed up and requested what I needed—a photocopy—to remedy the situation. The assault continued with a mocking, denigrating tone. I continued to practice defense. I explained the reasons for my error and offered to remedy it post haste. The mocking and denigrating continued. When the continued degradation failed to produce an anticipated, much-longed-for negative reaction from me, the assaulter took another jab, this one unfounded, but nonetheless cutting and borderline cruel. Spoiling for a fight, he was, and until that time his efforts had been thwarted. I counterattacked, but with a valid assertion.
As battles go, this one began to escalate until someone stepped in and firmly advised me that the battle was futile and ordered me to depart. My commanding officer was correct: it was time for retreat.
Following my successful retreat inside my house, I still felt bombarded, my peace was disrupted, my pastoral environment tarnished with vitriol. I spewed my own frustration in the safety of my walls and worked off the hot steam of anger that had been forced into my psyche.
I had begun my day with abundant energy and optimism for a productive Saturday and anticipation of a relaxing, spiritual, and pleasure-filled Sunday. I was so consumed with anger and righteous indignation that I felt like abandoning all my plans and spending the rest of my life—or at least the weekend—plotting and carrying out sweet revenge. Ah, revenge: its taste awoke long-dormant sensations. Yes! I will…
However, a few moments of scheming turned that sweet taste into bile. All I could think about was how to rid my being of the entire experience and especially the foul feelings with which I was left. My energy was sapped, my optimism was deflated, and my anticipation crushed. I examined my present state and my thoughts and realized that was not how I wanted to spend my weekend. I decided to spit out the bile, calm my psyche, and refocus the balance of my day—the balance of my weekend. I knew my efforts would not change what had transpired earlier in the day, but I also knew I didn’t want to spend a moment more of my life cogitating on the situation.
I did all I could to remedy the initial excuse for the assault by spending about 45 minutes on the Internet. Taking care of practical matters relevant to the initial assault reenergized me. I had done everything I could. I whipped up another batch of optimism and anticipation and carried on with my plans for the day. I’m grateful I had the presence of mind to do so, because my earlier vision of a productive Saturday and a relaxing, spiritual, and pleasure-filled Sunday became a reality.
It’s not easy to refocus after being assaulted verbally. It’s not easy to let things go and carry on with one’s life. I have too often been the champion of being so devastated by experiences that I’ve wasted days spitting and spewing my own vitriol. I cannot say with full confidence that the next time vitriol comes my way I’ll be able to confront it, surpass it, and move beyond it into productive, relaxing, spiritual, and pleasure-filled hours. However, surviving such an assault once and, most important, not giving in to revenge, and, next important, not spending too many precious moments trapped in a vicious cycle of he said/she said, he did/she did, you did/I did and now I’m going to get you back is a victory well achieved and one for which I will strive in the future.

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