We’ve all done it. We’ve all sat down at our computer and started to type something akin to “you suckity suck head. You should know you really suck, and this is why.” I know, your nasti-gram was significantly more articulate than that, but when it boils down to it that’s what you’re saying. In fact I wrote one about a month ago. I was articulate, focused and directed in what I wanted to say. And looking back the letter said “Hey you stupid suckhead. This is how much you suck, why you suck, and how stupid you are.”
I had attending a meeting in which I felt I was not listened to. I was trying to advocate for a client and not only was the caseworker seemingly deaf to what I had to say, but her attorney was as well. I went home and stewed. I knew I was meditating on my anger, I knew I was on the crazy train, and I just couldn’t get off. So I wrote an email “advocating” for my client. I wrote several drafts until I had one that I felt was acceptable enough to run through my filter (my husband) to see if it was professional and acceptable. And I did what any professional should do; I called a colleague to triple check myself. And of course she told me what I needed to hear; knock it off. We’re here to teach clients to advocate for themselves, not fight their battles for them.
Looking back at the email that I did not send, it was professional and made the point I wanted to make. It also was meant to make the attorney feel small ignorant, and unprofessional. When the above meeting was over I felt small, inarticulate, and powerless. These are some of my major shame triggers. I don’t have the trigger of not feeling smart enough; I know I’m intelligent. Because of my childhood where sometimes no matter what I said someone was going to be pissed, I struggle to feel articulate. Because of that same childhood I frequently felt powerless and helpless. I felt powerless in that meeting and watched a client feel helpless, where even her attorney wasn’t helping her. I wanted to make him feel ignorant, and small, and stupid. It was a very professional nasti-gram.
When we sit down at our keyboard to write our nasti-gram we are trying to make the other person feel as small, as ignorant, as hurt, as powerless or hopeless as we feel. We are trying to take the shame we feel and throw it on to them, instead of calling what we feel what it really is. I even struggled to write this blog, to call my shame what it was and speak it out loud. It is especially difficult to speak it here as I know several of my clients read this. But speaking our shame out-loud lessens its power.
How you want to make other’s feel when writing the nasti-gram, or when trolling, is how you really feel in the moment. The hateful angry email may help you feel more powerful. It also helps you meditate on your anger, and what we meditate on affects us on a cellular level. Anger increases cortisol and adrenalin, and makes your body thing you’re in life-or-death situations. It doesn’t do nice things.
When I hear the shame stories of friends and colleagues I am usually shocked. What triggers their shame is usually something that I see they excel at, and have no idea why they would be ashamed. I’m pretty sure that some of those that know me and have read my shame story are shaking your heads as well. Our shame triggers come from our past, they are our “baggage”. The difficult thing with shame triggers is that usually other’s don’t know what they are. Unless you are in a very unhealthy relationship (or have children) no one is trying to intentionally trigger your shame gremlins. No one is trying to make us feel that way, and we all have triggers that will be hit. In general there are common triggers for women and common triggers for men, and at the same time our history is always going to give us unique triggers.
When we are hurting our first instinct is to lash out and make the people that hurt us feel the same way we do. It is not healthy, and leads to the “eye for an eye” concept. This was one of the most quoted parts of the bible I heard when I was a child, and then when I was older I learned that that was only part of the quote. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” is the whole quote. It is actually OK to write that email. In Word, or whatever word-processing program you use, not on your phone or your email. It keeps you from accidentally sending it! Then if you find that you need to or are required to for some reason respond, start running the response through your filters. Through your own filters, and through the filters of those you respect to help you write appropriate emails (not the friends that are going to help you skewer the other person!). Getting the nasty draft out does help. Sending it does not. Start your meditation on how to communicate, even if it is to yourself what trigger was hit, what your needs are, and what your wants are. Ultimately it reminds you that your trigger is your trigger. It is yours to feel and yours to manage, not the other persons.
We all have triggers, and we all have those moments when we want to send that nasti-gram. They don’t help. Let yourself see your nasti-gram without sending it, and identify what trigger was hit. Then take a moment to recognize that it is your trigger. Don’t send the first email and do double check, triple check, and maybe even quadruple check yourself. Nasti-grams may be fun, but they don’t make things better. Making someone else feel small and stupid never makes anything better.