anger

The drawbacks of anger, and some alternatives

A lot of things that are normal aren’t ok. It’s hard to notice this. We’re socialized to accept a lot of things that really ought to be unacceptable. When we try to object, we’re punished. Being punished for objecting is often humiliating and disorienting.

It’s hard to remember that these things are wrong even when others punish you for saying so. It’s hard to remember that you have rights when others act like you don’t.

One way to remember that things are wrong is to get angry about them. Feeling outraged can make it easier to hold onto your sense that, no, this isn’t ok, and yes, it is ok to object.

Unfortunately, the price of rage is high. Rage hurts. It’s physically unpleasant, physically exhausting, emotionally draining, and makes it hard to think clearly. The physical and emotional exhaustion from anger makes it harder to do other things. The fog of anger can lead to mistakes that make it harder to remember after the fact that you were justified in objecting. Rage is better than nothing, but there are other strategies that don’t hurt as much.

One thing that can help is to develop your understanding of the situation over time. If you learn to understand what you’re angry about and why, it can make it possible to use understanding rather than anger to stay oriented.

Questions like these can help:

  • What am I angry about?
  • Why am I angry about that?
  • What happened that I think is wrong?
  • Why do I think it’s wrong?

For instance, say I’m in class, we’re doing an activity, I’m not able to do the activity, and I’m feeling angry. We’re writing thoughts on big paper, and I can’t do handwriting well enough to participate. In that situation, I might think:

  • Why am I angry?
  • I’m trying to participate and failing over and over and that’s intensely frustrating.
  • Why am I angry about that?
  • Because I’m sick of being left out all the time.
  • What happened that I think is wrong? 
  • The teacher knew about my disability and didn’t do anything to accommodate it when they planned the activity. 
  • When I pointed out that I couldn’t participate, they didn’t do anything to fix it.
  • Why do I think that’s wrong? 
  • Because I have a right to be here, and the teacher is supposed to be teaching me. 
  • I’m a student here, and I have the right to learn the material and be part of the activities we’re using to learn it.
  • This is disability discrimination, and that’s wrong.

Then, the next step in using understanding rather than anger is to notice that something is wrong before you start feeling enraged. Sometimes that can make it possible to fix the problem without having to get to the point of outrage. It can also make it more possible to decide when to fight and when not to.

For instance, take the class activity. If I remember that I have the right to be there and that it’s the teacher’s responsibility to teach me, this might happen:

  • I go to class and see that there is big paper on the walls.
  • I remember that I can’t do big paper activities.
  • I remember that I have the right to participate in educational activities.
  • I remember that I have the right to learn the material.
  • I ask right away “Are we doing a big paper activity today? How will I participate?” 
  • At this point, I’m annoyed, but not outraged, and able to assert something without it hurting so much.

They may or may not respond the right way — and I might still get really angry. But if that happens, I can repeat the strategy again, figure out what I’m angry about and why. Then I can get further without depending on anger the next time. (Even when you can’t win or fix the problem, it’s still often possible to use that kind of strategy to stay oriented without rage. I have more posts in the works about that specifically.)

Anger isn’t a failure. It’s ok to be angry when unacceptable things are happening. It’s also ok *not* to feel physically angry. Anger hurts, and you don’t owe anyone that kind of pain. You don’t have to be pushed to the point of rage in order to be justified in objecting to unacceptable things.

Sometimes it might help to explicitly remind yourself of this. Some affirmations that have sometimes worked for me:

  • I don’t have to hurt myself to prove that this is wrong.
  • It’s still wrong if I’m calm. 
  • It’s still wrong if I’m not crying and shaking. 
  • It’s still wrong if my heart isn’t pounding.
  • Even if I’m ok, the situation isn’t ok.
  • Even if I’m ok in this moment, it’s ok to object to a situation that’s hurting me and/or others.

It also helps not to beat yourself up for getting angry. Anger in the face of outrageous things isn’t a failure. No strategy can completely replace physical outrage for anyone. Holding yourself up to impossible standards won’t help. Working on your skills at staying oriented in other ways will.

