By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Therapist Barton Goldsmith contends, “People are angry about a lot of things and are projecting that anger onto whomever or whatever they don’t like at the moment and for spurious reasons at best.”
Tribune News Service
I know it’s not just me, because I hear it more and more from those I counsel and those who read my column.
Over the last year or so, mean people have gotten meaner, and there is much more pathological behavior going on in our country and the world. It is almost as though The Purge was happening. Seriously, there is a mass shooting every single day, and people are turning on one another like it’s a new sport.
With what’s going on in politics, our schools, and the inequality that is becoming more divisive every day, people are reverting to the mind-set of fifty years ago. People are angry about a lot of things and are projecting that anger onto whomever or whatever they don’t like at the moment and for spurious reasons at best.
Being mean is bad for your health, your love life, your financial situation, and your ability to enjoy life. There are far too many unhappy people who think that if they make someone else feel bad, they will feel better. We all know that doesn’t work.
Mean people lack a purpose in life. When you have nothing going on for yourself, you feel the need to try to control everything that crosses your path, including real connections with people. That will only lead you to more frustration. Everyone has a gift. The key is to find a way to share it with the world. Being famous isn’t important, but feeling like you matter is.
If you’ve ever been stuck in a car for an hour plus with someone venting at you, then you know what it is like to deal with toxic energy. You just want to escape it. And I don’t suggest jumping out of a moving vehicle. Sometimes you just need to let the angry person release his or her pain, and try not to take it personally. Once you come to a stop, you can go to your separate corners. Then, of course, you will both have to talk about it the next day or so, if you want the bad behavior to stop.
If you choose not to deal with this kind of behavior in someone you care about or work with, it will not stop. Be firm but kind, and say what you are feeling, something like “I care about you, so I need to let you know that when you vent at me, you are pushing me away.” If invested in your relationship, the other person will make some changes. If not, you may need to find a way to move on, because no one gets to abuse you.
As for the rest of the world, my suggestion is that we act in a manner that promotes civility and maybe a little more kindness. We are so much more alike than we know. As President Bill Clinton pointed out, we all share 99.9 percent of the same DNA. What makes us look different is so tiny that it shouldn’t make a difference in how we treat one another.
You can be the difference. Don’t tolerate hostility, and promote peace. Wrap your arms around your loved ones, especially your children, every day, and hug them until they squirm. Healing starts with awareness. You can make a difference. Start small and help make this a better world for all of us.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)