When I was young, one of the most dreadful experiences I had was being shouted and yelled at. My father could get really upset, scream, yell and pull the most frightening faces that I would sometimes pee my pants. I absolutely disliked any form of shouting, even a raised voice or loud sounds would send shocks of petrification through my body, even when the situation I found myself in wasn’t meant to be scary. I created an absolute aversion.
There were more traits I really disliked about my father, but for brevity’s sake I won’t mention them all. You could say that his general behaviour and demeanour was that of a dominant type personality.
When I got to the stage of being a ‘grown up’ myself, I would at all cost try to avoid being anything like my father.
Having attached a negative connotation to several of his traits, and judging them extensively had the unfortunate side-effect that I wouldn’t do or behave in a way that would even slightly remind me of him, even when I was in a situation that actually necessitated it. In my head, by mere associations, I would be ‘just as bad’ as him.
The first time my opinion around raising my voice and shouting was challenged was when I moved to the farm where I currently live. The farm I live on is set up for community living, and there’s always other people around and many animals. One day one of the dogs started chasing a chicken that got herself over the fence, when someone stepped out and in a booming voice shouted, “HEY!! STOP IT!!” whilst sternly and authoritatively walking towards the dog.
As usual, I experienced the ever so familiar shock of petrification run through my body. Simply by associating the sounds and body language back to my emotionally-laden memories. Although my rational self understood that the dog was about to at least harm the chicken, I couldn’t help but react and condemn the shouting and stance of the person. I felt bad for the dog, who’d stopped her actions and came running back with her ears slightly lowered, reminding me of my own experience of self-diminishment whenever I got shouted at.
Now that I look back at it, it’s quite astounding to see to what extent being around various different animals on a farm assisted and supported me in opening up my aversion towards what I perceived to be, dominance and other emotional issues I struggled with. How each and every single animal relationships was a stepping stone and learning experience that prepared the way for myself as a parent today. (But that will have to become a series on its own!)
One day the dogs had been restricted to the house because some people who were strangers to the dogs had to get some things done in the garden area. This was causing some frustration for the dogs as they are used to having their space to roam around and being apprehensive of “those people” outside which they didn’t know. The same day some people went to do shopping (who mainly took care of the dogs), which added some restlessness to the dogs’ behaviour. When they got back and reached the gate, the dogs got overrun with excitement. At that time, we had a few small dogs who had past leg issues, and were very protective about their ‘behind’. The bigger dogs were pushing into them to get to the door which they hoped would be opened for them so they could run off and greet their persons. The tension was rising and the smaller dogs started snarling at the bigger dogs, which was a recipe for disaster. There wasn’t much time before it was going to escalate and in one moment I stepped forward and with a loud, low (pitch wise), booming voice told them to stop it.
In a single moment, the tension was discharged between the dogs and created a gap in the tension that was building where I could get in between them to create more space among the dogs and keep them calm.
It was then that I realised that there’s more to ‘shouting’ and ‘yelling’ than I had previously thought. I realised that shouting/yelling, purely from a sound perspective – as with the dogs, sending a sort of ‘shockwave’ through them to snap them out of their particular state – was an effective tool.
There had been no meanness, no anger or desire to diminish them, only the directive to prevent a harmful situation.
Within my past experiences however, the yelling and shouting had always been fueled strongly with anger, frustration and a certain desire for diminishment to ‘keep me in my place’.
Because of the emotional load that got transferred in each of those moments, I created the belief that any shouting/yelling/raising of one’s voice was irrevocably abusive and damaging. Just the sight and sound of it, I would already make up my mind. I only ever looked at the form/manifestation ( = shouting / yelling / raising voice) and wasn’t able to differentiate what was behind it as the expression/substance (whether emotional or directive). If I was in a state of self-victimization and diminishing myself, someone would raise their voice at me to ‘snap’ me out of my emotional state from a directive starting point, I would within myself still paint it off as being menacing.
More on this topic, in blogs to come