These strategies are harder to learn and harder to use. They also make it a lot more possible to resist and stay oriented without hurting yourself. It’s not all or nothing — any skills in this area help, and it gets easier with practice.

Being annoying is not the same as being hostile

Everyone is annoying sometimes. Some people are painfully annoying, a lot of the time.

Being annoying isn’t the same as being mean or sadistic.

Mean people are generally annoying; annoying people aren’t necessarily mean.

Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid annoying people. Sometimes people don’t realize they’re being annoying. Sometimes people know they’re bothering others, but don’t see any alternative. Sometimes the annoying thing is physically involuntary. Some people don’t have any non-annoying ways to communicate. Sometimes being annoying is a side effect of doing something else.

There are any number of other reasons people might be annoying. Sometimes people are annoying for the sake of being annoying, but often there’s something else going on.

It helps to keep in mind that being annoying is not the same as being hostile.

Open Letter to People Who Do Things

If you do things that others know about, you will attract a lot of criticism.

People will think you’re wrong a lot. Sometimes you will actually be wrong; sometimes you won’t be.

Sometimes people will be vicious. Sometimes people will try to hurt you as badly as they possibly can.

No matter how well you do things, there will be people who are disgusted by what you do and think you’re a terrible person.

No matter how politically neutral the thing you do is, people will attack it for political reasons. (Either a specific reason, or they’ll say it’s frivolous and that you should be fighting global warming or poverty or something instead.)

If you charge money for what you do, people will be outraged (including people who would never work for free.)

No matter how much you charge, people will angrily tell you that it’s too much.

Even if you work for free, people will be angry with you for addressing some things but not others. Or for not giving them what they want fast enough.

No matter how well you consider other sides, someone will angrily accuse you of censorship or refusing to listen.

And so on and so on. No matter what you do, there are people who will be angry and disgusted by it. There will be people who will hate you. There will be people who try to hurt you to make you stop. This happens to absolutely everyone who does things that a lot of other people know about. It is possible to live with that.

(Part of the way to live with that is by learning to keep perspective in the face of other people’s anger.)

A note about criticism - it’s important to be open to criticism, because sometimes you will be wrong. In order to be truly open to criticism, you have to get past the desire to appease everyone who is mad at you. If you try to please everyone, what ends up happening is that you end up deferring to whoever is the loudest and meanest. Listening to criticism in a good way means you have to be selective — and it also usually means disengaging from jerks.

You don’t have to be perfect to do things that matter. If only perfect people could do things, nothing would ever get done. Everyone who has every done anything has also been flawed in a serious way. Because that’s how people are.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t owe the world a heckler’s veto. There will always be people who don’t like you or your work. That doesn’t mean you have to stop. It doesn’t mean you have to engage with them. It just means that you’re being noticed, and that some people don’t like what they’re seeing.

tl;dr If you do things that people notice, some people who notice will be mean to you and try to convince you that you are terrible. That happens to everyone who does things. It doesn’t mean you’re terrible. It means you’re visible. Being open to criticism doesn’t mean giving the world a heckler’s veto. It’s ok to do things even if you’re imperfect and sometimes people are angry at you.

Be nice to phone support people.

People who answer customer service lines have to deal with angry people all day.

If you have to call them when something broke and you’re angry, don’t be mean to them. It’s not their fault the thing broke or that the company did something unreasonable. Being mean to them will not get revenge on the company, and it will not make the company suddenly realize that they have to start being reasonable.

All being mean will accomplish is making someone’s else’s day worse.

Remember that there’s a person there on the other end of the line, and that they’ve been dealing with the brunt of frustrated angry people all day. Don’t be a jerk to them.

You are allowed to think for yourself

People pointing out problems with things are not always correct.

Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re wrong.

The fact that someone is yelling at you, using social justice terms, and calling it a call out, does not in itself mean you have done something wrong. It just means that someone is angry at you, for reasons that may well be justified, and may well be completely off base, and may well be partly right and partly wrong.

