If the office and the school are places where we hold ourselves together, put on a good face, act “normal,” even polite, then the home, is the place where it all hangs out—where suddenly we don’t have to be “together” or friendly or polite, or even nice. To some extent, that it true, I suppose, although kindness, politeness, and good cheer are probably more important at home than anywhere else, because, after all, aren’t we trying to have our closest, most satisfying relationships with the people with whom we live? In healthy families, we give our parents, siblings, and children some latitude to express their anger, hurt, pain, fury, rage, but in verbal ways. We don’t allow hitting or destruction of property. Part of the job of parent is teaching coping skills so that negative emotions can be expressed in socially acceptable ways that harm no one. So we teach our child that instead of saying, “I hate my brother/sister and wish he/she would die” to say, “I feel very angry with my brother/sister.” Later on, if the parent does a good job, the child will learn to affix a “now” to the end of the sentence which then acknowledges the possibility of a future rapprochement.
There is another place where people feel free to be themselves: the internet. All you need is a hotmail/gmail/yahoo account, with your favorite alias name “topcat 672”- and you are in business. “Topcat” then can join mailing lists and begin stirring up trouble. He can pose as an expert on psychiatry on one list and on iron smelting on another. He can be a movie stuntman, a physicist, and the president of his local Rotary Club. He can write about his vast experience, take on the role of expert, and when questioned, write scathing, ad hominem replies. Recently I have seen innocent people on a listserve terrorized by a member who insists on misinterpreting what they write in the worst possible way.
DrSavta’s mailing list survival hints:
1. Always be skeptical of someone who uses a name that isn’t a real name (e.g., “topcat”).
2. When someone is a new member of a mailing list and suddenly starts posting a lot, watch out for trouble
3. When the person begins to become outrageous, simply correct any misinterpretation he/she may have made of what you said and DO NOT respond to him/her
4. The fewer responses, the sooner he/she will go away (with his/her tail between his/her legs.)
And one more thing, I don’t want to violate my own rule and so I will tell you about the name DrSavta.
My real name (posted at the bottom of each page) is Rona Michelson. Two miraculous things happened to me in the 1990s. The first is that I became a Savta (grandmother in Hebrew). The second is that I received my doctorate in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. It is because of these two wonderful things, one which came as a gift and the other after hard work, that I adopted the internet name of DrSavta. (and now you know the rest of the story….)