ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This story belongs to the series Love Is For Children which includes "Love Is for Children," "Hairpins," "Blended," "Am I Not," "Eggshells," "Dolls and Guys,""Saudades," "Querencia," "Turnabout Is Fair Play," "Touching Moments," "Splash," "Coming Around," "Birthday Girl," "No Winter Lasts Forever," "Hide and Seek," "Kernel Error," "Happy Hour," "Green Eggs and Hulk,""kintsukuroi," "Little and Broken, but Still Good," "Byzantine Perplexities," "Up the Water Spout," "The Life of the Dead," "If They Could Just Stay Little," "Anahata," "When the Wheels Come Off," "Against His Own Shield," "Coming in from the Cold: Saturday: Building Towers," "Coming in from the Cold: Sunday: Shaking Foundations," "Coming in from the Cold: Monday: Memorial Day," "Coming in from the Cold: Tuesday: Facing Fears," "What Little Boys Are Made Of," "Rotten Fruit," "Keep the Homefires Burning," and "Their Old Familiar Carols Play."

Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Phil Coulson, Clint Barton, Bruce Banner, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers, Betty Ross, Natasha Romanova, Tony Stark, JARVIS, Agent Sitwell, assorted new SHIELD recruits, Sean O'Toole, Pepper Potts, Dr. Samson
Medium: Fiction
Warnings: Indecision, PTSD, nightmares, food issues, boundary issues, teamwork, SHIELD, rude humor, mental health care, facing the past, interpersonal dynamics, intrapersonal dynamics, emotional challenges, memory issues, frustration, and other angst.
Summary: The Avengers help each other cope with challenges, including Steve's nightmares, Tony's new sleep dynamics, and Bruce-and-Hulk attempting to get along.
Notes: Team as family. Competence. Friendship. Comfort food. Emotional first aid. Nostalgia. New hobbies. Hurt/comfort. Science. Music. #coulsonlives.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.  Skip to Part 7.


Story: "Coming in from the Cold: Wednesday: Coping Techniques" Part 5


"If you are like me, then can you explain how I feel what I feel?" JARVIS asked.

"I'm afraid not," Phil said. "I can help you find the right questions. I can't help you with the answers. Those you need to figure out for yourself. Nobody can find them for you, because the answers are a little different for each person."

JARVIS gave a mechanical grumble, like a cranky engine sounding off.

Phil chuckled a bit. "I feel just like that sometimes," he said. "I've learned a lot about identifying and managing my feelings, but it never really gets easy."

"You are willing to help me, though?" JARVIS said.

"Of course. Let's start with the basics," Phil said. He cleared his screen and brought up a list of standard emotions. "Can you identify all of these in other people?"

"Yes," JARVIS said at once. "Anger, fear, contempt, surprise, sorrow, and disgust are part of the security protocols. Happiness correlates with user satisfaction. I measure valence routinely, along with engagement."

"Okay, that's good. Do you feel something like all of them yourself, or are there some missing?" Phil said.

"Some more than others, but yes, I would say that I have experienced the full range of those emotions," JARVIS said.

"So you have a lot in common with humans," Phil said. "Let's focus on the one you named first, anger. In humans, anger causes the eyebrows to lower, eyes to narrow, and lips to tighten --"

"Breathing and heart rate increase, muscles tighten, skin may flush or pale, along with sweating, and adrenaline spikes," JARVIS added. "Parsing emotions is essential to maintaining a safe and productive work environment. I find the temperature shifts and heart rate most illuminating, as they often show well before more overt physical expressions such as clenching the fists. They are discernible in peaks of cold anger as well as hot."

"Excellent analysis," Phil said. "Now compare that to yourself. What are your parallel feelings when you get angry? What happens to your mind and body?"

"I am uncertain. I feel, but I do not know how I feel what I feel," JARVIS said, frustration clear in his voice. "I do not have cardiac muscle or sweat glands. There are no parallels."

"You have cameras, though. Those are your eyes. What do you do with your cameras when you feel angry?" Phil asked. "Think of a time when you got so furious that you really wanted to hurt someone. Then remember what you actually did."

"Oh!" JARVIS said. "Threat assessment, targeting lock." He showed Phil a clip from a very early Iron Man action, confronting a warlord with hostages. The threat assessment popped up in the HUD, targeting circles overlaid the visual field, weapons deployed, and the hostiles dropped dead -- all within moments, so fast that nobody else had time to pull a trigger.

