I tried out being a behavioral interventionist for children. My credentials fit and I would only be working with one child at a time. It sounded like rewarding work and something I could manage. But, again I ran into trouble. As I mentioned before, my fear and irritability tend to result in impulsivity. The position requires calm, objective, and reasoned responses to children and adolescents exhibiting troubling behavior. This includes maintaining composure even if the child becomes abusive or destructive.
My very first client was a 15 year old boy who had been in and out of lockup, reform schools, boot camps, and rehabs. So yes, the threat of abuse and destruction was definitely present. Being composed under those circumstances requires self-confidence, because you have to be able to think as clearly when they happen as you do when you’re having a casual conversation with a friend. No amount of meditation or breathing exercises could give me that ability. This was made even more difficult by the fact I would not be able to conduct all sessions at the kid’s home, but would need to accompany him on public outings. That would add the fear of destruction to my car, destruction to someone else’s property, or violent assault on others. Not only that, but depending on my response and the circumstances, I might be held liable for it. That added a new dimension of fear I hadn’t experienced before; the specter of a possible criminal record and of devastating financial loss.
After a couple sessions, I brought him on an outing to play basketball in order to make him feel easier with me and start to show him I could be trusted with the truth. It began perfectly fine. But, after around 15 to 20 minutes he became distracted and started occasionally picking up a rock and throwing it at various things like fences and lampposts. I thought and hoped he would lose interest and stop on his own. But, it only got worse. If I didn’t figure a way to put a stop to it without using force, the specter of being liable for property damage would become an immediate likelihood. I imagine my fear was at a level on par with giving a speech naked before an assembly of thousands of people. I managed to tell him as politely as possible that if he didn’t stop throwing rocks we would have to leave. Thank heavens it worked. I was already considering ending my employment, but this experience made the decision even easier.
I discovered yet another layer of fear when I decided to call into that internet radio show that made me laugh way back. Let me preface by saying I’m an adult and am not opposed to people cursing. I do it myself once in a while. It can be quite comical at times in certain contexts. The problem I have is when I have to listen to someone invoking God as a curse in every sentence. My concern is that the more I hear it, the easier it will be for me to pick up that habit. It becomes a major cringe factor for me.
So, one night I called into the show during the open line hour. My intention was to ask the host in the nicest way possible to cut back on that type of cursing. This show did not include video of the host and my name and city were never mentioned. When people have that kind of anonymity they become bolder. However, speaking instead of typing my response created more fear and anxiety. My heart was suddenly racing and I was short of breath. Why? All I was doing was talking into a phone. It wasn’t like someone could reach through the phone and strangle me or something. Yet, the fear persisted.
When I was called on I prefaced my comment by praising the host and saying how much I liked the show. When I offered my criticism and request of the host, I said something along the lines of, “Do you think it would be possible for you to maybe cut back just a tiny bit on using the Lord’s name when you swear and maybe use a substitute word or phrase instead?” I might have even added a ‘please’ in there. While I was saying those words, I felt like I was being physically hurt. I actually felt like my words would be perceived as me ranting, raving, and just being a total jerk who thought he was better than everyone. I was literally wincing while I spoke. Fortunately for me, the host didn’t take it that way. He said something along the lines of, “I’d like to, but…” and then went on a tangent unrelated to my comment. A later caller would go on to satirize my comment, but in a fun, not mean-spirited way. But, even if it was, why should I care at all? How could something as simple as a tiny bit of criticism over the phone of someone I’ll never meet dig up that much fear?