Sometimes people calling you out are right, and sometimes they’re wrong.

The only way to figure out what’s true is by thinking about it. There’s no algorithm you can use to mechanically figure out who is right. You have to think for yourself, and consider using your own thoughts whether you think the things someone is telling you are true or not.

When people with legitimate grievances express them in ableist ways

Content note: This post is about effective ways to contradict ableist statements. It talks about contexts in which doing so might not be a good idea. It also talks about people using social justice language in mean and unjustified ways. Proceed with caution.

Anonymous said to :

Sometimes people mess up and people get mad about it, they yell about it but also gross things- like this guy is a creep, and they say gross stuff, like “he lives in his parents’ basement” or calling them autistic in a bad way.

A lot of the time, if you bring up how that’s wrong, they accuse you of defending them and their bad actions. What do you do when people are being mean about stuff when mad at people who have done awful things and they think youre defending them if you say anything?

realsocialskills said:


That gets complicated.


Sometimes I think it’s a matter of picking the right time. Like, if someone just got hit on by a creep in a threatening way and they’re freaking out, it’s probably not the best time to explain to them that some of the way they’re thinking about creepiness is ableist. When someone is freaking out in the immediate aftermath of an incident. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) validate the ableist aspects of what they’re saying, but it’s probably not a good time to actively contradict it either.  When people are actively freaking out, all they are likely to hear is support or contradiction.


After the point where they’re so afraid that the most important thing is supporting them passes, it’s ok and good to contradict ableism. It’s ok to do this even if they’re mad and ranting or upset. Being upset is not always an emergency.


I think the best way to contradict it is to make it explicit that you agree that the guy is creepy and unacceptable, and that what you’re objecting to is the comparison, for instance:

  • “I’m autistic and I don’t appreciate being compared to creeps like that guy.”
  • “I have a lot of autistic friends, and it really hurts them when everyone compares them to creeps like that.”
  • “Hey, can we not conflate poor and creepy? That just lets rich charismatic creepy dudes off the hook.”
  • “I’m not comfortable with the direction this is taking - it seems like we’re starting to mock guys for being disabled or poor instead of talking about how creepy they’re being. Let’s talk about creepiness?”
  • “Autism really isn’t the issue here; it’s the creepy and awful things that guy does.”

Another factor: People will probably get mad at you. No matter how well you phrase this, no matter how considerate and respectful you are, people you contradict will probably get mad at you at least some of the time. People don’t like to be told that they’re doing things wrong, and they especially don’t like to be told that they’re wronging someone they’re justified in complaining about. If you contradict people who are complaining about real injustice, they’re likely to get mad at you even if what you are saying is entirely correct. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, but it can be emotionally very difficult to handle.


It’s likely that, at least some of the time, people will come down on you really hard in social justice terms.


People will probably tell you that you don’t care about female victims, that you have internalized misogyny, that you’re a gross man who needs to shut up, that you’re an MRA, that you need to go away and learn feminism 101, or other similar things. That might be very hard to bear, especially if you are scrupulous about trying to avoid oppressive speech. It doesn’t mean that you are wrong, though. Sometimes people will yell at you in social justice terms and be wrong. It’s important to learn how to figure out what you think even when people are yelling at you that you’re being oppressive. If you want to do the work of pointing out the ableism in some reactions to creepy dudes, it’s really important to work on having perspective in the face of other people’s anger.


It’s also important to pay attention to what you are and aren’t up for. You don’t have to challenge every piece of ableism you ever see. It’s not ok to validate that kind of ableism; it’s not ok to reblog it uncritically; it’s not ok to agree with or participate in it. But it’s perfectly ok to not always proactively contradict it. You matter, and that kind of work is draining.


