While there is privacy in my office, the walls aren’t sound proof when speaking turns into yelling. I wasn’t afraid. *Monte wasn’t angry with me or even at me. But I had solicited this reaction. I asked him to describe how he felt at that moment last week when he had encountered his belligerent coworker entering the restaurant after a long day at work.
“What a jerk! I had to knock him out! I had to show him! I didn’t have a choice!” he shouted, not at me. He was frustrated. But he was here, looking for any other way besides the only one he had ever known.
“Okay,” I said, “but how did you feel?”
Monte worked for a freight company downtown. The shipping yards were filled with men that worked hard and fought harder. There were men with families, men with histories, men with bills to pay, men with addictions to feed, men with responsibilities. They had daily dangers at home, in the community and at work amongst themselves. He looked exhausted, like a man that had been awake for days, living off coffee and sandwiches.
“I don’t know,” he replied without pause.
“Think about it. What did you feel when you saw him walk in the door?” I pressed.
“You mean, like, what did my skin feel like?” he asked.
“Sure. Let’s start there.” I affirmed. I just wanted him to put himself back in that moment. The moment before he decided he needed to fight someone.
“I felt my hands! I felt my arms!” he said, louder than before, as he opened and clenched his fists. He rubbed his forearms as the veins rose and disappeared.
“Okay. So when you felt your hands and your arms, what were you thinking?” I asked as I encouraged him to stay in that moment.
“I thought, ‘RAHHH!’” He snarled loud enough for the rest of the office occupants to hear clearly through the walls. “I knew I needed to fight him! I had no choice!” he continued, now clearly back in the anger of that moment.
We discussed those emotions for the remainder of our session, walking through the first step in acceptance. Noticing his tension is key and took a couple sessions to really drill down on what that core emotion had felt like to him.
Over time, I asked him to recall his thoughts in addition to his initial feelings. “Why? Why did you have to fight him?” I asked.
“Because the rest of the men knew I wouldn’t take being disrespected! They know I won’t take some guy talking down to me like he is better! I can’t let him get away with it! I keep those guys in line! But I couldn’t hit him while I was on the job, I’d get fired!” he finished.
“Did you punch him?” I pressed.
“No! But if the guys at work knew we were in the same place and I didn’t take care of him, they’ll think I’m weak. Around there, that’s the same as death. When nobody respects you, the next thing you know, you are gone. Either you are fired because you are soft or somebody comes along thinking they can hurt you and either someone is gonna die or get fired or both. You just gotta let everybody know you don’t take it from nobody.”
The next few sessions were spent walking through the many social interactions that caused him to feel the stress of being backed in a corner daily. While that is so far from my world and he was clearly caught up in this, he was still here, in my office each week, looking for a different way.
“So, you did have another option. You left.” I affirmed again.
“No! That’s not an option! I mean. Yeah, I left. He didn’t see me. I went out the back. I just took off to lay low, to cool down. But now what?” he asked of me. That’s why he is here. He knows he needs help with anger management. Does he know why he needs help with anger management?
“Why did you leave then, if you don’t see leaving as an option?” I put back to him.
“I left because I knew if I hit him, my boss would still find out, even if we weren’t on the job. Somebody would call the cops.” He had calmed some, but was still in that moment and was rehashing those thoughts. “I have a son. My aunt and uncle live with us. I can’t lose my job. I just can’t. Where would they go if we get kicked out? I am a dad now. I don’t want my son…” he stopped.
The burdens in his life had differences and similarities, but were relatable. Responsibilities are a fact of life, but I wanted Monte to think through what his unique set of circumstances truly meant to him. He needed to sort that out and I needed to give him the safety of that time over the course of another session.
“Being a parent is huge. Thinking of your son is showing you are a great dad. Considering your aunt and uncle is being responsible,” I encouraged. “What is it that you don’t want for your son?”
His eyes cleared. Most of the time during our appointments he either looked wildly at the ceiling, around the room or through me at the person he envisioned back in those prior moments. He looked up at me and made eye contact.
“I don’t want him to feel like he doesn’t have any way out.”
I have shared this story as a glimpse of a coaching relationship. This story is based on multiple clients’ personal stories. *Names and details have been changed for privacy.