Does anyone really know what the term “Lateral Violence” really means? I had no clue what it meant, I didn’t know that it was even a word let alone I was practicing it for god knows how long. It was last summer 2019 when I attended treatment and that word pop up on the projection screen. I take myself pretty serious and smart when it comes to words and the meanings behind them so when I seen those two words together I just split them and put the meaning together in my head. What I know “Lateral” is side ways or beside, in the vicinity. “Violence” would be to hit, kick, yell, slander, run your mouth a muck. What I got from Googling Lateral Violence was bullying, gossiping, manipulating, being vindictive, condescending down on others, finger pointing, back stabbing and shunning etc…. I hope you get the picture now.
This is not good by any means however in society we do this all the time without knowing we do. I still do it even though I know about it because I’ve practiced it for decades, in school, high school, work, at home, with friends, with peers, its mind boggling how much I did/do it. I did it so often before that when I realized and learned what it was, I began to put the brakes on it. I find the first thing that worked for me was to realize when I was involved in it. To be self aware and stop myself from doing it. That took a long time to begin because it was second hand nature and when I realized it, I was too far in it so It was a cross road. Do I keep going until its over and someone is hurt or do I stop it right there myself and split with me saying sorry to anyone involved? Every time I did realize I was in it I just stopped, apologized and left with my tail between my legs. I know how I felt and I didn’t want to feel that anymore. It was that feeling that helped me stop the fastest.
Going back to treatment I remember one day when I realized the power of confronting Lateral Violence head on and I will never forget it cause it involved a three way call with my A&D counselor up north. We (my treatment buddies) were doing an exercise and one of the counselors was really biting into one of the clients trying to get them to open up or whatever, I don’t really know cause my own counselor ended up grabbing me to do this meeting. I was on my way in her office to make the call and I thanked her for getting me out of that awkward situation and she asked me why I said that, I shouldn’t have said that to a counselor cause now I had to answer why! It took me a couple mins but I came up with, that seeing what was happening to my buddy reminded me of myself back in high school. I was timid, shy and teachers did that to me all the time so I was really uncomfortable with seeing that now, it was a reflection of my earlier self. As we settled in I was super duper excited to be talking with my counselor from up north because our relationship was awesome. I really trusted her so much and I could tell her anything without feeling exposed, she understood me and what I was going through. When the phone was ringing and ringing and ringing my excitedness died right there and it went to voicemail. I looked at my counselor in front of me and said it was alright, I knew she was busy all the time I called before, this would happen and I would always shrug it off. She stopped me right there and said “How does that make you feel?” I looked at her and basically told her that shes busy and I expected this and I felt neutral about it, no feelings no nothing just it happens all the time. We sat there for a couple mins cause she wanted this out of me. Finally because I wasn’t getting anywhere unless I spilled my feelings, I said that I was pissed off! it does happen all the time but this was a meeting call and it was super important to me and I haven’t talked to her in sooooo and that I missed her voice and to just be able to talk with her. I did the “I Feel” and to us in recovery this is a great validation tool for many reasons, it lets the other know and be accountable in a way. So I worked myself up for this phone call and was let down very hard.
My counselor in front of me talked to me on how lateral violence worked and how this was about to come out after if I didn’t confront my counselor from up north as soon as possible. I would be passive saying stuff like I know your busy and you must be running around like crazy up there at work, they have you doing a lot. Then after the phone call It would look like this. I would go to one of my treatment buddies and start telling them what a bi*chy move to miss a phone call that was set up for 9:30, She’s always not answering her phone, her integrity is sh*t, Stuff like that. My counselor in treatment said that I had to tell her the “I Feel” tool, how I felt about the situation of missing the phone call meeting and that it was important to me.
She picked up the phone and dialed once again and finally got through! I was beyond excited to here my counselors voice from up north. I knew what I had to do and I felt so uncomfortable thinking about doing it, it never gets to be comfortable letting others know how you feel when you’ve avoided these situations all your life but I knew it had to be done. I told my counselor over the open mic phone call on how her missing the call the first time made me feel and she responded the way I explained before. I knew what happened but I had gotten it out though and I had no reason beyond a doubt to talk about her behind her back anymore OR to begin with at all. I had stopped Lateral Violence in its tracks before it could make an appearance.
This wouldn’t be the first time or the last time that I would encounter Lateral Violence cause that little bi*ch pops its head up all the time, as soon as we know about it though and know what it means, we start to have a choice about the how it works and how were involved in it. It ruins peoples friendships/relationships and is just detrimental to a persons integrity and pride after it has its way. Its never a good thing to be involved in and I really hope you choose to be self aware that when your in it, that you get your self out as fast as possible by dismissing it and apologizing, even if it nips at your ego and you have to walk away a little less then you were, you can get that back later with time but at least you made a choice to stop Lateral Violence when you could.
During treatment when we were told about Lateral Violence, we were challenged to stop it of course but to try something that would be the opposite to lateral violence and that would be to practice lateral kindness. To me lateral kindness is so much easier and in ways its a forgotten practice in a way, chivalry. Open a door for someone, tell someone they’re beautiful, do the dishes for your spouse, make dinner for someone. Its just being kind towards others and being grateful for doing it.
Lastly I want to say because I’ve had these feelings before. That if it feels wrong to you, that’s instinct telling you and your probably not wrong about the feeling. Do unto others what you would want done unto you.