Fear biters (no, not the sexy kind of bite!)
Yesterday, Selene called me exasperated. She went off on a rant about dogs.
She said she’d rather deal with an aggressive dog than a fearful dog. Because aggressive dogs, you know exactly what you’re getting, and you can work with and around them relatively effectively.
But with fearful dogs, they will seem fine until they are not, often seeming to change instantly from wagging their tails to biting and snapping.
Since neither of us have dogs right now, I wondered where she was going with that until she mentioned dealing with one of her relatives who was acting like a fearful dog. Fawning and being friendly one moment and snapping and snarling the next, and never knowing what she was going to encounter with them.
Which reminded me of a conversation I was having Monday evening at the Durham Slosh with someone about dogs and dog training.
Because yeah, if I don’t compare people’s behavior to dog behavior a few times a year at least, you know I’m off my game. LOL!
People are the same way.
SOME people are brash. They are naturally aggressive, pushy, and tend to roll over others without even realizing it.
I call these people assholes.
Because with these people, what you see is what you get.
They are not trying to be anything for anyone. They are not faking anything. They will not be friendly if they don’t feel friendly. They will not smile and stab you in the back.
They are simply assholes.
And that’s good enough. If you can deal with (or work around) their assholery, then they can be amazing (and amusing) friends.
(And they are that friend that you warn others about: “Well, they can be kind of a jerk, but I think you’ll like them, if you can see past that…”)
They are authentic and they are assholes.
They are assholes, but they are OUR assholes.
Then, there are the others.
The fearful people.
The ones who hide their real thoughts and feelings, or try to suppress them to fit in better with the world — or at least the people they desperately want to fit in with.
They are afraid that being themselves means that people wouldn’t like them.
And they’re sometimes right.
Many of these sorts hide who they are for good reason. Because if they said what they really wanted to say, people would realize that the friendliness and smiles they put on are a thin veneer over a rotten core.
- People who send disgusting messages to other humans online, without consent for their humanity.
- Those who call others names behind their backs.
- Internet trolls.
- The ones who are not nice to service people.
And so on.
Because they are NOT NICE.
They can pretend to be nice when it will get them what they want, or when they are worried that showing their true selves will affect them poorly.
But it usually leaks out.
When they are under stress, these are the people that will use their words like stiletto blades to eviscerate you with the vulnerabilities you’ve shared with them. The ones who look for weaker people to manipulate or take their frustrations out on. The ones for whom even a minor disappointment will bring out a full blown temper tantrum.
Because they are afraid.
And their fear has twisted their world into a threatening place, and twisted their hearts and minds into little black lumps of coal.
And they know that.
And it makes them even more fearful, because they don’t even like themselves, and wouldn’t be friends with themselves if they were someone else at the receiving end of their behaviors. What hope do they really have of other people liking them?
We have ALL fear bitten at one point or another in our lives.
Probably many times.
Every dog has the potential to fear bite. Push them enough, back them into a corner in a way that they can’t see an exit, it can happen.
Same with humans.
Every one of us has lashed out at a loved one with hurtful words when we ourselves were wounded.
Every one of us has hidden our true feelings at some point because we wanted to be liked or loved.
Every one of us has a part of ourselves that holds fear.
Do you fear bite? Do the people around you?
At one point, I decided I didn’t want to be a fear biter in my relationships anymore.
I wanted to give the people in my life the experience of being heard and loved and appreciated, even when they said something that hurt me.
Because I also wanted to feel that safety in my relationships, and I felt it was unfair to ask of others what I could not offer to them.
And as I got better and better and managing my own fear response (from years of being in an abusive relationship), I was then able to accept other’s fear reactions, and offer them a better response and not take it so personally, and we grew together to communicate more effectively and with more compassion.
Those who were willing to take those steps with me.
Some were not.
And they chose to hold on to their fears. And we parted.
And that’s OK. We all have our journeys. And I was not the right person for them to take those steps with, obviously.
Overall, I agree with Selene. In dogs and in humans, an aggressive personality poses less danger to me than a fear-biter.
What are your thoughts?
Do you fear bite? Over specific subjects, or do you find that your fears and hurts are close to the surface, and it’s easy (perhaps too easy?) to set you off and put you on the attack/defense?
Do the people around you fear bite? What do you do when you share a piece of yourself, and someone hurts or attacks you in retaliation for their pain?