Through the ages survival has relied on our ability master behaviours to ensure our needs are met. The need to be loved, fed, approved of, validated, challenged, disciplined and above all to belong. Acceptance in a community is founded on such behaviours and they keep us connected and woven into the network of social support. When we behave appropriately towards others and they reciprocate all is well in the play ground. But what about when we do not choose to behave well. What about when our bad behaviours and emotional dysregulation impact those around us?
When our anxieties run riot and we find ourselves wanting to control the situation? How is our behaviour then? When we are late for every occasion we tell others that our time is more important than theirs. Then there are the procrastinators or the perennially-late-by-half-an-hour (or more) people who expect the rest of us to put up with their bad manners. Others among us cannot accept there may be more than one way to reach a satisfactory outcome; they have to be right and will argue and raise their voices until the rest of us have been bullied into agreement. Some of us are still having temper tantrums in our adult years; we lash out verbally or physically – both leave emotional and psychological scars. This is a list of what I would call bad behaviours and they are signs that we lack the skills to regulate our emotions. Our emotional dysregulation harms more than ourselves, it harms others too.
Homo sapiens has been around for centuries and we’ve learned a few tricks a log the way but we’re still none of us perfect. Of course we get annoyed or more than a little pissy when we have to request something so many times we feel like we have moved into the arena of nagging. Yes, we all lose the plot occasionally and have a melt down. Those once-in-a-blue-moon lapses in emotional control are normal and the rest of us understand that. It becomes a dangerous, and inappropriate, way in which to behave when it is more frequent and we find ourselves losing it more often than we’re able to rein it in.
How can I bring this back to the April theme of social justice then? The client group of people who fill my work days are no different from the rest of the population in that they choose which behaviours they will use to ensure they get what they need in order to survive (on the periphery of society). They have a suite of bad behaviours which have become their primary strategy to getting what they need. My role is to support them identify their choice of behaviour and explore more appropriate of getting what it is they feel entitled to.
Which brings me to the crux of this post. My clients’ choice of behaviours, more often than not, fall into the bad behaviour basket and we’re working on those. However, what about those of us who are not drug-affected, disadvantaged or vulnerable? An interesting fact is that most people associate bad behaviours with children when in fact those behaviours from adults have a more far-reaching adverse affect than anything a child can throw at us. So I’m wondering why some people feel that it is okay to have regular outbursts of anger, throw the guilt trip on, have temper tantrums and generally be obnoxious or arrogant. One of the principles of social justice is participation and generally that has to do with people included in the choices others may be making on their behalf. It is also about being able to actively participate in a society where we treat each other with respect and value each other’s dignity and rights.
Bottom line? Social justice is about playing nice so everyone gets a fair go. Bad behaviours are not nice and we do have a choice in how we react to others.