I'm easy to goad. Help me not be.
February 17, 2015 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I get upset, flustered, angry, defensive, and eventually out-of-control when I get goaded. It can start as easy, fun banter or be a pointed insult. Either way, I lose my composure and temper fairly easily when I perceive I'm being provoked.

This happens when I'm obviously being provoked ("Hey, Mr. Fuga, that thing you said was so stupid!") and when it's entirely in my head ("That other driver is just trying to make me mad!"). Even when I can control myself from getting visibly mad and doing things I regret (throwing things, slamming door, yelling, being mean, etc.), I very obviously lose my composure and can't keep myself from appearing so.

Some of the literature I've seen suggests not taking things personally. I don't know how to do this. Some of it suggests taking a moment to get composed -- that sounds great, but once I feel cornered and attacked, I can't stop, even if I know I should. Even if (especially if) the other person asks me to stop.

I just want to get to the point of these things not even affecting me at all -- obviously I still want to care about stuff that matters, but getting upset and using the nuclear option when my SO asks if I can use less oil when I cook stir fry (true story) is just untenable. In the abstract, intellectual aspect, I get all the strategies and they make sense to me. In the moment, I lose my cool and can't stop for love nor money. I'm known for continuing confrontations well beyond the point of no return.

I've been to therapy a few times. Every time, I've been "graduated" by my therapist. I've been to anger management groups. Either I'm not being honest enough, or those solutions aren't helpful. I acknowledge that my life is out of control. This is affecting my personal life in a negative way.

I need concrete suggestions for how to let things affect me less and what to do in the meantime when they do.
posted by mrfuga0 to Human Relations (24 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Perspective. Every time you start to feel this bubbling up, take a deep breath and ask yourself: "Will this make any difference in five minutes, five days, five years?" It's amazing how often the answer is no.
posted by mochapickle at 8:03 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

I used to be like this. (And a malfunctioning computer can still send me into an elaborate biblical rage.) It's hard, because you know that you're doing something bad but you just can't stop.

Some of the literature I've seen suggests not taking things personally. I don't know how to do this.

That's not great advice, even though it's true. It's like saying "the way to be less depressed is to be happier!" Not taking things personally is like step #70.

The problem (for me, and I bet for you) is that raging out feels really good. It doesn't seem like it would, on the surface, but it does. It's you getting in touch with some serious primal animal emotions which have absolutely nothing to do with the things that trigger them.

When I get like this, it's because I feel completely powerless. That's why my remaining triggers are computers and public transit - I can't control them, I don't necessarily understand them, and they have the power to fuck up my day. So, since I can't do anything else, I get angry. And anger feels like Doing Something, it feels productive. I know it isn't but it feels like it is, and that's what makes it so satisfying.

Concrete things you can do:

Figure out what your triggers are, and figure out what amplifies them. Common amplifiers are hunger, thirst, tiredness, and being too hot. Once I figured this out, I gained the ability to do a mental inventory, like so: "GOD FUCKING DAMN IT I AM SO PISSED OFF but hey, I notice that I'm really fucking thirsty. Let me have a drink." Not only does it make me less ragey to be hydrated, but the act of going and getting water - satisfying a physical need - feels productive, and so can get in the way of the anger. You're doing something! So you don't need to kick things, you already DID something.

Carry around a little notebook and write down every incident where you lose your temper. Then, maybe at the end of the day, look through it and think "Did this anger actually make me feel better? What might have made me feel better instead?" This is basic CBT, which you might look into if you haven't already.

Apologize. Profusely. As soon as you are calm enough to, apologize for losing your temper. Every time. Even if you're alone in the car, say it out loud. This is not just for other people - it's to remind you, immediately after the rage, that this is REALLY socially unacceptable.

That's what really did it for me, finally - the fact that my anger was socially unacceptable. I didn't care that it was making ME miserable, but I sure cared when it started costing me relationships.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:14 AM on February 17, 2015 [51 favorites]

So, there are two different situations here. When people are actively, intentionally being dicks to you, I think it is perfectly fine to call them out on that. The key is to remove yourself from the situation rather than escalating. That is, say something along the lines of: "Hey, that's really rude and I'm not willing to be around you right now." And then leave.

