Anger veered her vicious head yesterday in protest to something inane and irrational. No, not Anger. Rage. She felt suffocated by rules and hypocrisy. She lashed out with words controlled only by sheer fortitude of grace. As every part of my being was screaming at her, “SHUT UP!,” I fought to control her words, only barely feeling present enough to do so. Some days, I’m just not fit to be in public. Yesterday felt like one of those days. I didn’t want to be there in the first place. Boredom screamed at me to leave. “Go for a hike instead,” she begged. Anxiety and Insecurity chimed in with, “Something’s wrong with this place.”
This was my 4th visit in as many weeks to the mental health facility’s peer support center. I chose to go on Thursdays because I thought the music group might hold my interest long enough to get something out of it. At this point, though, I’m not convinced that either peer support or this group is particularly helpful due to the lack of structure or purpose. At the very least, I gave it the benefit of the doubt for the past 4 weeks, forcing myself go.
Groups aren’t my thing.
The music group basically consists of clients simply picking out any song they want to hear on YouTube, provided it’s “appropriate.” That is, the songs cannot contain any offensive language and by offensive language, apparently that only means the word “fuck” or its derivatives. Other curse words are overlooked, e.g. Uncle Kracker – Good To Be Me featuring Kid Rock contains the word “damn” ten times. Yes, I counted. Rage wanted to prove a point. Who gets to decide what is offensive? Rage’s tantrum came prior to this song when someone else in the group requested Haystak’s All By Myself. That song got cut short after the second offending “fuck.”
“Really?! We’re all adults here. What does it matter? It’s just a word.” Rage exclaimed. The facilitator explained that it was one of peer support’s rules: #4 No offensive or threatening language. A couple of songs later, she paused again for my benefit to reiterate that the rule was about respect for one another so as not to offend anyone. Anger stated as calmly as she could, having somewhat abated Rage’s storm who was now pouting somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, “If I take offense to something that is said, that is my problem. If you take offense to something I or someone else says, that’s your problem.”
The remainder of the conversation is a blur, lost in the haze of chatter as Overwhelm handed me over to Creativity to whisk me away to wherever my consciousness goes that’s a safe distance far away.
This is how I experience emotion.
I’m not quite certain what exactly triggered me. I have absolutely no problem with what others consider “offensive language.” I’ve never understood how language could be considered so offensive that it requires censorship, especially in the context of a song. I’ll choose the explicit version every time because I want to hear the song in the way that the artist meant for it to be heard. Language is a form of communication, a collection of words to express thoughts and ideas. Unfortunately, language is not always absolute, given the individual’s understanding of vocabulary. Like most everything else, both language and psychology are far more complex than most understand.
It’s one thing to purposefully use language in such a way that degrades an individual’s sense of identity, dignity, or self-worth. That’s akin to emotional abuse and bullying, not what I’m talking about here. That old nursery rhyme, albeit false, comes to mind:
Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.
It’s false because words can and often do hurt. But HOW is this the case in the form of obscenities? These words are usually used out of downright anguish and exasperation or for lack of a better word in the heat of emotion. It’s quite another thing to use language in such a way “causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry” [Google’s definition of offensive]. Google defines “offense” as: “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.” Perceived [Oh, WordPress, what are you doing to me. I had another thought here that you deleted.] is the key word here because one’s perception can often be skewed.
Therein lies the problem. Morality. What one person considers moral, another may not. What one person considers immoral, another may not. Personally, I take more offense to certain words being censored from our language or other people shoving their religious beliefs down my throat than I do obscene words. And I’m offended that you’re offended. But guess what? That’s my fucking problem to deal with, not yours. I have absolutely no intentions of making my problem your problem provided you don’t make your problem my problem. Respect isn’t something that can be forced by creating rules to enforce it. Respect must be earned, not freely given.
And THAT was the point Rage was trying to make, but couldn’t articulate.