Ask Jenn Vicious: On Not Ceding Space

By: Jenn Vicious 

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Jenn Vicious is the radical community’s Agony Aunt, providing life coaching and social etiquette answers for radical cultures.  Need poly, kinky, or queer dating advice, need to to know what to wear to court or a family function (you know, one you have to look “respectable” at),  want to understand what to and not to say in some contexts, ask Jenn Vicious.

I’m having some issues with someone in my city.  I try to avoid them but inevitably run into them what seems like everywhere.  When I see this person I have an adrenaline rush, feel scared, and want to run away.  Mostly, I do.  I realize this tactic is not sustainable.  Any tips?
– Anonymous

When you are trying to avoid someone, it always seems like they are everywhere. However, I know that feeling and it sucks. The panic feels like it is going to take over. You don’t have to let it.

It doesn’t sound easy, but try this anyway: feel the panic, and then feel your strength, and just go about your business. Ignore the person you are avoiding, acknowledge to yourself the tightness in your throat, the rush of blood in your head, but be there anyway.

This can be a really empowering thing to do. I heard a really inspiring story of doing this from a woman who went to a social event where someone who had sexually assaulted her was. Of course, she felt like she didn’t want to be in the same space as him, but rather than leaving, she held her ground. While making her feel stronger than what that person had done to her, it had the added benefit of totally freaking him out.

I’ve tried this a few times, and it isn’t easy. I spend the entire time I’m in the same space as the person I have issues with being aware of their presence and feeling on high alert. But I always feel good about my decision to not cede space. And I like to think it makes the person I’m avoiding feel a little nervous too, not knowing what I’m going to do.

It helps to be around trusted friends. It helps to find someone to hang out with, or something to do, to distract yourself from that person a little.

The bottom-line is this: it’s ok to feel scared, but don’t let it run your life.

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