For the "all in your mind" sort of things, like "That driver who I've never met before is clearly driving erratically to piss off me, specifically" or your SO asking for a different cooking technique, obviously you need a different strategy. I recommend trying to take a few deep breaths before trying to put together any sort of response.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:14 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you tried medication? I had similar behavioral patterns to what you do, with explosive anger at minor provocations like my then-boyfriend eating the last yogurt or what have you. My therapist at the time suggested that a lot of the anger was actually disguised depression and suggested I try anti-depressants for it. This was many years ago, before anti-depressants were as commonly prescribed as they are now, and I thought she was insane, but agreed to give it a try. It made a *huge* difference for me, to the extent that I almost felt like a different person (in a good way). It didn't stop me from getting angry -- I wouldn't have considered it a good result if it had -- but it allowed me to do what you're trying to do, i.e., stop and take a few moments and compose myself and try to respond in a more appropriate way, like saying, "Hey, honey, if you eat the last yogurt could you let me know so I can pick some up at the store on the way home?" rather than blowing up and telling him he was ruining my life. I still have a somewhat short fuse, but nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

Another thing that's worked for me is to try to be more positive in general. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I tend to have a fairly negative inner monologue going on if I don't check it -- stuff like thinking about a woman who I don't like and saying to myself, "Ugh, she's so stupid, she's fucking up her child with her bad parenting and she won't listen to advice she's getting from professionals and..." and it just will go on and on. But I found that once I sort of gently tried to turn away from that sort of monologue and just think about other things, I'm more accepting and less angry in all areas of my life. I think the adrenaline rush I get when I'm angry is actually kind of addictive, so it's been very helpful for me to make a conscious effort to reframe issues in a more positive way even when I'm not in the throes of anger.
posted by holborne at 8:16 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

I have a few quick thoughts:

1. Perhaps more therapy. Really good therapists can help us understood the root causes and triggers that create negative emotional responses in us, and as we grow to understand those things, that understanding itself can be powerful in helping to dismantle the trigger response. If you haven't experienced that at all in your sessions, perhaps find someone who can help dig a bit more deeply.

2. Usually those triggers are in response to feelings of inadequacy or shame that go far back to our childhoods, where they likely were perceived as a sort of emotional trauma. Things that can help resolve this are not only therapy, but being in healthy relationships with people who can counter some of those shame-feelings by fully accepting you for who you are, including those things we feel inadequate about.

3. This is a big one for me. Try not to feel anxiety about the fact that your emotions can be externally observed. Try to think of it as "not being a big deal" that we have emotional responses to things (as long as they aren't causing harm or acting out in negative ways). I think we can often perceive being emotional as a weakness before others, but (for example) when I get nervous about the fact that I'll look nervous in a presentation, sometimes more than giving the presentation itself, it simply exacerbates the situation. When I learned that it's okay to feel nervous, a lot of people do, and people don't care nearly as much as I thought, it helped diffuse the emotional response more quickly.

Those are just a few ideas. Realize that you aren't alone. There are a lot of people asking similar questions. Some are pretty good at hiding their emotional issues, but most people wonder why they have emotional responses that sometimes come unbidden. Also, don't discredit the benefit of medication for some situations. I know people who have found that a lot of surface emotions like anger can be linked to underlying issues with depression.

Good luck to you.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:20 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to thread-sit, but @holborne, I haven't really tried meds for this, but I do sort of self-medicate with some barbiturates I have for another (legit) medical issue. The amount of soft cotton-wool cushioning those provide is incredible, but I'm terrified of becoming one of those housewifely pill addicts, so I don't do that unless I'm going out for something very public and I know I need to pull off the edge of anxiety that I might lose my shit and really screw up the whole evening.
posted by mrfuga0 at 8:22 AM on February 17, 2015

Two suggestions: watch This is Water for a nice look at perspective-taking. How the most important realities are the ones hardest to see, all about petty frustration and boredom in life and how we choose to deal with it.

And what also works is to practice that mindfulness in calm moments. Work those mental muscles in calm moments, create that muscle memory, and you'll be more able to access calmness in stressful moments.
posted by kinetic at 8:27 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The amount of soft cotton-wool cushioning those provide is incredible, but I'm terrified of becoming one of those housewifely pill addicts, so I don't do that unless I'm going out for something very public and I know I need to pull off the edge of anxiety that I might lose my shit and really screw up the whole evening.

