Thursday, April 5, 2007

And Once More Into the Navel--Whoops! Mind the Lint


I was talking to an old friend --she's my age and we go back to high school--a few weeks ago, and she snapped at me, "Stop being didactic. I hate that." I fell all over myself to humanize my conversation and quit lecturing, if that's what I was doing.

But I'm thinking about it. Even Googled definitions of didactic. Some I quite like. I don't think my friend meant those. This was in the same week another friend told me I was strongly assertive, but she didn't mind it.

The day I was didactic, if I was, I had earlier become really furious for possibly the first time in a number of years. Sometimes I get irritated, or get frustrated, but I usually don't get really angry for several reasons. It's exhausting and it's time consuming. I know people who can just vent, spew all over the place, and then 5-10 minutes later they are just fine. Refreshed, even. Neat trick. When I get to the furious stage, I stay there for awhile. Can't help it. I smolder and give off toxic fumes for hours as I slowly cool off, and the residual coals may reheat if I'm not careful for a couple of days. No, I don't emote. No Dark Aura warning people off. Nope. I look and act mostly normal. That's the danger. I fully understand the country-western song where the woman sings, "I just want to stay angry for awhile." I don't really want to, I just can't seem to help it. Generally, I try to hold onto my logic and my manners by my fingernails. Sometimes I don't, and then there's hurt feelings on both sides that have to heal. What good is that?

In my opinion, getting really angry is seldom worth it. Hate isn't even in the ballpark. I honestly hated a former boss once and it took me 10 years to get through it. Awful experience. For eight of those years, we weren't even in contact. Near the end of the decade, I heard on the radio that this person had gotten a major award. I was driving in my car. The windows were down. I became aware people walking on the street were turning around and looking at me strangely. That's when I realized I was screaming at the radio. Whoops. Big waste of emotional energy, maybe? People say they hate this politician or that and from what I've seen, some of them actually do. I can't stand George Bush, but that's a long way from hating him. So far as I know, we still have the freedom of the patriotic but loyal opposition attitude, although sometimes this seems in doubt.

But sometimes, a furious anger can clean the pipes. And sometimes I have to deal with furious anger because I never saw it coming.

So what does anger have to do with didactic? In an effort to maintain equilibrium, my first defense when anger threatens is to go strongly into the cognitive. I was in anger recovery that evening, easily stirred. I think I was didactic because my friend and I were discussing some things with which I not only disagreed, but which made me emotionally uncomfortable. I retreated into the cognitive and went straight to lecture. She didn't like that, but she really wouldn't have liked it if I had gone into my "strongly assertive" mode, which I deliberately did not. Years as a caseworker had, I thought, taught me to mask my attitudes and opinions to a great extent.



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