Workplace conflict evokes spaghetti memories

As you can see from the previous post, I’ve done years of work trying to connect my past with my present, linking current behaviours with my what’s happened to me in childhood.

Something happened yesterday that shows that…maybe…my brain is getting rewired. My emotions, like the difficult one of anger, are linked to earlier events from when I was a kid. I repressed emotions like anger, sorrow, grief back then, and I repress them now for different reasons.

Let me explain. I remember a birthday party when I was young where spaghetti was served. It must have been my birthday, perhaps fourth or fifth, because spaghetti was my favourite meal. I remember sitting at a picnic table on the patio. I was given my dish of spaghetti and I set about preparing it in the way I liked — stirring the noodles, sauce and parmesan cheese together so they were combined. A child nearby started to kick up a fuss. Apparently my dish of food looked more appealing than theirs. And an adult (not my mom) swooped in and swapped my dish with theirs. I was offended. That was MY food. I had no choice but to prepare the new plate of food in the way I had prepared the first.

That anger stuck with me. To this day, I see the adult’s behaviour as wrong. They seemed to find a quick solution to assuaging the jealous child’s emotions at the expense of my own. And the fact I can’t remember it being my birthday shows the disconnect I had with events where I was supposed to be the focus. I’m sure this disconnect is common with kids raised by emotionally remote parents.

That memory, long forgotten, popped up yesterday when I got angry with a guy at work. He thinks himself as a supervisor and is well known among women for his misogynist behaviour. I returned from break and just missed a phone call destined for my department. Another associate from outside the area picked it up. Then the guy rushed in and demanded I hand over an access card (that allows an employee to use fire doors without setting off alarms). I handed it over and the guy passed it onto a male associate. Then the “supervisor” guy demanded I hand over my scanner.

I protested. “Hey, I work in this department,” I said. “Why is an outside associate doing my job?”

I was not listened to. The outside associate, a man, did the task that was supposed to be mine. And the plate of spaghetti flashed up in my brain. That surprised me, because I didn’t have to dig that memory up — it was right there, and surfaced from the distant past by the current-day wrong. Something of mine had been snatched away, and that child in me felt that same anger.

I didn’t complain to anyone about it, other than ranting to a supportive woman from a different department. The other aspect was I had borrowed my supervisor’s access card earlier in the day because I had not yet obtained one from myself. I couldn’t very well raise a stink about the rule of not giving up an access card to anyone else.

The learning experience was about how my current-day emotions are still connected with those from the past.

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