There are medical options that have low addiction potential. I worry about that too, but one that my doctor recommended and I used for awhile (and it was pretty incredible) was Trazodone. It's an old-school antidepressant that is primarily used now for insomnia (my medical issue), as it was found to have that secondary benefit, but the mood elevation and anxiety reduction it provided was pretty great, also, and made me realize that I've likely been dealing with depression and anxiety issues that I didn't realize. All that to say, it might be worth talking to a doctor about your concerns and seeing if there are other options that might still help.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:29 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

1) Maybe a part of you deep down believes what they are saying is true. You believe you ARE stupid, or worthless, or not important and therefore they can cut you off in traffic etc. So when you see a real slight or perceive an imagined slight, that part of you that believes what they are saying is true gets angry because another part of you is like HEY THAT IS NOT TRUE!!! LET ME SHOW YOU THAT IT'S NOT TRUE!!!

So the idea here is to put to rest the part of your mind that agrees with whatever message you think they're sending to you. After you get angry, sit down and figure out: what did they say, what did I believe was true, and how can I act as though that's not true.

Google about increasing self esteem - for real, not just "I'm good enough and people like me!" positive talk. Therapy can help pull out why you think you're stupid or worthless, where you learned those ideas from.

2) Maybe a part of you feels powerless. You cut me off in traffic and I'm powerless to change it. You joked that I'm stupid and I'm powerless to change your opinion of me.

To change this, when they insinuate you're stupid say "hey you just insinuated that I'm stupid, and that's hurtful because I am not." Just say it simply and then wait for their response. If they are not dicks, they will double back and fall over themselves to apologize to you. If they are dicks, they will double down, in which case feel free to put them on your Shit List.

3) re-read Spaceman Stix. Shame is a big one. Identify what you are ashamed about and consciously put it to bed. Because I am 100% certain the things you were made to feel ashamed about are not shame-worthy. The time to feel shame is when we deliberately act in ways that are contrary to our values. If you hit a puppy, you should feel ashamed. If you use too much oil when cooking, and someone comments about it, that is not a shame-worthy situation.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:30 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Two suggestions:
1. Exercise. It's really helped me to deal with negative emotions. Even just going for a brisk walk for 20 minutes improves my my mood and makes it less likely that I will respond to a negative stimulus.
2. Mindfulness meditation. This kind of meditation allows you to see your feelings arise and then pass away. So you feel less "I'm angry" and more "I feel anger" or even "Anger is here." The anger is not you, it's just a feeling that you have. This allows you to step back and examine the feeling and the event that provoked from a somewhat more objective point of view. You still feel the feeling, you are not denying that it is there, but you have a little room to breathe. This takes practice, which is why people recommend you meditate daily (even for a short time) so you can build in that new way of dealing with your negative emotions. I thought this article was a good explanation of how it's done.
Also, it really, really helps to have a teacher when you start. Google "mindfulness based stress reduction" and your town/city.
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:40 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

My 2-3 cents, quickly:

- Try to do what you can to bring down your overall physiological arousal, pre-emptively. If you're walking around day to day with cortisol at (fake number) level 7 and your system all primed to react, it's not going to take much to tick you over into 8 or 10. Reduce hassles and minor stressors where you can. If driving on the highway stresses you out, take a B route. Take up swimming, yoga, and other things that tend to calm people down. Reduce caffeine intake. (If a med or supplement can help, maybe try it. L-theanine is something I've found to help reduce general jitteriness.) The goal is to try to reduce your baseline levels of arousal.

- Among other things, anger involves a few judgements. 1) the perception of a boundary being crossed; 2) the perception of a person deliberately taking a blameworthy action (more so if you think it's taken against you). So you're thinking the driver is trying to make you mad. But there are n explanations for the way they're driving. Read about the fundamental attribution error, again and again, until it settles in.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:42 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

This isn't probably a *great* solution, but I sometimes find it's a good temporary fix for public confrontations: I really relish walking away.
If someone's genuinely trying to rile me, then brushing them off will irk them. When I find I really want the last word in an argument, then I try to think of exiting that argument *as* my last word: disdainful, pithy, well-timed etc.
I then tell myself how awesome that looked and how I was withering and yet morally superior (and so forth). I don't try to reason myself out of being a smug, angry person - I just express it differently.

(And when I've calmed down, it can be such a relief that I didn't say or do more.)

It won't help the underlying issues (and won't help with more interpersonal conflicts) but I find it can convert a flareup into a (more socially acceptable) brush-off.

