Give Them a Piece of Your Mind
So you’re angry – there’s a bit of a rant.
You’re clearly affected so who caused it?
Jump ahead of you in the bar queue? Cut you up on the motorway? Call you a wuss on the pitch? Stared at you on the
Was it worse than that?
Maybe they got your order wrong? Perhaps they showed a complete lack of
interest in serving you? Maybe they were a complete jobsworth? Maybe they’re qualified cheats?
These are all people you don’t even know and you’re already
well on the way to giving them a piece of your mind – or, if you prefer the
physical solution, a taste of knuckle!
Or perhaps they are just perhaps a bit thick, stupid,
So what’s our natural reaction with these types of folk?
They’re annoying, frustrating, aggravating, and need to be taken down a peg or
two – shown the error of their ways – taught a lesson.
How we allow ourselves to wander – or is it blunder – into
these flashpoints, these areas of personal conflict, ire and rage, is a pattern
we slip into seemingly not out of choice, but more out of necessity. We have a
necessity to assert our identity
because there is something about this annoying person that has, cumulatively,
impacted upon us in a very personal way – they have struck at the heart of our
identity, who we think and feel we are.
On the face of it, one of the generosities of my
encountering someone who is really mindless would be to actually “give”
them a piece of my mind; to share with them some of my own faculties in order
to facilitate some things for them. It is a human kindness. Whether they’ve
dropped something, are asking directions, or are just preoccupied with
something else – it’s all the same. I’ve helped their mind by giving them a
piece of mine for a short while.
However, in the common usage sense and meaning of that
phrase, when I ‘give them a piece of my mind’, what am I really doing? I’m
telling them what I think of them. I’m applying my view of the world, my set of
rules about how the world should run on the basis of “My rules right – their
rules wrong”. That’s the piece of my mind I’m giving them, AND probably insisting
that they accept it as well!
The presupposition here of course is that my view is right.
Which is as far as it goes if I “call the shots” and if I take the attitude “that’s
it – like it or lump it!”
However – things are different if I align my view with my
identity; for if I do that, then everyone and everything that doesn’t conform
to my view impugns, calls into question, my identity. My person, my very being,
is challenged. I will stand up for myself – I will defend myself – I will
prevail – I must prevail or I will lose my sense of self-worth. And if don’t
prevail, or if I see myself as not prevailing, then I will look to reassert
myself at the very next opportunity. This whole state, this mind set, can be
seen residing under the banner “Do you, or don’t you, know who I am”
and it lives together with a complete lack of humility.
lights, emotions and hierarchies
We’re driving at night and dip our lights when another car
approaches. This is normal.
If the approaching car doesn’t dip its headlights – what then? We flash our
lights and they dip theirs. They were distracted and have now conformed. This
If they don’t dip theirs – what then? We are more than temporarily dazzled. We
can respond by doing nothing and just endeavour to concentrate so we can
maintain our orientation on the road until they have passed. This is normal.
We can also respond by putting our lights on full beam in order to counter
theirs. Reactive as this may be – it is still an option.
These are all robotic responses – they are a set of “If
> Then > Or” choices and outcomes.
However, we are humans not robots – and we have emotions and hierarchies of
If dipping headlights, for us, is a set of actions judged
and placed purely at the behavioural
level then we’ll respond in the aforementioned robotic way. We’ll treat the
non-dipper as behaving in an
inappropriate way and no emotion will enter the arena of activity.
If we take the non-dipper’s action out of the behavioural level into a higher
level, our emotional involvement will start to get charged up. We get
tense and taut, we’ll start to verbalise our thoughts – and suddenly we aren’t
the driver we were just before we encountered the non-dipper.
Our response at the next level up (skills
and capabilities) is to judge the non-dipper as being incompetent,
incapable of driving properly at night. “How difficult is it for you to do
something as simple as dip your lights, moron?” we shout as they approach and
then go past in just a matter of seconds.
Our response at the next level (beliefs
and values) is more along the lines, “You shouldn’t be on the road, you’re
a menace, it’s dangerous what you’re doing, society needs to correct you, I
need to correct you…” and so on.
