I don’t mind it when someone tells me what to do if they’re giving me important instructions on how to disable a bomb. I may be alone in this, but there is something about the tone of voice that accompanies someone saying “you need to…” that makes me want to scream “I don’t NEED to do anything!”. But I don’t, I usually grit my teeth and do the thing I need to do and move on.
Today I had a particularly frustrating experience with being told I needed something. I was trying to get a prescription from the Harborview Pharmacy today. I take birth control continuously because without hormonal regulation, I am a walking stereotype for the overly emotional woman. My best friend can speak on this very succinctly and now calls these moments my “crazy shrew” moments. I always feel that when I go to pick up birth control, 1 of 2 things will always happen: 1) I will get sideways glances from the pharmacist as if I am a whore who likes to have sex ALL THE TIME or 2) I will regret being poor and young and without decent health insurance. Today I met my second option in the form of Bernice, a woman who was “just following policy, miss.”
Being called “miss” is worse than being called “ma’am”. With “ma’am” at least they acknowledge some sense of respect, but with “miss” I feel about 6 years old.
I was trying to explain to Bernice, an overworked, underpaid pharmacist that I should be receiving 2 packs of birth control so I can take it for 6 weeks before having to refill as per my doctor’s orders. She was telling me that because I’m poor and have to use charity health insurance, I can only get 1 month supply at a time and the last year that I had been operating with the “2 packs at a time” system, I had gotten lucky and had pharmacists who were willing to bend the rules. On top of that, I was trying to refill my prescription too early, according to her computer. She told me when I could refill my prescription next, a full 2 and half weeks away. and I pulled out my planner and my birth control pack and showed her that by that day I would have gone 3 days without taking a pill.
This is the best part. She looks at me and says, “Ma’am, you need to calm down.”
So now I’m “Ma’am”, and I need to do something and it’s calm down. I didn’t think I was being whatever the opposite of calm is. Irrational, maybe?
Ok, that long story is all set up for my theory on why we hate being told what to do. It is the classic argument I get into with my boyfriend. The rare times we do fight, it’s over his perception that I am trying to tell him what to do, which is viewed as an infringement on his time and energy. The key here is that when we believe we are being ordered around, it is viewed as an infringement on our time, energy and emotions, three highly valuable things. And in that split second after we are told what to do, we decide that person is taking away our valuable resources for their own personal interests.
What I find strange is that sometimes I am fine with this, but other times I feel like my blood is literally boiling and I suddenly have a hard time breathing. I think that is defined by some as rage. For me, the trigger words are “You need to…”, but they may be completely different for someone else. For my boyfriend, it’s usually “Honey, can you…?” My perception is that I’m being nice, but to him this is always what triggers a sigh, a roll of the eyes, or no reaction at all because he ignores me.
So the challenge is to become aware of what triggers us to have these rage-inducing reactions. And even more challenging, don’t try and change the trigger, merely try and change the time it takes to form the reaction. From a microsecond to a millisecond and that could be enough time to recognize that it is your trigger. Some make it even longer by taking a deep breath, which is a good start if it’s particularly difficult for you to control emotions. I did this today and rather than do what I wanted to do to Bernice (bitch slap her) I did something much better (asked to speak to a supervisor).
So the challenge is two-fold. The first part is actually figuring out what the trigger is. For you, for your partner, your best friend, and they can be spoken words or even body language. And then you have to actively take the time in the moment to change your reaction. In the case of understanding my boyfriend, I had to find a different way of getting him to do what I needed. Now I give him notice that I’ll need his help on something. “This trash is getting full, do you think tomorrow before you go to work you can take it out?”
The end of my story is a happy one. Upon the request for a supervisor Bernice changed her mind and gave me 2 packs of my birth control.
PS. On a side note: I HATE not having health insurance. It’s bull shit. Perfectly willing to pay for it as long as it has decent prescription coverage for anti-shrew medication, but those usually cost mucho dinero.