Anyone elsewant to weigh in? What have you found effective in this situation? What hasn’t worked?

when joking teasing is a trigger

Anonymous said to :

Having grown up with abuse, and having been in an abusive relationship after that, I have a lot of trouble dealing with “normal” teasing. I was used to being accused of all kinds of terrible things out of the blue. So if, for example, I accidentally take something that belongs to someone else, and they say, “Haha, you just wanted it for yourself!” I want to cry and beg forgiveness. I’m terrified and I can’t laugh. I feel I can’t ask people not to tease me, but I don’t know how to deal with it.

realsocialskills said:

It’s ok to be bothered by this, and it’s ok to tell your friends not to tease you.

Playful teasing is only friendly if everyone likes it. A lot of people don’t like it, and a lot of people don’t do it. It’s entirely possible to be friends without insulting or teasing one another. If someone teases someone who they know hates it, that’s not a joke anymore, it’s just being mean. It’s not ok to be mean to other people for fun.

It’s ok to say “I don’t like jokes like that; please don’t say things like that to me.” You don’t have to explain in order for it to be ok to tell people to stop teasing you. Continuing to do stuff like that is already a jerk move, even if people don’t know your history. Not liking it is a good enough reason.

It’s also ok if you do want to disclose (and for some people, it might make it more likely that they’ll take it seriously and realize how important it is not to make jokes like that with you). But you don’t have to disclose in order for it to be legitimate to insist that people stop. If you do want to disclose, it’s usually better if it’s not in the heat of the moment, but when you’re relatively calm.

Most people don’t want to say intentionally hurtful things to their friends. Some people realize that some people find playful teasing hurtful, and will readily stop if you tell them you don’t like it. Some people don’t understand that some people don’t like it, and will probably have to be reminded several times before they take it seriously. Some people are mean and will keep saying things like that to you even after you say to stop, and some people might even start saying them more because they think it’s funny that it bothers you. Part of the solution to this might be to make sure you’re hanging out with people who care about treating you well, as much as possible. Having friends who are kind makes life a lot better on a number of levels.

A possible script for disclosing:

  • “Hey, I know you weren’t intending it but playful teasing and joke insults really scare me. Too many people in my life have accused me of ludicrous things in order to hurt me, so I have trouble telling when it’s a joke and I tend to freak out. Can you please not say things like that to me?”

Another possibility: finding ways to tell whether they mean it or not:

Think about the person you’re with, and what’s likely to be their intention:

  • How well do you know the person you’re with?
  • Have you seen them joke insult people before?
  • Have you seen them actually aggressively accuse people of ludicrous things out of the blue?
  • If you’ve seen them tease people in a way intended to be friendly and haven’t seen them make horrible baseless accusations out of the blue, they’re probably not trying to hurt you
  • That doesn’t make it ok, and it doesn’t mean you’re wrong to object
  • But it does mean that they’re probably not trying to hurt you, and you’re probably not in any danger 

Look at body language:

  • This isn’t possible for some people who get scared in this situation, but it can work for some people
  • Look at their face: Does it have an angry expression, or do they look happy?
  • Look at their hands: Are they held in a way that looks angry or violent, or do they look like they’re just socializing?
  • Think about their tone of voice: Did they sound mad? Was their voice raised? Or are they talking in a tone that seems more friendly?
  • (Many people have a specific tone of voice that they only use for teasing or joke insults)
  • Are they looking at you in a way that’s demanding an answer?
  • If their body language and tone of voice doesn’t seem aggressive, they probably didn’t mean the words they said aggressively either.

Check how other people are reacting:

  • Do other people seem to notice the offense you’ve supposedly committed, or are they continuing the conversation they were already having?
  • Does anyone look mad, or do they just look like people socializing?
  • Have other people in the group stopped what they’re doing to look at you, or are they continuing as they were?
  • If other people in the group don’t look mad, or don’t look much interested, the teasing was probably meant as a joke rather than a serious insult or accusation

Another possibility: using a standard script to create some distance:

  • It can help to immediately change the subject when someone says something like that
  • If they were just joking around, they will likely be receptive to the subject change
  • Changing the subject can show you that you are safe and not under attack
  • It can be hard to find words in the moment to change the subject
  • It might help to memorize some subject-changing scripts and use standard ones every time this happens
  • Then you won’t have to think of something to say in the moment while you are freaking out
  • Which scripts are most effective will depend on you and your group
  • (This post on deflecting fight-pickers has a lot of subject-change scripts.)
  • You can also change the subject back to what people were talking about before
  • Eg: “So, you were saying about the cats we’re all here to talk about? What do you think about the fluffy ones? I see your point about their hair getting matted easily, but they’re so pretty and soft.”

