Learning to Stand Your Ground

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November 5, 2013 by lucieromarin

It’s so hard to do this, if you’re of the melancholic temperament! It’s so hard to stand up for yourself, I mean. Even if your other half is choleric – so you know that there are circumstances in which you can reduce your opposition to cowering terror – still, in those circumstances in which the melancholic prevails, all that happens is that, confronted with…well, confrontation…you shrivel up inside as your throat closes with fear, and you tell yourself that it doesn’t really matter, and it wasn’t that important anyway, and it might all be different tomorrow if you just sort of smother your feelings and slink off into the shadows and become invisible. Seriously, I can’t talk to sales assistants in shops without breaking into a cold sweat. People are terrifying!

Unfortunately, it happens sometimes that you really, really do have to stand your ground. I’m not exactly the expert here, but I do have plenty of experience at at least trying to be able to act like a person of normal confidence, so I thought I’d share some of the habits that I’ve found more useful than others.

1) Practise. I know that sounds crazy, but if you know there’s a confrontation ahead of you (even if it’s only telling the guy at the corner shop that he sold you out-of-date milk) work out beforehand what you need to say, and then say it to yourself, just to get used to it. I don’t mean you have to role-play in front of the mirror, but if you know that seeing the person face-to-face is going to set your whole being whirring with fear, you can’t leave it to that moment to choose your words.

2) Ask yourself if the thing you fear ever actually happens. Realistically, how often do people get punched in face for saying whatever it is you need to say? How often do friends storm off into the night, never to be seen again? When was the last time anyone ever actually got sued/expelled/disowned/stabbed/fired/besmirched-in-name-and-reputation for saying whatever it is you need to say?

This can be a difficult idea to get used to. Melancholics do notice the hurt to which other people are oblivious, so they’re particularly afraid of causing that hurt themselves. Sometimes it helps to spend time observing how often people bounce back, forgive, don’t get hurt at all in the first place, and so on, just to offset the depressing images with which our minds are already filled. (I used to get angry at what I thought was the fickleness of people who would hurt each other and then be friends again within days or weeks or months. Then I realised that they weren’t actually fickle – they just weren’t inclined to brood or to think that a moment’s woe was the death of friendship.)

3) Go over all the reasons why you’re right. Do this several times over. Fix those reasons in your heart, so that the first angry look can’t blow them away like fallen leaves.

4) Make sure you’re not exaggerating the degree to which the other person might oppose you. It’s possible to imagine yourself into a battle that doesn’t really exist. If you have to imagine things that haven’t actually happened yet, imagine everyone smiling and getting on well, and let yourself believe that instead!

5) Don’t think that looking mute and pathetic is going to help you. It won’t. I don’t know why it is, but for some reason, cholerics find long faces exasperating, and their annoyance makes them think that you need to be trained to stand up for yourself, and they’ll train you a bit now by being extra mean. It’s like throwing raw meat to a tiger. Don’t do it.

Good luck!


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