Our response at the next level (identity)
is highly personal. This driver is not dipping his lights for ME. More to the
point, these are my eyes he’s dazzling, my driving he’s disrupting, my car he’s
putting under threat etc. This is me he’s directing his action at – doesn’t he
know who I am?
As you can see, with all these responses there is a
cumulative pathway. The ‘emotional backpack’ is filling up with meaning every
step of every level.
If we carry the worldview that ‘morons and incapables’ threaten or impugn our
identity, or that questioning our beliefs about who should be allowed to drive
on the road threatens or impugns our identity, then that backpack gets
overfilled very, very quickly. The filling gets amplified from every level
There are some of us who do carry things thus – here’s part
of a conversation I overheard in a restaurant recently. (I’d add here that I
only clearly overheard one voice from this conversation, since it was quite
loud! And therein is another clue.) A group of four at the adjacent table were
talking sport. “Mr Loud” (let’s call him) held sway, and eventually the topic
became the Paralympics. Mr Loud’s brazen pronouncement was, “Oh I didn’t watch
any. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that – watching those people. That’s not
sport. It’s just not right is it?”
While no one else in his coterie
challenged his myopic worldview, I resisted a huge temptation – biting my lip
and sitting on my hands – not to give him a piece of my mind.
Clearly, for Mr Loud, disability in others strikes deep.
His belief is that disability sporting activities – right up to and including the
Paralympics – are not sport. He feels what they do is not right – and
presumably must be stopped. He labels them as ‘those people’, and just talking
about the subject makes him uncomfortable. Yet he’s more than happy to share
this worldview, so it’s part of his identity. Nothing will ever shake him from
this view, this stance, except perhaps some very extreme personal
Prejudice, in whatever form, always goes deep to the level
of identity. At some point, proud Mr Loud, sitting atop his world, has views
that are almost certain to be involved in a collision with those of someone
equally forthright at the other end of the spectrum of compromise.
the pieces of our Mind
Keeping our mind intact should be one of the things we
strive to do every day. Every time we ‘lose it’ by giving away a piece of our
mind, then for that day – or that stream of consciousness – we can’t get it
I am often reminded of the client I saw who said she had ‘depression’
– except that she was acting out depression to mask her anger. She was happy
for the world to see her ‘depression’ but not her anger. She had no peace of
mind since every waking moment she was letting pieces of her mind fall into the
abyss between her anger and her depression.
Why do we find it easy to get so irate behind the wheel of
We’re in our own little box, thinking we are hidden from the world, and in this
box we can express ourselves and be true to our identity and our beliefs. We
can behave in whatever way we choose. The
world can still see and hear us of course – but the biggest danger to us is
that for every ill-considered comment, every rant, we are giving away a piece
of our mind.
If we can keep all the pieces of our mind together, then we
will have peace of mind. Our judgements, our appreciations, our actions, our
productivity, our thinking and our health and wellbeing, are all best served from a mind that is fully
intact. We are able to make the best sense of everything if we are grounded,
We might feel distracted and unable to give our full attentiveness to something
because we “are not all there”, or “my mind wasn’t with it”, or “my mind was in
another place”, or “I couldn’t get it together”, or “my brain wasn’t in gear”,
and so on. However we may describe it metaphorically, it all boils down to
something being missing – and the missing piece is a piece of our mind.
So where is your mind today?
Is it all there?
Did you give someone a piece of your mind – however casually – on the way to
ascribe to other levels such as capabilities, beliefs and values, identity or
Whatever the answer, it’s worth remembering that whatever
you have placed in the domain of your identity – that is not really you. It is just
what you think or what your views are. You weren’t born with your views. You’ve
acquired and learnt them along the way. You can choose to keep them because
they are serving you well or change them for others that will serve you better.
The real you lies behind all that.
So – as I sat on my hands in the restaurant, I became
comfortable in the knowledge that I still had all the pieces of my mind and
that behind the facade of prejudice and discomfort, there exists the real Mr