Very good luck with it all!
posted by Socksmith at 8:47 AM on February 17, 2015

One thing that's helped me has been to say what I am feeling rather than raging on the thing. This is actually a technique for dealing with one's kids but I apply it freely.

So rather than slamming the door, I stand still and say "I am really angry right now" or sometimes "I AM ANGRY." You can practice in the car or a situation where people can't hear you to try it out. Then the trick is to take a step down from there: "You know, I'm getting stressed out. Can we continue this conversation tomorrow morning?"

At home or with friends I've also been able to share that second thought like "GOD, LESS OIL...I am really angry. And I know that is stupid. And I will be sorry in 15 minutes. I am going to go out on the porch right now."

Another list of phrases that have helped me over time:
"I just need a minute."
"Let me respond to you in a minute."
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"I want to hear you, but something is getting under my skin right now."

And this one --

"You're right. I need a minute to think this over."

Sometimes they aren't but just adding that to my repertoire, to hear something critical and acknowledge it and not go ballistic right away was huge. Even if I came back later and said actually I don't think you were right. The advantage of this last is that it lets the other person help you de-escalate because they will be on your side at that point, sometimes. (Not always. :))

Good luck!
posted by warriorqueen at 9:03 AM on February 17, 2015 [10 favorites]

I know you said you've been to therapy, but I wanted to throw my own experience with anger out there. I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, but my mania manifested itself through extreme irritability and anger (it figures that I would have the less fun type of mania). With my current medication and therapy, I am so, so, so much calmer in most of the upsetting situations that I've faced. I'm not flat or otherwise drugged-out, but I've lost that trigger that made me irrationally angry and defensive much of the time. I haven't shouted at anyone in years, and the last time I got a little weepy in traffic, it took a 4-hour crawl through Denver during an ice-storm to get me to that state.

I still get upset or sad when the situation requires it, but I am able to process my emotions more quietly, more of a "well that sucks" and less "GRRR SMASH!". There just seems to be more of a distance between things that are upsetting and my emotional reaction to them.

This might not be your situation at all, but I wanted to throw my experience out there because I totally understand your frustration.
posted by bibliowench at 9:40 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Another thing that's worked for me is to try to be more positive in general."
Ditto-- Learned Optimism and Constructive Living greatly helped me. I told myself the story that I was fiery and moody and passionate because I cared so deeply, but in truth, it was because I was afraid that (a) to admit even the tiniest fault in my character would crumble the huge artifice that I'd constructed around myself and (b) that my emotions were loud and showy because I didn't really feel very much inside.
Once I started feeling my emotions, I then learned that I didn't have to act on them. I could feel sad and not bury my head under the bus seats. I could feel scared and go in and talk about a raise or my duties or deadlines without twisting myself into knots. I could be pissed off, and not raise my voice or slam down my housekeys to make a scene. My emotions don't control my actions. I feel how I feel, and I can choose my behavior.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:44 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Perhaps you could go for another round of therapy and practice complete honesty. For some reason your ego is fragile and you are perceiving requests (the stir fry oil thing) as personal attacks. You have anger and rage problems. My father is/was the same (mellowed with age but still has a fragile ego. I feel bad that he hasn't gotten the help that he needs. He's wounded and continues to self-medicate.)

If you are self-medicating with barbiturates, that can make the anxiety and anger worse. The same goes with alcohol.

I'm not a mental health professional but I've had my own anger problems to deal with and have done a lot of research. Most people who have anger and rage problems have suffered emotional and physical abuse as children. A lack of emotional support/love. Neglect. Alcoholic parent(s). Lack of father. Do any of these sound familiar? If so, get help and work on these issues. Platitudes such as, "don't take it personally" do nothing. Work on your issues so you can get whole. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 9:44 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

For me, the most helpful & important thing has been really coming to honestly believe that my anger is fundamentally about my own internal state being disarrayed rather than about whatever trigger happens to be pushing it in that direction. Then I could make a mental list of common triggers and how to mitigate them that I can pull out when I'm angry and work through until my anger is dissipated.

So my internal dialog when I'm angry can then go from being all about how angry I am about stuff that may not be that amenable to being fixed by my anger (for example that all human beings are immense dicks who I really hate and who the earth would be much better off if they were all replaced by cockroaches) to being about what I can do to fix the unpleasant thing I am currently feeling (for example, all human beings are immense dicks and I'm really incredibly angry right now so I should go for a run/go play pokemon until it passes/have a cup of hot tea).

