An offhand comment, a few choice words, a hastily written email, or a major rejection — any of them could set us off, could leave us with hurt feelings and an impulse to go on the attack.
Rejection and criticism activate deep wounds. We can easily misconstrue words not intended to hurt as a direct attack on ourselves. All the more do obviously hostile comments and overt rejections trigger us, activate a deep, “Bad Self” feeling.
We hate “Bad Self” feelings. These are feelings of hurt, shame, exclusion, rejection, inadequacy. The last thing we are generally interested in doing is allowing these kinds of feelings to exist. Allowing them to rise inside us and experiencing them fully? Not what we usually choose.
Usually we choose to take swift action to alleviate such unwanted, intense emotions. And how better than to turn the emotions around against the person who “caused” them (in our minds). How better than to go on the attack. Anger is empowering; it readily covers up the wounded feelings that prompted it.
So, we make a snotty retort. We “flame” someone online. We plan revenge in some form, we execute our planned retaliation.
When we do these things, we miss a major opportunity to grow. We also very likely cause waves of ill feelings and unskillful actions, propagating across people as the “bad vibes” get passed around.
Being willing to actually feel our “Bad Self’” feelings offers us an alternative to attacking others. The first step is to begin to be aware of the hurt feelings before taking any action. We need to slow down long enough to feel our reaction to the other person’s words and actions. We need to defer “doing something” about it until we have had enough time to have some contact with the underlying hurt feelings.
IF you still think it’s a good idea later, you can always choose to go on the attack.