A week before Christmas I was running an errand near a busy shopping mall. Yes, the dreaded holiday season mall parking lot – something I try to avoid each year. Nevertheless, I couldn’t avoid the errand.
As I was turning down a lane to try to find a parking spot, I got a bit too close to another car that was trying to fit into a tight space. Before I had time to back up, the woman in the car gave me a horribly mean look and started yelling offensive comments at me through her window.
In that split second, I knew that I had a choice on how to react. Many people would probably have found it justifiable to yell right back at her and inflame the situation even more.
When I coach my clients, one of the first things we talk about is a term called H.A.L.T. This stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. You see, when we are operating from a point of clarity – when we are well fed, well rested, and feeling loved – it is much easier to share our gifts with those around us. The positive effects of a full belly, peace of mind, knowing you have good company to share your experiences with, and feeling well rested are similar to a shield that protects us from the toxicity of the world. By toxicity I mean any outside influence that has the potential to creep into our lives, create fatigue, and bring us down. When we lower our guard, it is easy to slowly lose track of positive self-expression, and we may not express ourselves in the kindest of ways.
The negative expression is a result of built up fatigue, oftentimes the result of much more than just having missed a meal or a bad night’s sleep. Many people are dealing with personal tragedy, divorce, abuse, neglect, trouble paying the bills, and many more travails. When this builds up, a person that would otherwise be a joy to be around may in fact express themselves in unbecoming ways. Signs of H.A.L.T. show up differently in each person, so while one person may be prone to outrageous temper tantrums, another person may exhibit manic or possibly stubborn behavior when under stress.
What is important to understand is that the negative behavior is never the person’s highest self. When we can understand that someone’s outbursts or immature behavior is the result of something much deeper, it is easier to find patience, love and understanding for that person.
Here is an example (WARNING – SPOILER ALERT). Remember in the book/movie Old Yeller, when the dog saves the boy from the wolf and becomes rabid? Even though Old Yeller was acting horribly (gnashing, barking, and trying to bite anyone who came near him), we all felt incredible sympathy for the poor dog, knowing that it wasn’t his fault, and that his behavior was the result of extreme toxicity. I don’t know anyone who didn’t cry when Travis had to shoot his dog.
It’s interesting how we often show much more sympathy to fictional characters than we do to the people in our own community. We never know what is going on in someone’s personal life, but if we can recognize the symptoms of H.A.L.T, then we can start to show compassion.
Well, in that split second when the woman was yelling at me in the middle of a busy parking lot, I recognized that her behavior was not an expression of clarity. If I had allowed it, I could have become angry and defensive. That short interaction might have even seeped into my thinking, causing a subconscious chain reaction of spreading anger to unsuspecting strangers. However, I knew that her actions had nothing to do with me, and they were the result of something that I would never know, something that probably stems much deeper than the initial symptoms of Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, and being Tired. Instead of allowing myself to become angry (thankfully I was well fed and rested), I calmly backed up to give her room to get into her spot, mouthed the words “so sorry” with a smile, and silently wished her “Merry Christmas.”
Brooke Stenzler, CYP is a relationship coach and advisor at DREAM Wellness, certified by the Y.O.U. (Your Own Understanding) Institute. DREAM Wellness uses a patented advanced human assessment tool to help individuals, couples, families and businesses recognize how signs of H.A.L.T. show up in all of us and how to reduce and prevent toxicity. Click here for information on the assessment.