I keep seeing the same message in various places. Ted Lasso. Everything Everywhere, All at Once. A passer-by on the prom. Attacking fear and anger with fear and anger only creates more fear and anger. The only option is to stay true to your beliefs and challenge them with love. How? Not a clue. My brain is a messy place of anxiety and stress, easily triggered into flight mode, requiring me to respond with fear and anger. How is it possible to put it into a mode where I feel able to shrug off someone else’s anger and fear and respond with fun?
What if someone comes at you with a knife? Hugs? What if someone attacks you in the bathroom because they’re transphobic? Kisses? I… I don’t know.
Maybe there’s something about knowing myself to better know others? My anxiety is not a conscious choice. It’s an impulse, like when the doctor taps you on the knee to test your reaction. Is that a conscious choice? It’s a reaction. People’s fear and anger might be a reaction. One of what they’ve read, heard, seen, felt or been pushed into because of someone else’s fear and anger. Perhaps that feeling of anxiety I feel at that moment is one they’re feeling, and by responding with anger only validates the anxiety in their brain.
What if the logical response is love? A response that confuses anxiety, so it has no reason to exist? It’s a lovely, no pun intended, idea, but when someone is coming at you with a knife, is there time to ponder all this and respond with a hug? Maybe not and in those circumstances the best course of action is to defend yourself, but only defend yourself, not attack.
What if a positive response is the best way to defend yourself? I saw a comedian wander round a city centre live-streaming, and they interacted with some kids. My anxiety in this situation would be, “Oh fudge! A small army of Tater Tots!” That’s what I call Andrew Tate fans. I would tell myself not to judge them as I don’t know them, but instinctively, I probably would. That would create fear in me, which would warp my response and possibly trigger a negative response from the nice young folk. Watching this comedian work, and yes, they’ve got years of experience dealing with hecklers, I saw someone respond with fun chaotic energy that made everyone feel at ease. Maybe we could all do with some heckler training?
Respond with love. If in the moment it was possible to acknowledge that someone’s anxiety and fear was just a human reaction. No matter how personal it feels, the way the brain works suggests it will respond better to positivity than negative. To do so, I need to address my anxiety and fear to be in a mindset of confidence and calm to respond well. I absolutely fail at this but wish I was better. Only human, right?