How to Handle Cut Throat Carla

Last week a fellow asked me to spare for him in a doubles tennis match. I am a C level player. Even though the level of the match was higher than I usually play I said I would. As a spare, I did not have to be concerned about winning or losing. I knew I could just enjoy playing.

During the warm-up I was rallying with one of the opponents. I noticed that she was aggressive even though we were just warming-up. Then we started to play. Well, she was more than aggressive, she was downright nasty. She hit the ball right at me, not once, but several times. I had never experiences such a cutthroat on the court before. This was not a tournament; it was just a regular Wednesday night game. Her behavior was over the top. My partner, a man I had never seen before, mumbled to me that he had played with her before and vowed never to play with her again.

My normal reaction, when I meet someone like this, is to get anxious and tighten up. I get triggered and regress to a younger age. In tennis, when I get tight, I hit the ball all over the place, usually nowhere where I intend to hit it. Afterwards, I’m down on myself for playing so badly. But this night something different happened for me. For some reason I thought it was really funny and I started to chuckle to myself. Laughing at the absurdity of the aggression allowed me to began to relax, and as a result, I started to play well.

In fact, I began to play at a level higher than I had ever played before. Of course I enjoyed this and chuckled to myself even more because I was having fun. My partner started enjoying the play too and we played well together. Cut throat Carla started commenting that I was ‘hot’. This made it even more fun. I was not nasty to her; I just focused on playing the best tennis I could. I had a blast playing that game. Every time I think of it I smile and chuckle to myself.

What surprised me most was my own reaction: What normally would have been a bad experience for me turned into a fun one. I was different and others responded positively. This was not something I consciously decided to do. It just happened and I surprised myself. It reminds me of the night I climbed Mount Sinai – when I least expect it sometimes strange but wonderful new things can happen.

Now that I’ve experienced this little example by accident I wonder if I can decide to respond this way when confronted by similar situations. Maybe I can get myself laughing if I say, “Hey, remember Cut Throat Carla!” and I’ll relax and have fun.

In fun,

Dr. Bea Mackay

Do It Yourself Relationship Help at

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