In my seminar this past Wednesday, we had a discussion about various ways that people “dominate” others. Certain ways are more obvious. For example, some people dominate with arrogance or money or authority or information. Other ways are less obvious, such as dominating through withholding, cynicism, humor or victimization. Essentially, we all have tools (conscious or unconscious) that we use to control situations, steer conversations or manipulate others. During a break on Wednesday night, I asked David how I dominate. He thought for a moment and said that, at least within our family, I dominate with upset.
He’s completely right. And I hate that he’s right.
What he means by “upset” is that if he and/or the kids push my buttons past a certain point, I become stone-faced, I withdraw, I act sullen and shoot dirty looks. The entire family is then held hostage by my mood — walking on eggshells, ignoring me or attempting to placate me until I soften. It’s ugly behavior and it’s embarrassing to own up to it.
It is not news to me that I go to that place. But describing it as a tool that I have employed (albeit semi-consciously) in order to gain control of people and situations allows me to view it through a new lens. I am feeling very hopeful that I have a chance of addressing this tendency from a new perspective — one in which I have something to say about it and I’m not a victim.
There will, of course, always be times that I get upset, but, with this new awareness, I can stop the upset from turning me into an emotional terrorist.