This weekend I became briefly irritated with a friend of mine and snapped at them. And when I walked away from the interaction, I felt appalled and angry and immediately started to try to justify my anger by thinking about all the ways that I was in the right and they were in the wrong, and all the ways I was patient and nice and respectful and they were awful and disrespectful. And I feel like that’s something I always do. I turn a brief moment of anger into a referendum on someone’s character and on my relationship with them.
I think the reason for this is that there’s something really terrifying about having even a mildly negative interaction with someone. Not only do I worry that they’ll dislike me and feel bad and think of me as an awful person, but I also worry that I might actually be an awful person.
And I think a part of me feels like if I can preemptively prove to myself that they are awful, then I can avoid feeling bad about myself.
Really, though, the whole thing is pretty unnecessary. It was a moment of anger. There’s no need to make it more than that. If it becomes a pattern or if it results in a chill in our friendship, then we’ll hug it out. Or if it’s indicative of some larger pattern of poor behavior on their part, then I should address it. At no point, though, do I need to feel angry and bitter and bad about things. And although I know that on an intellectual level, I find it difficult to avoid the bitterness and anger.
Right now, I think perhaps my method for coping with the anger is actually what’s exacerbating the anger. There’s something so immediately satisfying about thinking, “I’m not a bad person, they’re the bad person.” But after I think that, then the anger becomes righteous. It’s not an institution inside of me. Whereas if I refused to anchor the anger to those kinds of thoughts, then it would probably dissipate faster.