The other day I was at the Amazon Dog Park for small dogs. I was there with my 85 year old client and her small fluffy white dog. There are 2 gates at this park so if dogs get through one of them there is another to stop them. You know how sneaky dogs can be when it comes to gates.
There was a middle aged woman there with her 2 year old small fluffy black poodle. Very quickly into our conversation I noticed how much anger she was holding. It was like she had a defensive armor up that experienced everything as a threat. Some people were coming through the first gate with they’re pouch’s at the same time as someone was opening the 2nd gate. Her little dog was getting all mixed up there in his excitement to greet the new dogs. This woman with the small poodle got very triggered into rage/anger/fear that her doggie would get out of the park.
She went over to the gate and was yelling commands at the people coming through the 1st gate. They immediately turned around and left stating there was too much anger there for them to want to stay. A volunteer who was watering in the park was watching this scenario and was quite furious at this woman for scaring off these people.
The angry woman slunk back to the picnic table full of remorse from what she had done while the volunteer gave her his hardest glare and stormed off. The woman started saying ‘this always happens to me, everywhere I go, I make people hate me!’.
My 85 year old client piped up ‘oh that’s not true, we like you’.
I saw the opportunity to share with this woman something that I thought might be helpful. I told her that rage and anger are always covering our terror or fear, and pointed out that the fear was that her dog would have gotten out of the park and she would have lost him. Then I talked a bit about being triggered into rage that wants to act out, and that it can be helpful in these moments when we are really triggered into intense feelings to find a safe place to express this energy privately. In this way this energy can be processed without acting this rage out on others. Also by letting this rage move privately we can find out more what it has to tell us. It might be connected to something else quite different than the outside trigger.
I should have probably stopped there. She seemed to have some reception to what I was saying. I went on to gently tell her that her dog did have a habit of rushing the gates in his excitement to greet the other dogs. Unfortunately, this last bit of information was too much for her to take in. She stomped off saying that she didn’t want to have to sit by the gate all day and that people were just REALLY STUPID and she’d be better off just staying home.
Sigh. I told this story to a friend of mine and she didn’t feel I handled it properly. She said I had no idea what this woman had been through and that I just should have listened. Maybe then the woman would have told us her story and that would have been more of a healing experience for her. Ouch. That hurt to hear that feedback, I must say.
In looking back over this experience, what’s true for me is that I was kind of giddy about seeing this women in her patterns, recognizing them as my own in the past, and being SO GRATEFUL that this angry energy doesn’t run me anymore. It’s not that I don’t get mad; I most certainly do. But I do process privately and I seldom get into any outside explosions that can ruin my life. I was excited to share this with her. I am a frustrated teacher. I feel in retrospect I did try to share too much when she was too triggered to take in any more information.
Ahhh. Live and learn. I continue to do so.