Beach rage – and an unexpected alternative.

06May10

‘That is so horrible … Just. So. Horrible.’

As the woman muttered something under her breath and walked away from us with her dog my daughter burst into tears. Dog pee dripped down the side of our beach bag into the sand.

I watched her as she walked away from us. Her head turned occasionally to see if I was still watching. I was. I stood on our picnic rug with my hands on my hips and in my head I composed all the insults and screams that would have poured out of my mouth had I had time to compose them while she was still within earshot. I toyed with scooping my daughter up and running after her to at least demand an apology but I didn’t. Instead I picked up my phone and ranted about the incident on Facebook and then took solace in the cheering replies (the best one was ‘I bet you wanted to rub her nose in it!’)

Today I met with Life Coach Jayne Goldstone for an informal chat over a pot of tea – or three. I related the story to her and asked, just out of interest, why it was that I had felt so impotent in the face of my anger and why the woman hadn’t even said sorry. Jayne’s reply astonished me. In a few short words she turned the world on its head, shook it a few times like one of those snow globes you see at Christmas and, when the snow settled, the answer became clear.

Jayne asked me, ‘What did you want to say to her after the dog peed on your bag?’

I replied that I wanted her to say sorry, to be mortified for upsetting my daughter and to acknowledge that to have a huge Chocolate Labrador (beautiful as it was) pee all over your bags at the beach was not a particularly great way to start the day.

Jayne said, very quietly, ‘But you can’t control her.’

Hmm. I am prone to a little ‘control freakery’ I admit and I had, in the heat of the moment, displaced all of my anxiety, stress and expectations of behaviour onto a woman I had never even met before and who was herself, I imagine, totally mortified by what had happened.

‘What would you have done? If that was your dog – what would you have done?’

I thought for a moment and remembered years ago when a guy sitting on a bench in a raised pub garden somewhere had fallen backwards onto my son (I seem to have accident prone kids but, hey! Don’t we all?). The man was devastated by what had happened, apologised profusely and then disappeared. We brought out the Arnica, applied it liberally to the affected blue lumps and thought no more of it until the guy returned to our table with a huge ice cream to say sorry.

‘I would have offered to buy her (my daughter) and ice cream and said how embarrassed and sorry I was.’

Jayne asked, ‘How do you think you could have reacted? To allow her to respond that way?’

‘I could have said to her how embarrassed she must be feeling and what an awful thing it was to have happened.’

Jayne smiled, ‘Exactly. You chose how to react in that situation and filled yourself with frustration and rage. I’m not saying that the woman would have responded any differently – as I said before, you can’t control anyone else – but it would have given her a way in rather than bringing her face to face with a brick wall of anger .’

Food for thought indeed. Make mine a 99.

For your own ‘snow globe moment’ visit www.jaynegoldstone.com

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