Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Fuss Box

Years ago I taught a parenting class based on the work of Jean Illsley Clarke. In addition to her overall content, she provided many simple tools for parents. Today I've been thinking about one of those that she called the "fuss box."

The idea is that you put a lidless box somewhere in your house. When someone is angry, they can go stand in the box and have total freedom to say anything they want. No one is allowed to interrupt, attempt to sensor, or take anything you say personally. The only rule is that once you're done "fussing," you step out of the box and have to say at least one thing you are going to do about the situation. It can't be what someone else needs to do - that just feeds the feeling of victimization - it has to be something YOU can do.

There are many things about this idea that I just love. And it came up for me today because we spend so much of our political conversations being angry at some one/thing. The truth is, when it comes to blogging, ranting has become an art form.

We rant because we're angry. And there's nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when/if that's all we do. I believe that the constructive part of anger is that its motivating. But absent any action, it simply feeds on itself and becomes addictive.

The truth is that its not just the poutragers that like to rant. We pragmatists get angry at their rants and write our own in response. Like the fuss box, I don't think there's anything wrong with that - unless we buy into the addictive nature of it and let that be all we do.

This week I had my own experience of getting in the fuss box. While I didn't make a public statement about my intentions after letting off steam, the end result is that I listened to what other people had to say about the situation and learned some things about race and culture (particularly from Adam Serwer and the anonymous poster at Andrew Sullivan's blog). There's not much I love more than learning, so that's a pretty wonderful outcome for me.

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