Years ago, someone told me that you can always decide for yourself what you are angry about. I didn't really understand that. What was that supposed to mean? If someone treats me mean and contemptuous, there is nothing I can do about it. Over the years, I slowly realized what this person wanted to tell me. I always have the choice to let criticism or bad words get deep inside me or simply take it for what it is, the opinion and statement of another person.
A while ago we saw a famous actor live on camera lose his temper and get violent about an insulting comment he had to face. A few weeks later, a friend of mine published a book about the "Offended Male". It deals with the aging white male who feels increasingly cornered in a world in which male privileges are changing. One shows the strong grievance of a single person, the other the grievance of a whole class of society. Since I am in each case uninvolved, it helped me to take a somewhat neutral look at it and at the same time build the foundation of thought for the blog post.
Offender and Offended
Being offended has nothing to do with gender. We are all offended all the time. There are just healthy and less healthy ways to react. It makes sense to distinguish between what the offending party does and what it triggers in the recipient. We can make everything and everyone offend us. Therefore, I do not want to talk about whether the trigger of the hurt should be stopped or changed, but rather how the reaction to it can be in such a way to not start or further drive a vicious circle of offending. This is in the interest of personal and world peace.
Complaining Is Not the Way
We, as observers, should also take this constructive step forward. Instead of remaining in the analysis of why the world is the way it is and why so many bad things are taking place, let’s look at how we can all best deal with it. Complaining, regretting, blaming, or wanting to change the other person drives the offended further and further away from their own peace. Everyone is responsible for one's own grievance. We all have the task to deal well with our fellow human beings, however, we have no influence on what becomes a grievance. Everyone is responsible for their own offenses. Here lies not just a huge challenge but also everyone's freedom.
We Always Have an Option
What hurts hits a nerve and is worth looking at. It is important to distinguish between us and the other. Our vulnerabilities have nothing to do with the other person. If we however know our vulnerable spot, then we can protect ourselves. No matter how badly we are hurt, we can always act. We need to know and learn that. We always have the possibility of a non-violent exchange. Non-violent communication helps us to get in touch with ourselves, our needs, and subsequently with others.
It Changes Our Brain
When offended, we can no longer act purposefully. The ability to think stops. Parts of the brain take over independently and the cerebrum which usually helps us make conscious decisions stops working. In order to regain the ability to act, it is important to take time and gain distance from the person who has offended us. Breathe, stay with yourself. What triggers us is the real or imagined aggressiveness of the other. That we do not want to accept. Do not act instinctively. Regulate yourself through the breath. Breathing controls consciousness. Criticism gets to people. It tells us that we are not right. When we believe what we hear from others we keep enforcing the criticism inside ourselves over and over again. Helpful questions are: Can I accept what is criticized? Can I forgive myself? Is it really meaningful or does it have more to do with the one who criticizes?
Offense and criticism strike at our deepest selves. Even if we put on a poker face and pull ourselves together, it stays in our minds. Therefore, the following ten points are crucial to overcoming it:
1. Admitting the grievance instead of playing it down in front of ourselves and others. Take yourself seriously. Be aware of your own feelings. Denied feelings continue to work internally and may even be directed against ourselves.
2. Communicate about it and discuss it with others.
3. Come out of helplessness and get active. The feeling of grievance arises from help and hopelessness. Addictive drugs to break out of this uncomfortable situation only work in the short term. Conscious breathing, movement to overcome rigidity, creating time, and allowing stillness, freshness, and arriving in the present moment are better options.
4. Be with yourself. The more you are with yourself, the less you are offended by what others do.
5. Increase self-esteem. People with low self-esteem are more easily offended because they derive their value from what they get from the outside. If they do not receive recognition, they feel weak, helpless, and hurt.
6. Stop self and external devaluations. Learn to be honest about what you want and need.
7. Take away the drama. What is so bad about being offended?
8. Protect your vulnerable spot. Take responsibility for what hurts you and make a conscious decision on what offends you. Don't take everything personally.
9. Address the one who has offended you. It helps us when the other person sees us offended. They must not understand it but see it.
10. See the insult as positive criticism. The insult can teach you to look at your vulnerable spot. What exactly and why has been scratched in the value system and self-image?
When we deal with people who are easily and often offended and possibly even blame us for it, we might act differently out of fear to cause someone pain. However, we adapt so much and lose authenticity. One can take care of others, but it must remain within the framework. One cannot permanently spare others and watch out for not offending others. It is better not to be afraid of offending others. We cannot offend others only do something that triggers offending.
Deliberate Toxic Offending
Deliberately destructive behavior is when offending is used as a provocation through superior and arrogant behavior. In that case, the goal is to make the other person small and oneself superior. The other person should feel bad or react with strong emotions and make him or herself ridiculous. The smartest way to deal with such situations is not to take the attacker's behavior seriously.
Don’t forget: You have every minute again the freedom to decide what makes you angry and offended and what not.