Another possibility: asking what they meant:

  • Sometimes you can defuse fear by asking people whether they mean it
  • ie: “Do you really think I was just trying to take it for myself?”
  • This can be awkward, but it can also be effective
  • Whether or not it’s a good idea depends on your friend groups
  • Some people might get offended and sarcastically say yes, of course they think that.
  • If you can’t read sarcasm when you’re scared, this might backfire
  • But when it works, it can work really well

It would probably also be a good idea to work on having perspective when other people are angry at you. Your friends and people close to you will be angry at you sometimes. That doesn’t always mean that you’re in danger or that they are going to hurt you. It also doesn’t always mean that you have done something wrong. Finding anger more bearable will help you in a lot of aspects of your life, including when people tease you. If anger is less terrifying, teasing will also be less terrifying.

tl;dr Teasing is only friendly if everyone likes it. Doing it to people who don’t like it is mean. It’s ok not to want to be teased or insulted, even as a joke. It’s ok to ask people to stop. Some people will take that request seriously and some won’t. (Everyone should, but not everyone does). If teasing scares you because you have trouble telling the difference between real insults and joke insults, there are things you can learn to look for that make it easier to tell the difference. It also helps to learn how to keep perspective in the face of other people’s anger. Scroll up for some more concrete information.

A way people with disabilities are often wrongly percieved as angry

Sometimes disabled people are wrong perceived as angry or hostile when they move like disabled people. It works something like this:

  • The most efficient way to do things is often not the socially accepted way to do things
  • People with disabilities often have to do things in an efficient way to be able to do them
  • In order to be perceived as calm and polite, people are often expected to move in a slow, careful way without making sudden or loud motions
  • That’s easy for most people without disabilities, and can be difficult or impossible for people with disabilities
  • Sometimes people with disabilities don’t have the motor coordination or strength to move in expected ways. Sometimes pain or illness makes them too exhausted to have the energy to move in expected ways. Sometimes, they have to move efficiently to be able to move at all.
  • People with disabilities who have to move in loud, sudden, forceful, or jerky ways are often wrongfully perceived as expressing anger, frustration, or aggression.
  • When people make loud, jerky, or sudden motions, they tend to be perceived as rude, angry, or aggressive
  • People with disabilities don’t always have the coordination to make the movements in expected ways
  • Sometimes, they have to be efficient in order to do the thing.
  • This often gets perceived as angry when it isn’t
  • This can lead to people with disabilities who are just trying to live their lives being perceived as hostile and excluded
  • When a person with a disability is moving in a jerky, sudden, or loud way, it’s important to consider the possibility that it’s disability-related rather than angry

Some concrete examples:

Dropping things:

  • In most social contexts, it’s socially expected that people who need things to be on the ground put them there without making a sudden noise

  • This generally means using your arms to slowly lower the thing to the ground
  • People with disabilities often do not have the strength or motor coordination needed to lower things this way
  • Sometimes, people who can’t rely on muscles to lower things need to drop them and rely on gravity
  • (And some people have to rely on gravity some of the time, eg: when they’re tired, at the end of a long day, when they’re in a particularly draining environment, when they’ve already had to lift and drop the thing several times that day.)
  • Gravity only goes one speed, and dropped objects tend to make noise
  • Dropping a heavy object rather than lowering it slowly is usually perceived as a sign of anger (and for people without disabilities, it’s generally intended as one).
  • People with disabilities who drop things are often not intending it as an expression of anger.
  • Often, they drop things because they need them to be on the ground and have no other realistic way of getting them there.
  • If a person with a disability is dropping heavy things rather than lowering them, it’s important not to automatically assume that they are doing this out of a show of emotions
  • Consider seriously the possibility that they’re dropping things because they need to lower them, and due to disability are not able to do so in the socially expected way.