Once I got kinda somewhat decent at recognizing that the feeling of "I'm really angry right now" is something I can fix instead of trying to fix what I'm putatively angry about, I could also start to use that to fix the contribution of my anger to making my external problems worse than they otherwise need to be. So when I'm in the middle of a fight with my husband, even while I'm massively, incredibly angry I can usually now say (through gritted teeth) "I'm really not feeling rational right now. This has nothing to do with you. I need to go away. Let's discuss this later when I can actually contribute something valuable."

And I've also found it helpful that I can now apologize proactively/warn other people away from me when I've been triggered by something that is not them, so that I won't damage my relationships (as much) because of something that has nothing to do with them in the first place. So, for example, "I'm majorly PMSing and I hate everything right now, so if I say something stupid, please just ignore me".

In sum: it helps a lot if you can be clear with both yourself and the people around you that your anger is a problem with your internal state that is nobody's fault and that can be mitigated with things you can easily do yourself (like exercise, removing yourself from triggering situations, distracting yourself with something else that you find compelling, eating or drinking if hungry/thirsty, sleeping if overtired). Make a mental list of things that make you feel better and then run down it until you do.
posted by shiawase at 10:04 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Something that has helped me from getting angry about what other people do/say to me that seems to be disparaging, possibly passive aggressive, is saying to myself as many times as necessary "Don't make her/his problem my problem". This reminds me that people behave in strange ways for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with me, therefore, I take no responsibility for it. If their behavior does indeed have something to do with me, this mantra still works. I figure if people have an issue and want a resolution, it is up to them to let me know before I can actually do anything productive, so until then, I give no fucks.
posted by waving at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2015

I'll just share how this resonates with me right now.

Interpersonal relations are the most challenging thing I face every day.
In fact, I'm not sure I've ever actually had a true relationship (been married twice).

I spend a large part of every day angry at others for not acknowledging my worthiness.
For me, this is because I NEED to be ADMIRED.

My self-esteem is so low that I'm convinced I will never truly belong or be liked for who I am.
My only hope of worthiness is through achievement and when others don't recognize and admire my achievements ie(worthiness), I despair and lash out in anger because all is lost.

I know there is a better way but, like anything else worthwhile...it takes time and hard work.
If this speaks to what you're experiencing, I would just say that you (and I) are human like everyone else and just as worthy of belonging and love as the next person.

If I'm off the mark (entirely possible) then carry on. It did me some good to write this anyways.
posted by cognito at 1:34 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

To speak to your worry of housewife pill addicts. Barbiturates are the exact thing that you should be worried about. So is taking a drug off-label without discussing it with your doctor. Anger can be a disguised depression or anxiety symptom and so is general irritability. There are soo many safe, non-addictive and less strong alternatives than barbiturates.

Insight into why I get pissed off helps some, but recongnizing triggers and proper treatment for constant irritability are what make my life and my actions so much more productive and happy.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:42 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I am honestly, genuinely not trying to be snide, but in a situation when you start to see red, have you asked yourself, truly, what makes you think that that friends, partners, even complete strangers are intentionally trying, going out of their way, to upset you? Like St. Peepsburg mentioned above, it might have something to do with feeling threatened, diminished or devalued- what makes you feel so victimized that you would apply the fundamental attribution error so freely? Do you feel like lack of control over a situation on touches off a defensive response?

Same with the casual joshing or critiques leading to loaded fights- have you explored in therapy where the defensiveness is coming from? Were you criticized or mocked as a child? Not allowed to express feelings or grew up in a family where feelings were not acknowledged? Made to feel weak and powerless? Have you been able to find in your life what makes you so anxious and why you feel so bad about yourself? When you can identify the sources of your negative feelings and learn to recognize your feelings and where they're coming from, you can take steps (have you tried CBT therapy?) where you can learn to talk yourself down from the cliff, or at least to know when your blood is getting up and how to defuse the situation or excuse yourself for a moment.

