You “Lost It” Over What??!

I was doing the early morning work journey on the tube when I found myself breaking up a physical fight to stop two grown men from physically mauling each other.

We were in the midst of the usual London commuter-crush. There were no seats, so I was forced to stand. I noted the first man aka Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-Man enter the carriage a stop or so after me and slide himself into the corner by the end of the tube door while he stood and read his book. The other man aka Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man, sat on the fold-down chairs next to the doors.

The problem presented itself and intensified as more and more people joined the carriage – tube-crush reared its ugly head. This levered Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-man further along the carriage.

I could see it happening in slow motion.  Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-Man veered into the personal space of Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man, who tutted and muttered his disdain under his breath. Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-Man asked him to repeat what he said, to which Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man repeated his comment, which was dismissed by Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-Man who said “you’re just rude – there’s nothing I can do,” continuing to read his book.  Not to be silenced, Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man gnarled his teet and threatened, “if you touch me one more time you will be sorry.”

I looked at Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man thinking, ‘what?!…him liccle but him talawa!’  (Jamaican patois, meaning gutsy; feisty)

Everyone on the carriage stopped breathing. 30 seconds barely passed the threat being issued when the offensive connection of trouser-leg to shoulder sparked the explosion –  Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man threw his bag down and aimed his shoulder, his body – whatever his anger could physically throw – to physically attack Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-Man, who was doing a  “do you really want me to respond to this act of physical violence and decapitate you with one bite??!” look. I instinctively lurched forward, grabbing Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-Man and physically moved him from the space into the one I had come from, telling him not to say a word, then stood in the place he was, telling Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man that there was no need for fighting and he should leave it as he now all the space he wanted. I received smiles of “well done” all around the carriage, alongside their stares and disproving head-shakes at the men, recognising that I had defused a potentially explosive situation.

Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man calmed down for a stop or two then pulled my arm, gesturing for me to bend down and come closer, He said that he was sorry, also he thanked for me my actions – he must have apologised about 5 times. Clearly once his anger passed, he had felt extremely embarrassed for his outburst – it visably dawned on him how it could’ve otherwise finished! He had turned into a yob! Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-Man on the other hand, who was still reading his book in the spot I had moved him to, leaned over calmly and slowly-yet-determinably said to me, “I am not scared of him, my brother.” I believed him! He was the epitome of calm and restraint – if not for the sake of the man, the commuters and his own principles.

Thankfully, Fit-Early-Thirties-Intense-Looking-Arabic-Man was leaving at the same stop as me so I could move on knowing there would be no more fracas – he gave me a nod of thanks and respect and left.

It set me thinking ever since – I’ve experienced many occasions where people would justify occasions when it is ok to be aggressive or violent.  It also hit me that, as I’ve grown into a man, the things that bothered me when I was 16-20 were completely different to what bothered my in my 20s – this changed significantly in my 30s and now my 40s. I grew up in Tottenham, where looking at someone in the wrong way could spark a full-scale all-generation war, let alone the detonation caused putting your hands on someone. Yet in my 40s, I look past things that, many years ago, I would have called in the Calvary for.

It’s called growing up.

Puny-Grey-Curly-Hair-Middle-Class-White-Man was visibly embarrassed by his own behaviour – he knew better then his actions dictated. He probably had a wife, a kids – I dunno  – a architectural practice or something…yet someone “invading his space” on a tube prompted him behaving like a warring teenager who believes that violence is the only way to gain respect.

I know a lot of people – in person and through the social networks, who’s sense of humour proclaims giving someone a “beat-down” to resolve every day life-clashes – heck I’m partial to it to accentuate a joke. People often throw these threats as warning to all in their environment what their boundaries and trigger-points are. I seriously have to ask the question though – really:

Are the things that make you “loose it” nowadays different to 10, 20 or 30 years ago? What justification do you currently use to “go-in” on someone? 

I learned a lot about ego, both through my psychoanalytical studies and practical work as a learning & development consultant, and as a practising Nicherin Buddhist. Few adults work on their ego as a concept that requires continual review and development. I got to understand the difference between how our mental values (cultured and self-nurtured) give us a clear picture of what our social and physical  environment “should” contain. The mental conflict between, “should” and “is” produces an ego-statetriggering emotions and acting as an accelerant to choose a set of actions, ranging from:

a) Managing the difference between the two ego-states and acting smartly and assertively, to defuse the potency of the other person’s actions
b) Carrying out an action to show the other person that their behaviour is unacceptable

My learning has taught me to question whenever I am mindful to lash out verbally, behaviourally or physically, to pour ego-dye on the situation – first of all understanding the ego of the other person, and secondly to understand the part my ego plays in the situation.

If both egos are at extreme ends, the higher potential for a clashHowever even if the other person is at the boiling point, I can cut the ego element out of my own thoughts, feelings or behaviour, diffusing the situation and manage a potentially volatile situation. In my case, I get through ego-driven situations with a huge amount of emotional-intelligence demonstrated through wisdom and skill, garnished with lashings of personality. I’ve been at it a while and the more I try, the better I get at it.

Am I saying that sometimes we have to suck it up and try to see the situation from the other’s point of view? Yes. Am I saying that we should be door-matts? No. All I’m saying is, if we try to double-think a situation and try not to inhabit the destructive space of:

  • Instinctive verbal come-backs
  • Last-word arguments
  • Adopting principled-stances, regardless of check-mate
  • Adopting stand-offs in relationships
  • Flying off the handle
  • Berating someone verbal in an effort to change the way they think or their behaviour

If you could someone times just think: how am I going to turn this situation around, considering where the other person is at right now?’ It would give you the opportunity to get on or stay on the same page  – it will produce much more “in-tune” circumstances. Basically it stops you walking around as though life is all about you – you work on how much you can understand the world of other people (and get along / get through!!!).

So – what are the things you boast about to your friends and say: “I’d loose it for that…”?

Now look at them again. Really look. At your ego. And how it exacerbates the issue and your behaviour. If you choose not to “loose it”, what would really happen? Would that be so bad?

Work on striping the ego out of your every-day situations wherever possible. It would be hard at first – may take years even – but the benefits are immeasurable. After all, you’re grown – are you really growing through?

SpiritedStrength = daily life driven by: • heart • realness • liberation • purpose • learning • happiness


  1. Charlene Grant 14 August 2012 at 23:41 - Reply

    Great post! It’s taken me quite a while to master the art of putting my ego to one side in order to avoid unnecessary conflict.

    The famous saying ‘Choose your battles wisely’ comes to mind!

  2. Tamsen 15 August 2012 at 09:24 - Reply

    Articulate and considered as ever.

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