How to deal with abusive people

An angry or stressed young businesswoman


So there we stood at the entrance to the venue.  Me in the doorway and the most angry woman I had come across in a long time opposite me.


My instructions that day had been clear.  No-one enters the venue without a ticket.  I sympathised with the fact that her little boy desperately needed the bathroom, and only the facilities inside the venue didn’t have lengthy queues.  However, the reality was that neither she nor her son had tickets, and I simply was not authorised to let her in without.


Either way there could be no justification for the deeply hurtful and personal attack that had just left her lips.  I was furious! I wasn’t there, helping the community, giving up my free time on a voluntary basis only to be victim to such a vicious and unfounded barrage of verbal abuse.


I was all set to tell her exactly what I thought of her in return….  when I stopped.   A thought had arrived in my mind, a memory of a phrase taught to me by author and speaker Sean Stephenson:


“The hurt, hurt.  The healed, heal.”


There seems to be so much confrontation in the world today.  A few moments on any social media site and you can find a debate over a current topic that has descended into an emotion charged exchange of insults.  Work places seem to be a breeding ground for people openly attacking each others efforts, even though they are meant to be working together, in a ill-fated attempt to look more favourable to the boss.


Arguments break out between friends over the most trivial of subjects and on the roads both verbal and non-verbal insults are regularly exchanged.


It is in all of this that this simple phrase shines a light on a hidden truth.


Behind every action intended to hurt is an unseen pain.



What drives people to be abusive?


Behind every stream of insults, every piece of verbal abuse, every emotionally charged negative comment, there is a person in pain.


We are not born angry or nasty or evil, and I believe that nobody truly is, but what goes in must come out.  If what goes in is love and joy and peace then that’s what we have to share back out into the world.  We cannot hurt others with these tools.


To hurt another person we need different tools.


Pain – Whether physical or emotional, pain brings out the worst in us.  It brings us down and makes us bitter and angry.


Fear – When we are afraid we react to defend ourselves and become quick to label those around is as a threat.


Insecurity – Probably the most common cause of all.  When we doubt ourselves, or feel vulnerable or unworthy we feel the desperate need to prove ourselves.  We have to prove ourselves right, more clever, more effective and stronger than others in order to feel good about ourselves.  So we put others down and try to make them feel small so that we can feel big and important because then maybe the nagging voice in our head that tells us that we’re not enough will finally leave us in peace.


But it doesn’t work.  The more negative vibes we send out into the world the more we get back and so the worse we feel, the cycle continues.




Therapist comforting a patient at office

The power to heal


So where do with find the solution, to these ever escalating circles of hate?


At some point in our lives we have all been loved.  We have all enjoyed laughter and peace, excitement and contentment.  So we all also possess the tools to be a healer, and whilst there are times when we just don’t seem to have the strength to wield them we also experience many times when we do.  It’s in these moments that we can choose to be a healer, that we can recognise that just as hurt can snowball, so can compassion, and that we can use that compassion to heal the hurt of those who lash out at us and make things better rather than worse.


Standing next to the lady at the venue was her husband.  I later found out that earlier that week he had suffered a serious medical emergency without any warning and had nearly lost his life.  The shock of the experience was still present in the family and the lady who stood in front of me was terrified by the thought of losing her husband.


I cannot tell you how glad I am today that in that moment I chose to be a healer.

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