making out that they're okay when they're not.
You're gonna like it, but not a lot & the chorus goes like this:
Oh Baby, here comes the fear again.
Grabbed from Pulp's song, The Fear I've had this in my head for a couple of days now. I (and my colleagues) had to attend a compulsory training session regarding 'dealing with difficult patrons'. After 23 years of working at the library, and most of those spent dealing with the users directly, it seemed a little redundant. However, as they are changing our jobs a bit, and changing our work area a lot, and in a few weeks time we will be standing side by side with our users. We will no longer have a desk between 'us' and 'them'. Some people are quite anxious, as they have been threatened or verbally abused by our users, and now that we'll be standing without a barrier, feelings are running high.
So last friday we attended a half day training course. It was run by two lovely people, who have previously dealt with people in the criminal and prison system. So a bunch of librarians being anxious about students, staff and the public must have seemed like an over reaction. We were told to look at people like they were icebergs. You only see what's above the waterline, but mostly there's a whole lot more going on underneath. They discussed the definitions of aggression and violence, and about how sometimes we can be the straw the broke the camel's back. They talked about making sure you always have an escape route planned and never find yourself cut off from a doorway, especially in a room with only one door. We discussed how sometimes being professional and not engaging with an emotional person can make us be seen as cold and uncaring.
I spent most of this training biting the inside of my lip. I was trying not to cry. All the discussion just made me think that professionally I know what I'm doing. And I think I could probably cope with most things at our service point...and I now know when it's ok to leave. However, it was also like reliving dealings with my Ex. Having to go through the fallout from the breakup, and have someone abuse me verbally, threaten me physically and accuse me of being heartless and cold all came flooding back. I've been trying to work through all this, but BAM it came quite unexpectedly and it hit hard.
At the tea break in training I was talking to colleagues, and said that I understand how and why people get to breaking point. I understand the pressures of juggling life, relationships, finances, study, work etc etc. And I know we all have moments where it can get to be too much. But I wondered where personal responsibility comes into the equation? If we've reached the point of aggressively abusing someone or threatening them, haven't we lost the plot? The teachers did reiterate that none of this behaviour was acceptable, but it was just trying to explain how people get to that point. And I guess that's where I found the training hard. I could appreciate, sympathise, empathise and understand the behaviour - but I cannot excuse it.
In being on the receiving end, it is a hard thing to cop. For things said in seconds can take lifetimes to heal. The teachers discussed ways we need to look after ourselves, and whether that's using the support of friends and/or family, the counseling service at work or a range of other options, it is important that we look after ourselves. I left the training with about a million thoughts racing through my head. On saturday morning it burst and the tide of tears flowed once more. Peter said that it's understandable as the Ex made me feel like rubbish about my decision. Rubbish seemed like the perfect word, as that is exactly how I felt. Like a crumpled piece of paper.
Dealing with the fallout of abusive people can be hard. Whether it's a ranting patron who we just have to deal with once, or the breakdown of a relationship that we are forced to endure for 18 months until things like settlements are legally sorted. Either way, having a great support crew is essential. As is, the understanding that time will eventually heal most wounds...mostly. There will be more bumps in the road along the way, but by letting out the fear and holding tightly to loved one's hands, I'll keep bouncing back. And The Fear will just go back to being a fabulous song by Pulp, rather than a way of life. After all, a life lived in fear, is a life half lived.