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Posted By Opening the Heart

   Speak, if what you have to say is more beautiful than silence.  Arabic saying

In Fenway Park there's a men's room right across from the ramp leading out into the stands near home plate. The men's room is diagonally across from the hot pretzels ($5, with mustard) and the sausage sandwiches with onions and peppers ($7.50). This particular men's room has 74 urinals with no partitions. Yes, as a matter of fact, I did count them, while I was waiting in line to use one. That's right, every single one was taken. I know this may be more information than you needed on men's rooms, but, be patient- I am aiming higher. So, I took my turn, and the guy on my left turns to me and says "trops". I was so startled at this breach of etiquette, I could only say "What!?", because, in fact, I had no idea what he was communicating by "trops". He repeated: "trops". Still shaken and trying to collect myself and wanting to end this unwanted exchange, I said "Yup!".

He continued: "The 'troughs'- I miss the troughs they used to have here". Inside, I tried to breathe and remind myself that this whole unpleasant exchange would be over in a whiz, but I had to consciously keep from calling an attendant to come and take away the man at urinal #54. In other words, I'd been triggered.... By what, I asked myself.

Well, for one, men's public urinal etiquette has been established for thousands of years. You stand in front of the urinal. You may look down or straight ahead, but never to the left or right. And you never, ever, speak to anyone while urinating. I don't know that these rules have ever been written down and I do not find anything on an internet search of "Men's public urinal etiquette". Nonetheless, the understanding of these rules, I believe, goes back to the Babylonians who had porcelain troughs and, at least for the patrician class, there would have been a designated place to stand at the trough. In other words, there's a lot of weight behind these expectations of how to behave under these circumstances....

Okay, so maybe the triggering was also connected to a bit of homophobia. Phobia means fear, and I think it is fear that is at the root of almost all triggered behavior. What I say to my patients in my office in regard to behavior in relationships is that there are two rules: 1) Never speak or act from a reactive, triggered place because there will never, ever, be a good harvest; 2) See Rule #1.

So how do you not react from a triggered place? It is from this triggered place that we are absolutely convinced of the 'rightness' of our position. The word 'rightness' is very close, entymologically, to the word 'righteousness'. One important thing I have tried to practice for many years is that when I recognize the physiological signs of triggering, or 'an arrow going in', I try to breathe. When I feel startled, surprised, fearful, angry, hurt, these feelings will be experienced in the body, and one response to those feelings is to gasp, or stop breathing. When I am able to take a breath, I increase my chances of being able to take a second breath. And if I can do that, then I am putting some distance between the stimulus and the response. And with that distance, comes an increased possibility of making a conscious response, rather than a reflexive one.

So, what this meant on that night at Fenway was that, instead of saying something hostile or angry, or making a scene by calling for an attendant, I could breathe, zip up and leave- a reasonable stream of thought, yes?

With Love and Respect, JonJon

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