Another example: Plugging things in:

  • The socially expected way to plug things in is to slowly push the plug into the outlet using a steady pressure
  • That requires a particular kind of strength and muscle control
  • Some people with disabilities can’t do that
  • Some people with disabilities have to rely on momentum.
  • Relying on momentum involves one sudden forceful movement. 
  • That can look like punching, and can be perceived as excessive force
  • Most people without disabilities only plug things in with that kind of force when they are angry or frustrated
  • People with disabilities often plug things in that way because it’s the only way they can do it
  • If a person with a disability uses a lot of force to plug things in, don’t assume it’s a display of emotion.
  • Consider seriously the possibility that they’re doing it that way because that’s how their body works

In general:

  • Some socially expected movements are complicated and difficult
  • Sometimes people with disabilities can’t do it in the polite way
  • Sometimes, we have to do it in a way that’s more efficient
  • That’s often perceived as rude, inconsiderate, or threatening, when it’s really just limited ability to move in expected ways
  • No amount of social skills training or knowledge of socially expected behavior will make it physically possible to move in all expected ways
  • This can result in people with disabilities being perceived as angry or displaying rage when all they’re doing is moving
  • It’s important not to automatically assume that people with disabilities who move oddly are doing it to display anger. It might just be that that’s the only reasonable way for them to do something.
  • If you understand this, you’ll be much more able to relate to people with disabilities and include people
  • (People with disabilities, like everyone else, sometimes display anger and frustration in physical ways. But they are routinely wrongly perceived as doing so. It is possible, and important, to learn to tell the difference).

tl;dr People with disabilities are often perceived as displaying rage or aggression when they’re just moving. This is because socially expected ways of moving are often very inefficient in ways that aren’t too difficult for most nondisabled people, but can be difficult or impossible for people with disabilities. It’s important to learn to tell the difference between people with disabilities moving efficiently and people with disabilities displaying anger. Scroll up for details and examples.

Perspective in the face of other people's anger

This is a thing that happens with some people:

  • People get angry
  • They tell you off in mean ways that make you feel horrible
  • Or their anger scares you, even if they’re not actually being mean
  • You feel like the way you’re feeling is evidence that you’ve *done* something horrible
  • Or you’re afraid, and feel like you have to grovel for forgiveness in order to be safe

It’s really, really hard to tell whether you’ve actually done something wrong when someone is being mean to you. (Or when you’re terrified by anger or conflict.)

If you’re afraid or hurting, or especially both, it’s hard to have perspective. Especially if you feel like acknowledging that you’ve done a horrible thing might make that person stop hurting you. *Especially* if you’re really good at reading what someone wants to hear.

This is doubly true for people who have been abused. If you’ve been hurt by someone who demanded that you stop thinking in the face of every conflict, it’s hard to think when other people are angry with you. 

There are countermeasures. It’s possible to learn to deal with anger and conflict without falling apart.

Countermeasure #1: recognizing feelings that indicate that your perspective is off, and creating distance

  • If you’re panicking and feeling inclined to make an abject apology, it’s probably time to step back
  • Even if it turns out that you were in the wrong, a panic apology is unlikely to make the situation better
  • Because when you’re panicking, you’re not really capable of apologizing sincerely anyway
  • It’s ok to need time to think
  • It’s ok to realize that you’re panicking and need to back away from the situation to be able to think
  • Someone who won’t let you do this is probably not someone you should trust

Countermeasure #2: considering reversal:

  • Think about what you did, and how the person who is angry at you is reacting
  • What do you think you’d do if the situation was reversed?
  • In light of that, do you think their reaction is reasonable?
  • And do you think you actually did something terribly wrong?
  • (The answer to this might be yes even if you think you would have reacted differently. But thinking about reversal can still make the situation easier to understand)

Countermeasure #3: Think in concrete terms:

