About That Guy In 9F

Last week, in response to the “there’s a man in my seat” email, my friend Teresa asked if there was something more than him ‘breaking the rules’ that triggered me.

Good question. And a good friend to ask the good question.

It took me a while to figure it out.

Yes, there’s the annoyance of those accustomed to privilege taking up space that is more than their fair share—whether community seating, a conference room tabletop, or the warm circle around a campfire. This was underneath that.

It was an issue of status, one of the two issues that consistently trigger me (the other is abandonment).

If I think you think you are better than me, that you don’t have to follow the rules but shlubs like me do, then I get angry.

I used to think I was weird for being so attuned to status, but it’s not weird at all. From my corporate career, I learned that the brain interprets the pain of a loss in status just like it interprets the pain of being hit with a stick. Stick or status, what the brain says is, “Yowch!! This Hurts!”

It doesn’t make sense but it does. Our brains have the hardwiring of our ancient ancestors, who depended on the tribe to survive. A drop in status put a tribe member closer to the trapdoor, and the trapdoor led to death.

In other words, I was mad at the man in my seat because I didn’t want to be less than him because I didn’t want to die.

This is why we need the executive function of the prefrontal cortex, the newer part of the brain. If we pause, if we wait a second and listen, it will counter the immediate reaction of the reptilian brain.

It might ask a question. “If you were up on a balcony looking down at this scene, what would you see?” It might make a statement. “No one is attacking me. Everyone is on defense.”*

The pause is the hardest part.


*Statement from Better Days by Neal Allen, p118.

Chewing the Cud of Good

Gray swirls

Thankful for all the people watching out for my mother.



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