Sometimes little things can just set you off. Small, insignificant things that shouldn’t, but do, ruin your day. You’re having a good day and feeling good then suddenly something happens and it all goes downhill. Maybe someone bumps into you at the grocery store and they give you what you perceive to be a sarcastic “excuse me”; maybe, when you’ve finally worked up the courage to say something in class someone interrupts you; or maybe you’re playing a game online and someone makes a rude comment meant to upset you… and it does. There goes your whole day. Your good mood is ruined.
“Why would they do that?” you ask. “What is wrong with me? Why does this person dislike me?” Because there is an element of self-blame in these situations, at least for me. It’s not an entirely conscious thing. I didn’t understand this at first but after much consideration I can see that this is true. I realized it when I considered interactions with strangers.
The problem is: why should a small gesture, or comment, from a total stranger bother me at all? They know nothing about me. I will probably never interact with this person again.
An anonymous internet troll replies to a comment in a nasty manner (as trolls do). It gets to you. It shouldn’t, but it does. When this happens to someone else, you can clearly see that it’s a troll. It’s no big deal. It’s the internet and this happens. When it happens to you, you can also see through it and reason it out in the same way, but it still gets to you. You know it shouldn’t. You hate that it does. The comment has made you feel bad.
The stranger who bumped into you was the rude one, and yet you’re the one who feels bad. Why?
Well, what if they’re right? Sort of. I don’t really think this. Not exactly. Not in those exact words anyway. I understand that if someone is rude to me, it is they who are at fault. But my biased subconscious, which wants to blame everything on myself, wonders what if it’s my fault? Why were they rude to me? They must dislike me. What is it that I do that makes random people dislike me? Does everyone hate me? Why can’t people just be nice to me? These questions are not my literal thoughts in such situations. With them, I’m trying to describe the feeling of anxiety that I experience. These questions are not what I ask myself, but what I feel.
But it gets worse. Knowing that things like that shouldn’t make you feel like this makes you feel bad about it. It bothers me that small things bother me so much. That my character is not strong enough to just let these things roll off of me. Why do I feel like this? What is wrong with me? These are the questions that turn over and over in my mind.
I think it actually feels worse that I’ve let such things get to me than the things themselves make me feel. The day-ruining event is bad enough, but then it was I who let it ruin my day. Am I really so fragile? How do I ever even leave the house? Wait. Should I leave the house?
So as a means of defence you tend to, not necessarily consciously, avoid these situations where such anxiety-causing things might occur. “Oh gosh, someone replied to my comment. I can’t ever check it. I wouldn’t be able to handle reading it.” But then you try. There goes the mouse cursor, about to click on the link. Wait. That familiar feeling of dread, of anxious terror, has taken over again. Just click the damn link. Who cares what it says? Maybe it’s a positive comment! Oh, but it is so terrifying. What if it’s not a positive comment? Then your entire day will be ruined, like it always is, and why would you want your day ruined? You don’t want to feel like that. But you don’t want to feel like this either, like a coward. Normal people can click links, dammit.
Why am I this?
The question above comes up a heck of a lot. It’s depressing. Literally. I mean it can lead to bouts of depression. It’s the twin (twins? at least close relatives) monsters of anxiety and depression feeding off each other. Working like a team. Sick pass. Killer shot. Rack up the score. Well done.
So what can be done? What’s the solution? Therapy? Yes. It helps. You can see that the problem has partly to do with bias. The brain working against the brainee, making him or her (or me) see things incorrectly. It’s biases like this that cognitive behaviour therapy seeks to correct. It’s good stuff. Here’s a link.
So what else can you do? I dunno. I’m working on it myself. I’ll get back to you.