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August 5, 2013

Some years go, I worked with a parent, whose son was verbally insulted at school, she wanted me to work with her son about dealing with insults and spoke proudly about how she had given the school principal a piece of her mind, when she found out that the verbal insult directed towards her son was in fact a racial slur. When I pulled in her son to discuss the incident with him, he shared with me that besides being verbally insulted, that he was also physically assaulted by the same classmate who insulted him. Alarmed, I called the mother back into my office to inform her what her son had just shared with me.

She attempted to downplay her son’s allegations of being physically assaulted (despite his swollen lip), but after further interviewing both mother and son, and comparing their stories, I came to believe that the boy was indeed assaulted by classmates he didn’t stand a chance against. My conclusion was derived from my years of experience working with teenage males, the boy’s demeanor and his facial injuries. It was only after confronting the mother with my suspicions that she conceded that her may have been telling the truth. I immediately asked her to have a meeting with the principal of the school, and keep an open mind about placing her son in a safer environment. She never followed through with any of my advice.

There needs to be a public shift in the public’s paradigm regarding how conflicts with others are addressed. In my past posts regarding anger management, I notice some readers become angered when I suggest that getting angered about insults is a waste of time. It appears that a significant number of people who become offended by my stance, seem to think that I suggesting that people become passive and behave like door mats in the face of hostility.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, my attitude towards life is about seeing the truth for what it is, and responding with common sense. The problem I had with this parent, is that for some reason she found a lot of strength in complaining about the slur addressed towards her son, but she wanted to pretend like she didn’t hear her son, when he went into detail about how the kid had two other classmates pin him down so he could use her son’s face like a punching bag. She wanted to pretend like she didn’t hear this because she was not psychologically prepared to hear this story, nor was she equipped with the proper tools to know how to go about keeping her son safe from his troubled peers.

My intention is not place judgement on this parent, but to say that most people who find themselves emotionally aroused by their feelings of offense, over verbal insults are in the same situation as this parent. Most people don’t know how to stand up for themselves when their rights as people are properly violated, why? It’s simple, they don’t have the training.

If you don’t have the skills to solve a problem, or a potential problem, focusing your energies on irrelevant and trivial issues isn’t going to get you anywhere. What you should do, if you recognize a skills deficit in your preparedness for life, is to research about others who have that skill, and do your best to learn from them.

Getting angry about insults are a waste of time, because freedom of speech is not a man made invention, but a God given right. If you can speak, you can say anything you want. At any point in time, any human being who has the ability to speak or write in any language can choose to break away from the norms of social courtesy and behave rudely. Verbal insults really don’t harm us, what harms us about verbal insults are how we choose to interpret certain words before they are uttered by someone else. Physical assaults on the other hand, are a different story.

For all of my clients who are survivors of various kinds of physical assaults, I strongly encourage them, to enroll self defense classes. Not for retaliation, but to be equipped with the appropriate skills needed to survive and overcome the types of attacks that really truly matter.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a Professional Counseling Service based in Tucson AZ. He is also the author of Anger Management 101: Taming the Beast Within.

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