  • What, specifically, does the person who is mad at you think you did?
  • Do you think you actually did that thing?
  • If not, do they have a reasonable basis for thinking that you did that thing?
  • Are they understanding correctly? Are they listening to your explanation of what you think you did? (eg: if they think you said a slur and you actually said a different word that they misheard, are they screaming at you and saying you are just making excuses?)
  • If you did do the thing, why are they angry about the thing?
  • Do you think it’s reasonable that they are offended?
  • Do you think it’s reasonable that they are *as* offended as they are?
  • (Think about this seriously, especially if they think you are being racist, sexist, transphobic, ableist, etc towards them. Your initial reaction to this kind of thing is likely to be off base. But it is also possible to be wrong about these things, and ultimately, you have to think for yourself about whether you think you’re guilty of what you’re accused of.)

Countermeasure #4: Considering the perspective of someone you respect:

  • Think of someone who you know well and respect as someone who treats people well
  • If you’d done the thing to them, how do you think they’d react?
  • Does that match how the person who is angry at you now is reacting?
  • If you’d hurt the person you respect in a similar way by accident and they were upset with you, how do you think you’d be reacting?
  • Does it match how you’re reacting here? (Eg: are you more afraid? more inclined to panic-apologize? more defensive?)
  • In light of all of that, what do you think about what’s happening now?
  • Do you think that you did the thing you’re being accused of?
  • Do you think it was wrong? 
  • Do you think that the way they are reacting to you is unjustified or otherwise objectionable?
  • Do you think you should apologize? 
  • Do you think they should apologize?
  • (These are all real questions. Considering the hypothetical perspective of someone you know doesn’t give you automatic answers, but it can be helping as a way of getting unstuck when you’re afraid and inclined to panic about something you’ve been accused of. You might find that, even after you’ve stopped panicking, you still think that you have done something wrong and that you should apologize for it.)

Countermeasure #5: Outside perspective:

  • It can help to discuss the situation with people who know you well (especially if they’re not parties to the conflict)
  • Particularly if they are people who you can trust to tell you when they think you actually *have* done something wrong
  • Some friends are mutual check in people for one another. 
  • Some people get outside perspective from therapists. 
  • When you’re panicking, it can be hard to tell from the outside that you’re panicking. Panic in response to conflict can feel like you’re just accurately recognizing that you are terrible or something. 
  • It’s much easier to tell from the outside when that is happening
  • So, if you have people you trust to help you check your perspective, it is tremendously helpful in staying oriented and figuring out what’s actually going on

tl;dr: Some people find other people’s anger terrifying. If you experience that, it can be really hard not to automatically try to fix things by conceding that you are terrible and did a terrible thing. There are countermeasures that can help. It helps to work on noticing how you are feeling so that you can get distance when you need it. It helps to think about what you’d do if the roles were reversed. It helps to think as concretely as possible about the specifics of the situation. It helps to think about what you think someone you know well and respect would do (and what you would be doing if the conflict was with that person). It helps to get outside perspective from people you trust about what’s going on. 

Plans, changes, anxiety, depression, and conflict

I have anxiety and depression and probably some other shit I get very scared and panicked when someone says “I’ll be right back” and walks away from me and if I’m supposed to meet someone and they are late or don’t show up. I guess it’s abandonment.
So my question is: how do I keep from flipping out on my boyfriend when he accidentally distresses me, like when I’m supposed to pick him up but he finds another way home. His phone is off so he can’t tell me.
And I guess my other question: is it fair for him to get frustrated and angry with me when I tell him that doing this is inconsiderate? He said he thought he’d get home before I left to get him so it wasn’t intentional, but I still feel disrespected.
realsocialskills said:
   
This doesn’t sound to me like it’s just a depression and anxiety problem. It sounds to me like either something is going wrong with your communication with friends, or people aren’t treating you well, or a combination of both. It’s hard for me to tell which from a distance.
   
Having anxiety and depression does not mean that you are wrong every time you are upset about something. Sometimes, you’re going to be upset because something is actually wrong. 
  