To put a silly spin on things, this contacts commercial, of all things, one day helped me stop taking myself so seriously and realize that while of course we're all wonderful and special snowflakes, I am not as special as I think I am. Which is to say, we are all complicated and beautiful human animals striving for more or less the same things in life- to be seen, loved, valued, and appreciated. Those are not finite resources, so who are you competing against? Can you find the humor and peace in the fact that the world is largely indifferent to you? For myself, I've found that a working inner peace comes when I am able to provide these validations for myself and not rely on respect or approval coming from nebulous external sources.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 9:03 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I need concrete suggestions for how to let things affect me less and what to do in the meantime when they do.

Life will teach you this, whether you want it to or not. Have you ever noticed that exactly the thing a person most hates is exactly the thing that keeps happening to them? If you watch closely, it's not that we hate the thing we hate due to endless friction against our sensitivity. It's the other way around. Our sensitivities themselves seem to attract circumstances which seem diabolically contrived to push our precise buttons.

Don't be surprised if you haven't noticed this. We're not conditioned to, so we flip cause/effect. But fact of the matter is, you will be goaded. Interminably. That's what your life will be. We're all living Groundhog Day. And here's how it will go (spoilers!!):

At first, it'll increase your stress. You'll take the bait every time, and it will get worse and worse. After years of this, if you're lucky, you might eventually manage some dejected, stoic, sad-sack acceptance, where you don't get lit up quite as easy or as sharply, more out of numbness than anything else.

Eventually, you'll notice that joining this dance with other people is strictly optional on your part, and you'll overreact, over-detaching yourself. People will be able to say/do/think whatever they want without engaging your emotions in the process, but only because you'll be fixated in a distant emotionality. You'll feel highly alienated, and the numbness will be even worse.

Then, the final stage will look like this: you'll throw open your heart and soul to everyone you meet, you'll let them be them, you'll love them for being exactly what they are, and you won't have a single blasted need going into engagement with people. No relationship will be the slightest bit transactional. Nothing will goad you anymore, but you won't be numb and detached. The cycle will cease. All of a sudden, it will stop happening. Just like that.

This is what every single human being is going through, with whatever their "special" issues are. This is what life is...endlessly repetition of the thing you most instinctively constrict yourself from.

The sooner you can get to that final stage, the better. Help the process via meditation and by making EVERYTHING less about you...by trying to help everyone (whether they notice or not...better if they don't, actually). Dislodge yourself thoroughly from the narcism of the human experience. That's the germ of this.

You've got some perspective already. You see that it's you, not the world. That's good...you're further along than you think (if you weren't, I wouldn't be explaining this to you, because you wouldn't understand). You're in a position to move swiftly to the end game if you choose to. Otherwise, you'll be tilted there gradually by circumstance. That's what human life does for each of us.

"We grow through investigation, and to investigate we need experience. We tend to repeat what we have not understood." -- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:22 PM on February 17, 2015

I also wanted to nth what St. Peepsburg and Queen of Spreadable above mentioned. Some of us grew up in emotionally abusive families where there is often that ONE kid that everyone in the family picks on for no reason other than it helps to bolster their own insecurities. Then when the child gets upset they are told that they are over-reacting. Translation: "It's our job to put you down and it's your job to suck it up and take it like a good boy/girl." Sometimes it may not be your family, but your network circle. If this is the case you seriously have to re-evaluate who you spend your time with.

Mindfulness has been mentioned above, but also note that the Buddha himself stated very strongly that who you spend your time with was also an extremely important part of the process to enlightenment. If you read his teachings he was absolutely NOT an advocate of hanging out with everyone. He taught that if at all possible one must avoid being in the presence of such people because it can impede the process of spiritual growth. Accepting everyone and yourself totally and completely is in many ways the point to mindfulness training and that also means accepting the fact that it would be better to not be around certain people. Yes work on mindfulness; but you may also want to take a keen look into your network circle.
posted by manderin at 10:41 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's interesting to me that you use the phrase "easy to goad", rather than something like "easy to anger" or "easily upset"; unlike the last two, "goading" implies another actor, and one who has the intention of making you upset. So when we see others as having unkind intent towards us, it naturally makes us more defensive and prickly.

So how did you arrive at the point where you habitually attribute such hostile or mean intentions to people around you? If this is not something you've addressed in previous therapeutic relationships, then I can see why therapy hasn't worked for you. While it's possible to adopt different behaviors in response to provocations, it will have a hard time sticking if you haven't made sense of how it is you got to the point of needing these different behaviors/responses in the first place.
posted by obliterati at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

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