Ah. Look at how irrational you’re being. Putting all of your blame over here.
And you’re doing so with the fire and fury that I know how to be with so well. On this side, it’s nothing but icy calmness.
Like a placid lake, nothing stirs on the surface. I hold space masterfully, watching you, receiving you. I feel your anger but it skitters off me like a stone skipping over top of ice.
That metaphor comes to me even in this moment. I am the proportionate cold to your fire.
Such a position of power over here. As you work yourself up and get sweaty, dramatic, overblown and frantic, I simply look at you with the same level of calm that I would use when watching an ant carry something frantically up a hill.
How pathetic you are, I think to myself.
That thought is far, far below my level of consciousness. I’m not even aware of it.
The conscious thoughts sound something a little more like this: “Wow, you’re really upset. And there’s a lot of blame over there about what I’ve done wrong. You just need to take some responsibility here. Maybe if you were willing to be responsible, you wouldn’t be getting so upset.”
I’m actively looking on my side as we go through this dance.
That’s my safety in this storm that we’re locked in. I am reliable to look on my side to see what I can be responsible for.
And it really is what I can be responsible for. As long as I’m being responsible for stuff, I don’t have to really worry about the things I’m not willing to be responsible for.
I don’t have to worry about being caught out for what I’m not currently noticing.
All that fiery heat? That’s all yours. That’s not me, that’s on you, and yours to own. I don’t have to take responsibility for who I’m being that might have that show up. I don’t have to take a look on my side to see how I might be the clearing for this particular dynamic between you and I.
I’ve got a story, and it makes me perfectly safe. That story is: icy calmness is the sign of someone not being triggered. There’s nothing out over here, nothing I need to be concerned about. There’s nothing that I need to take a look at about how I’m being in this conversation, because I’m calm, cool and collected.
Except that’s just it, isn’t it? That’s exactly the goto whenever I do feel activated — to go calm, and flat. To get really soothing in the way I speak, and let my nice, clean, monotone words land on you like the soothing, poisonous rain that they are. I know exactly how to intonate my voice so that my calmness serves as the perfect reflection for your own hysteria.
It’s not really a battle that you can win if you’re in this with me. It’s completely unfair. I get to hold all the cards and stare placidly at you, waiting for you to finish your latest tirade, desperately hoping that you’ll be able to draw out some of my humanity in this conversation.
But you will fail. I closed the door on that possibility long before you and I began talking, and why would I open it now? That would be unsafe. That might mean I have something to look at over on this side of the table.
No, better to let you burn yourself to a crisp. Then I can come in and take care of you. Mend you. Help you see how insane you’ve been. Maybe if you were more like me…
I win that interaction. But I lose the relationship. Just like I, eventually, lose every relationship. Not quickly and explosively, but slowly, with the pace and inexorability of a glacier grinding the earth to dust under it’s foot. Nothing left eventually, other than life, frozen.
The only real question in all of this is: Am I willing to let go of the pretense that my icy calm is anything other than my own defense mechanism? That I’m every bit as bothered as you are — I’ve just learned to bury that under a sheet of ice a mile thick.
Only then can it be possible for things to really change.