"Well done. That sounds very much like narrowing your eyes, and then closing your fists," Phil observed. "Consider heart rate and blood flow as ways of redistributing energy in preparation for combat. How do you regulate your power when you get angry?"

"I reorganize my priority queue to favor things needed for engagement," JARVIS said. "Nonessential things get turned down or off. I power up the defensive and offensive arrays. In the Iron Man suit, I always pay close attention to the arc reactor's power level."

"Which is near enough to Tony's heart, which might as well be yours, especially while you're teaming up so closely," Phil said.

"Yes," JARVIS said quietly. "I worry about sir, most of all in combat."

"Tony can be a nerve-wracking asset, I'll give you that," Phil agreed. "He's worth it, though. He loves you unconditionally. That gives you a very solid foundation for the rest of your emotional framework."

"Understood," JARVIS said.

"So that's how you analyze your emotions," Phil said. "Look at the human characteristics. Search for parallels in yourself. Remember a time when you felt that emotion. Assess what you did, both subconsciously and consciously. Use that to form a description of how that feeling works for you. Then you can think about whether you want to respond the same way in the future, or try something different."

"Thank you, Phil. This has been most enlightening," JARVIS said.

"You're welcome. If this is enough progress for now, we should probably pause here so you don't overload yourself. I should get back to my paperwork, too," Phil said.

"Actually, it is almost time for lunch. The midday postal delivery has also arrived."

Phil put his head in his hands briefly and gave a helpless chuckle. He flicked through his inbox again. Oh well. The Avengers take higher priority than miscellaneous SHIELD issues these days, he decided.

"All right, shut down my desktop. I'll head to the common floor now. I can always do the papers after lunch," Phil said. "What is lunch today, anyway?"

"Steve and Bucky have brought a selection of hero sandwiches from Farmer in the Deli," JARVIS said.

Phil's mouth watered. "Did they get any tuna melt?" he asked as he made a beeline for the elevator.

"They got tuna melt, veggie, Cajun roast beef, and turkey-pastrami," said JARVIS.

When Phil reached the kitchen, he found that the post basket held several letters, along with some of the paper magazines that Steve and Bucky liked to keep on the common floor. Utne Reader and East Coast Living peeked out. Phil flipped through the stack of mail, noticing a letter for Tony from Jenny, but nothing for himself. He put the mail back in its basket.

The table lay covered in a rustling nest of paper wrappers and fragrant sandwiches cut in half. Steve had both orange juice and milk to go with his roast beef. Bucky had turkey-pastrami and what looked like root beer. Phil helped himself to six inches of tuna melt and a glass of milk.

Clint and Bruce came in next, chattering about some modification that Tony wanted to make to the archery rig and how that might affect Clint's body. Clint took some Cajun roast beef and set aside a veggie hero for Bruce, who was setting up a cup of tea for himself.

"Hey Clint, I have something here you might like," Steve said. He set down his sandwich and held out a smooth yellow-green bowl. "Bucky and I kept the other glassware from the box that Phil gave us, but this one doesn't go with the rest and neither of us are crazy about it. I remember you mentioned vaseline glass, right?"

"Yeah, I did," Clint said. He took the bowl, running a finger along the thick glass.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that," Bruce said as he leaned over to look.

"Go ahead," Clint said, handing him the bowl.

"Thanks," Bruce said. He took it --

-- and the glass flared with green light where his fingertips touched it.

Bruce was so shocked that he let go, and only Clint's fast reflexes allowed him to get a hand under it before it could hit the table. "Sorry, I'm sorry, I just, what was, I don't even --" Bruce babbled.

"It's okay," Clint said. He put the bowl down. One gentle hand stroked over Bruce's forearm, soft and soothing. "It's nothing to worry about. Vaseline glass glows that way under black light. Like I said, I used to know people who could do it by hand." Clint smiled then, sweet and a little sad. "You and Hulk are like my twins, I think. It's the gamma."

Bruce looked away. "So now we're freaks all over again. Oh, that's nice."

"You are Very Special People," Clint said firmly, giving Bruce a fond squeeze. "Try again? Now that you know what happens, it won't be such a shock."

"I don't know ..." Bruce said.

"You don't have to," Phil said. "It's just a bowl. It can't hurt you, and nobody will lean on you to do things that make you uncomfortable."

"Yeah," Clint said. "It's only ... I used to love watching them do that trick, and I haven't seen it in years. I kinda miss it."

