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“I feel” is Not for Me

It was one of those weeks again. You know the type, when one challenge after another piles up as the days go by. It all started with a confrontation I had with my hairstylist. I had asked if we can reschedule my appointment and it appeared as she had obliged, but then there was a mixup that led to an awful confrontation. It was weighing on me until today when I finally had the opportunity to revisit the situation in a more relaxed frame of mind.

You see, I try to give most people the benefit of the doubt. I figure that most people are stressed these days and shit happens, so I try not to take things personally. But this time, I was frustrated by the level of rudeness I was expected to tolerate.

So I met with my therapist today and we talked about it. We discussed how I felt (naturally), what happened, and what could have happened. In other words, if there was possibly a better way the whole scenario could have played out. Then my therapist did her job and offered some suggestions, focusing entirely on the “I feel” strategy.

Well, I wasn’t having it at first. I mean, there are some people who don’t know how to back off, and this was one of those times. I tried to be cordial, explaining that because of her attitude, and the way she was speaking to me, that it was time for us to part, that I had already moved on and found someone else to cut my hair. On top of the bad attitude she had with me, she texts, “BYE!” Well, I had it up to that point, and I gave it to her real good. Then things ended real bad.

My therapist was supportive, I have to give her that but we decided we were going to try a few, “I feel” sentences. She believes in me, so she asked me to take the initiative and start composing a few lines. So I started writing, “Listen, I feel like you’re trying to provoke me,” which the stylist was. My therapist, ever the polite character she is, suggested that I not start that way. So I restarted with, “I feel like you’re trying to provoke me,” and ended that first sentence with, “am I right?”. This look came across my therapist’s face that appeared to be a crossover of utter confusion and fear. But she allowed me to keep the sentence, reminding me that she didn’t want to try and tell me how to behave (it’s why we get along by the way). So we continued discussing this “I feel” statement until I was somewhat satisfied with it. I read through it a few times and promised to memorize it so I can use it the next time I run into a prodding, provoking, rude confrontation.

By the time I arrived home, I had changed my mind. I frankly don’t see how blaming myself with an “I feel” statement will help me in situations where the person I’m dealing with is the aggressor. My therapist has a phrase for these types of people, “poking the bear”. I call them assholes who don’t respect boundaries.

In the past, I’ve tried to reason with such individuals, but they don’t get it. You see, what those prodding, provocative types want is to win the argument. They’re accustomed to having others cave in to them and they’re okay with that. In the entire time I was debating with my former hairstylist, not once did she show me the courtesy she should give a customer. She was sick and in a bad mood for whatever reason, and every negative energy propelling through her body was targeted at me. I was her prey at that moment, and I wasn’t having it.

But I’ve decided to compromise. Instead of totally giving up on the, “I feel” strategy, I’m going to preserve it for those worth my time, but I’m not going to try and rationalize with anyone who tries to bring me down because they’re having a bad life. As I told my therapist, maybe I should suggest to these self-saboteurs that we meet up and share problems and then decide who has the most to deal with. Maybe then they’ll learn to give others the courtesy and respect they deserve.

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