What the world really needs is more love and less paper work.

~ Pearl Bailey ~

Uptight And Spiteful

November 17th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 50 secs

Is having an angry tantrum after a bad encounter  helpful?

Is having an angry tantrum after a bad encounter helpful?

How often does spite appear in your life? Do you ever feel subject to it? Or, do you find yourself being consumed by it yourself?

Despite everything I’ve ear heard, read, or witnessed, all the advice in the world doesn’t seem to do anything to reduce people’s spitefulness towards others.

We know that it’s destructive. We even pretend that we aren’t “like that”. Yet, whenever people are slighted, it takes very little time before badmouthing behavior erupts in response.

On the face of it, there are times when you could describe venting your spleen over the horrible actions of others as a form of therapy: a way to express your frustration and get over it. Unfortunately, that’s not how it tends to pan out.

People react to a dressing down or some unjustified action by having an angry rant afterwards. Then, they have another, and another, until gradually, their ill will fades into an attitude of self-justification.

Alternatively, some people bottle it all in, seething beneath a frozen exterior. They aren’t being vindictive, but neither are they resolving their response. Superficially, they pass the test of not being spiteful, but their rage remains (which is also destructive).

Now, I’d like to tell you there’s a quick and easy way to handle the bad actions of others, but it’s harder than that, isn’t t? Life simply isn’t like a self-saucing pudding you can whack into the microwave and three minutes later serve up smiling sweetly.

Instead, we need to learn ways of reducing our pain and having a language for our reactions that leaves us intact.

Vomiting vitriol and being hostile after a bad encounter might provide temporary relief, but it’s often short-lived. Besides, carrying spite is like possessing an infection with contagious consequences (which is why spending time with an angry, critical person is so taxing).

Rather than feeling haughty and hostile after the fact, how much better would it be to refocus on what we would rather be doing? It’s as if we have a built in condition that states, “I will focus on what matters in my life. But if anyone is nasty to me, I’m going to become completely distracted and lose sight of everything until some unknown stage in the future”.

In that light, it’s kind of crazy that we don’t find better ways to keep our wits on what we are committed to doing. With that in mind, here are a few reflections that you might like to personally consider:

  • Given how important you are and the value of your pre-existing pursuits, remind yourself that getting caught up criticizing somebody thoughtless simply isn’t worth it.
  • Accept that people – all people – do stupid things at times. It’s understandable that you are upset. But it makes no sense to switch all your thoughts into vindictiveness in response.
  • Physical activity is a great way to work off the biological effects of having a “mad”. So be as active as you need and at least get something good out of it.
  • Immersing yourself in a totally different social situation can extinguish an angry mood state, as you quickly need to handle the challenges of a fresh setting. So, go out and meet new people. That’s a lot more productive than bitching or feeling furious on the inside).
  • Think about the ludicrous and then the hilarious side of the situation so you can laugh off the nonsense of what you’ve been subjected to. The quicker you can genuinely grin, the less time gets gobbled in festering.

In the end, if you want to be more resilient, you will need to develop ways of dealing with feelings of spitefulness. Willpower won’t do it, and nor will naïve efforts to “think nice thoughts”. For your own sake it pays to consider ways that work for you. Because when you can reduce the intensity of your bad reactions, you not only reduce getting sidetracked, but you also get to enjoy life more.

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