I didn’t get into a whole lot of trouble when I was a kid. I don’t know how much trouble I deserved, but it was probably more than what I got. I responded to said “trouble” in two distinct ways: I rebelled or I cried. A few examples…
In grade 5, I made a sarcastic comment in class. I’m sure I’d made many sarcastic/smart/clever comments, but this one the teacher caught. She kept me in at recess to discuss what I’d say and the manner in which I’d said it. Another boy was also being held in at recess for something else. I very vividly remember playing with the pens in the ledge of my desk, manically re-organizing them so as not to make eye contact with my teacher as she spoke because I was crying and crying over the fact that I’d said those words/made a mistake/disappointed her. The boy was kind of exasperated. He said, “She’s WHISPERING to you and you’re CRYING?!”
What can I say? When I really see that I’ve made a mistake, I collapse into a wet puddle of emotion. Maybe it was because I respected that teacher and didn’t want to disappoint her. Maybe it was because I legitimately knew I had done the wrong the thing. It was probably a mix of both. But sometimes I can be a wreck when I recognize my own mistakes or disappoint authority.
Other times as a kid, I was just the opposite. I rebelled and put on my impenetrable hard shell of justice and reason and fought back with all that I had. If I may quote my grade 4 teacher’s report card comments from March 14, 1989:
“I think Dixie should have continued her participation in the school choir, at least until after the Music Festival. To assume responsibility means to follow through a task until it is completed. She will meet other people in her life that she doesn’t like and for whom she waon’t want to do her best work.”
What I recall about my perspective on this incident from two decades ago is that I thought the music teacher was not running the choir properly and had inappropriate expectations. Which of course in my 9 year old vocabulary meant I thought she was an “idiot”. The teacher’s comments (etched forever in ink in my report card which I have kept forever in my music note and swan decored file folder along with every other report from kindergarten through to university) did not bother me. They only caused to well up inside me the injustice of the situation and the assuredness of my position.
Maybe I rebelled or stood up for myself because I didn’t think I was wrong. Maybe if my parents had forced me to keep in that choir, I would have softened to the whole thing… maybe not. Maybe it was my own fear and shame that kept me on-guard about the teacher’s comments as opposed to weeping in my desk like in grade 5…
All that to say, I think it’s interesting to examine our reactions to situations and try to unpack what we are really responding to. Is it something in us? Is it someone else? Is it something we are afraid or unable to acknowledge in ourselves so we unconsciouly project onto others? So many possibilities. So many ways to go crazy.
Speaking of which… I was thinking that it might be a helpful therapeutic tool to describe your own neuroses through cheerleading cheers. You know, like:
My name is Dixie (clap-clap CLAP)
And I am sensitive (clap-clap CLAP)
To disappointing authority (clap-clap CLAP)
And when I do (clap-clap CLAP)
It makes me cry (clap-clap) (HIGH LEG KICK!)
See. Quite therapeutic. You should try it some time.