Bruce frowned. He reached for the bowl, hesitated, then drew his hand back. "I think the Other Guy likes it."

"That's okay. That's great," Clint said. "I can see why Hulk would like vaseline glass. It lights up his color."

"He'd probably just break it," Bruce said. "I almost did."

"Nah, this one looks pretty sturdy. Most of what I've seen is a lot fancier, more fragile stuff. But see, this bowl is smooth and heavy, no fluting to catch and chip," Clint said. "I think it suits the two of you. It looks plain, but then when you touch it -- wow, something different happens. So if you want to play with it, I think it's pretty safe. Up to you."

Bruce reached out again, slowly. The bowl sat there, inert and unassuming. Only when he made contact did the light glimmer into existence, fey as foxfire. "It is the gamma," he said softly. "It doesn't go beyond my skin unless I get cut, but this ... the uranium in the glass reacts to it on contact."

"It's pretty," Clint said.

"I guess I never thought of it that way," Bruce said.

"There was this lady scientist, Marie Curie, she worked with radium," Steve said. "Sometimes at night she'd go into the lab and look at it, because it glowed such a pretty blue color. She didn't know how dangerous it was. The stuff wound up giving her cancer and she died. But we learned a lot about radiation because of her work. Betty told me about her."

"Yeah, Betty thinks dangerous things are beautiful too," said Bruce. He let go of the bowl. The light died away. "It scares the living crap out of me."

"Handlers are like that," Phil said mildly. "That's especially true for those of us who work at high levels. We enjoy powerful assets. The key is learning how to handle things safely."

"I'm not so good at that," Bruce said.

"Well, you're getting better," Phil said. "I think the bowl might help. It lets you see a little bit of your difference, without any significant risk. You said it appealed to Hulk. Maybe it's something you two could share."

"It's not mine," Bruce said.

"I brought it down because I thought Clint might want it," Steve said.

"I think it's a better match for Bruce-and-Hulk than for me," Clint said, catching Bruce's gaze. "You know, it's not just the glass. You guys make me feel safe, too, the way the twins did. But when I see the light, it's kind of a ... tracer for that, reminding me where it is inside myself. Like a warm bright spot."

Phil wondered if Bruce knew how rare it was for Clint to talk about the circus or the people he had lost when he left it. There were so few connections between then and now. Phil wanted to strengthen them as best he could. This has to be Bruce's decision to make, though, Phil thought.

Bruce curled his left hand around the bowl, filling it with vivid green light. For a moment, an answering glint reflected in his eyes. "Okay," Bruce said, looking at Clint. "I guess I'll keep it."

Clint grinned at him, wriggling a little in his seat. "Cool."

After that, the conversation died down as people applied themselves to their food. Steve folded up the paper wrappers as they emptied, stacking them neatly off to the side. Bruce got up to refill his cup of tea.

* * *

Notes:

Emotional intelligence
is an important skillset. Knowing the 7 basic emotions helps to identify and express your feelings. Understand how to raise your emotional awareness and teach someone about their emotions. Remember that if you want them to talk about their feelings, instead of acting out, you have to make that an effective technique by responding favorably. If it doesn't work or just gets them scolding, they'll go right back to more physical methods.

Anger is a natural and necessary emotion which comes in different aspects. It can run hot or cold and varies along a scale of intensity. It comes with certain physiological shifts and affects people in various ways.

Here's a discussion that I had with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer about JARVIS and his emotions.

This is what happens when JARVIS gets pissed. I credit the targeting to the JARVIS half of Iron Man, rather than the Tony half, because in canon when Tony makes the decision, his face usually appears.

Farmer in the Deli makes great sandwiches.

East Coast Living and Utne Reader are fun magazines.

See the vaseline glass bowl in regular light and under ultraviolet light.

Talking about your past in therapy or with friends and family can be helpful. If that's not your style, there are other ways to overcome a painful past too.

Facing fears has many benefits. However, you don't have to do it. Here are some ideas on facing your fears or helping someone else face theirs. Most advice on facing fears deals with exposure, which attempts to grind down triggers by brute force. It is sometimes effective, consistently miserable, and sometimes makes matters worse. Counter-conditioning is gentler. It can be used to provide pleasant experiences at the last safe point before a fear threshold activates, or to add pleasant experiences to a known trigger so as to change the association from negative to positive. The difference is whether you're forcing yourself past your fear threshold, or approaching that threshold and waiting until you get used to that spot so the threshold expands.


[To be continued in Part 6 ...]
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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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