Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.

1 Comment

Devotional Tuesday: Just Trying Not to Overreact

Mandatory Disclaimer:  This is just my personal take on some of the passages and may or may not pull from academic sources.  In other words, this is just my interpretation of things.  Take it or leave it.


“O bringer of your offering who came forth from Sais, I have not been unduly active.” -transl. R.O. Faulkner


This is one of the more interesting translations for me. In one translation of this passage I see that it is translated as “I have not been aggressive” with the emphasis on acting like a warrior. I’ve read that priests didn’t always look favorably upon warriors in Ancient Egypt, and when combined with the associations of Nit to Sais probably influence this confession somewhat if this translation is accurate. There are probably a few reasons for it. Serving in the military, just like today, is tough. With that toughness comes aggression which the Egyptians utilized, which came out even after the battle was over and plundering began. I’m sure some will argue about how “all’s fair in love and war”, but the problem comes not when aggression is used in a fight or war but after aggression is no longer necessary. It’s a problem when the aggression is a way of overreacting.


Aggression is one which is a big challenge I feel for modern Kemeticists. If one lives in America there’s a massive violent culture. It’s not even about the media with violence, but in everyday interactions. Aggression also doesn’t have to be physically violent, just hostile. I’ve also found when used as a form of overreacting it leads to more problems with even innocuous situations.


When I lived in Virgina a simple“excuse me” would result in a glare from the offended party. Asking a fast food establishment about my order (I had waited half an hour and people who ordered after me were served and given their food) resulted in the workers yelling, and one time a worker yelled profanities at me. One woman was even physically threatened for complaining about poor service at a restaurant in the very town where I lived. It honestly bothered me how quick to anger the people seemed to be. What type of life leads to this behavior? Why is this culture so oriented on violence to solve even the smallest issues? I researched some things and came to the conclusion most of what I witnessed stemmed from a culture of honor. The concept revolves around how people take “the law” (it’s not so much actual laws as much as personal codes) into their own hands because the resources aren’t there to enforce laws or law enforcement is unreliable, and people are in survival mode. When factoring in how Prince Edward County was the poorest country in Virginia at the time it explains some of the aggression. Even if it wasn’t trying to gather the most resources the stress from trying to make ends meet is stressful enough.


Watching ourselves is important because when we reach that breaking point it can lead to overreaction at mildest. When we overreact more often than not we’re aggressive. With aggression we see the extremes of our behavior and their matching consequences. More often than not I’ve seen people respond to “fight or flight” with the former. Even after the physical wounds heal it leaves an imprint on the mind. People will react to any similar situation sometimes as if the previous incident was happening again. Aggression isn’t just a momentary feeling but cumulative in my experience.


The question isn’t why not overreact at this point because the majority of people know the consequences of reaching that breaking point. Self awareness provokes us to find ways to remedy overreacting and aggression. We’re not going to perfect self awareness and not catch certain behaviors. It’s part of being human. That said here are some things which help me from overreacting:


Don’t engage. Not every situation requires aggressive action. Not every situation requires a response even. The Maxims of Ptahhotep asserts one shouldn’t argue with superiors nor inferiors. Given the context of why it shouldn’t be done it works out; superiors may have the ability to make one’s life difficult and inferiors were viewed as uneducated during Ptahhotep’s time, so arguing with either looked disfavorable and undermined oneself. I like to look at it with the latter rather than those of lower rank those who are beyond reasoning. Let people acting in an unsavory manner stupefy themselves.


Stop and look at the situation. There may be other factors to consider. The other person may have reached their limit and you were in the way. Maybe the people at the fast food places I mentioned were tired and overworked when I asked. Maybe the waitress at the restaurant was on the verge of getting fired and was stressed. That doesn’t make the behavior acceptable, but it does make a situation more approachable. Sometimes when analyzing the situation we’re not as innocent in the dealing of things as well. What seems like gentle teasing may be the last straw for someone.


If it’s possible to speak with the person when both you and the other person are calm, do it. However, we also aren’t capable of being reasonable creatures all the time. There’s a solution for that too.


Remove yourself from the situation. If possible, just leave the situation. Online this can be a little more complicated because people sometimes like to follow an individual over several sites, threads, et cetera. There are also situations where an individual may follow you, as I’ve seen often in road rage. This is why when people are overreacting and aggressive there are other options.


Call the proper authorities. I’ve had to call the police on people who got violent because I knew I couldn’t handle the situation that spiraled out of control. Sometimes calling upon an authority figure isn’t the police but a moderator. Whoever is supposed to be an authority in the situation should be notified if the situation is beyond normal handling.


Treat aggression as a last resort. If the person is violent, you can’t get away, and it requires immediate response I feel aggression is reasonable. I’ve used it when I was completely cornered and I was physically harmed. I fought my way out and grabbed a phone to contact authorities. I’ve also used aggression to escape an abduction.


When one looks at a situation calmly and not resort to unnecessary knee-jerk reactions some things become clearer and better off. I’ve found walking away from some online communities was better for my peace of mind than constantly bickering with people to “prove a point”. I’ve found some people can’t be bothered with because they let one aspect of their life define them, bet it a positive or negative aspect. I’ve found there’s no helping them, but awareness of these things helped me act accordingly.