It is not unreasonable to want people you make plans with to either show up or let you know that they’re not going to make it. It is not unreasonable to want people to tell you if they are going to be late. It is not unreasonable to want people you’re supposed to pick up to let you know if they found another ride. Those expectations are normal, and not something unusual caused by mental illness. Most people would be upset if others habitually made plans and failed to show up.
 
(It might be unreasonable to expect people to refrain for saying “I’ll be right back” and walking away, depending on the context. For instance, that’s sometimes a euphemism for going to the bathroom. So if you’re, say, eating at a restaurant and someone says that, it’s probably not reasonable to object.  But if they’re, say, leaving you in the middle of a crowded park without any clear plans for how you’re going to reconnect, that’s a problem. There are any number of configurations for that; it’s hard for me to tell just based on the phrase.)
 
It is entirely reasonable to want people to care that they flaked in a way that was distressing. Even if they did it for a reason or thought it would be ok, they should care that they flaked on you and apologize if it caused you distress. They should also be willing to think about how to avoid that problem in the future. In close relationships, people make mistakes from time to time that cause one another inadvertent distress. If someone gets angry and defensive every time you feel upset about something they did, something’s going wrong.
  
That said, it’s not ok to regularly flip out at people close to you for making mistakes. It’s hard for me to tell from your description if that’s what’s happening. Like, I could see a few possibilities:
 
Possibility #1: You’re actually flipping out in a way that’s not reasonable. Eg:
  • You: WTF?! Why didn’t you show up?! You’re a terrible boyfriend. You always do this. Why don’t you respect me?
  • Him: I thought I’d get home first. I’m sorry.
  • You: That’s not good enough. You’re awful. Why can’t you be considerate ever?

If this is what’s going on, you flipping out may well be part of the problem (but not the whole problem, because wanting people to either keep plans or let you know that they’ve changed is entirely reasonable even if the way you react is not.)

If actually flipping out on people is part of the problem, then it’s important to learn how to distinguish between how it feels to have anxiety triggered and what someone actually did. If you’re freaking out, it might be best to hold off on talking about what’s going on until you’ve calmed down. It might also help to say explicitly something like “I’m not rational right now; let’s talk about this in a few minutes.” (This is also the kind of issue that a lot of people find therapy helpful for. I don’t know if you’re someone who would find therapy helpful, but it might be worth looking into.)

But even if you are doing things that look like flipping out, that may be misleading. It’s possible that he’s intentionally provoking you in order to make you look unreasonable to avoid dealing with the problem. That brings us to possibility #2:

Possibility #2: He’s accusing you of flipping out as a way to avoid dealing with the thing you’re complaining about. Eg:

  • You: I went to pick you up and you weren’t there. What gives?
  • Him: Chill. I thought I’d be home by the time you got here. Why are you flipping out on me?
  • You: Can you please call me if plans change?
  • Him: Why are you accusing me of being inconsiderate? I didn’t do anything wrong.

For more on that kind of dynamic, see this post and this post.

Possibility #3: You’re responding to a pattern, he’s insisting that you treat it as an isolated incident, and that’s pissing you off. Eg:

  • You: I went to go pick you up and you weren’t there and didn’t call. Can you please let me know if plans change.
  • Him: Oh, sorry, I thought you’d come home first and see that I was already here.
  • You: Ok, but this happened last week too. Can we figure out how to stop it from happened?
  • Him: That happened last week. That’s over and done with.
  • You (raising your voice): This keeps happening! I need it to stop!
  • Him: Why are you flipping out? I *said* I was sorry.

Possibility #4: You both mean well, but you’re setting off each other’s berserk buttons inadvertently. Eg:

  • You (visibly close to melting down): You weren’t there?! You are here? Why weren’t you there?
  • Him (freaked out by the idea that he did something seriously upsetting, also visibly close to meltdown): I tried to be there! I did! I thought it would be ok!

If that’s the problem, finding an alternate way to communicate about problems might solve the problem. For instance, it might mean that you need to type instead of speaking, or use IM in different rooms, or talk on the phone. Or it might mean that you need ground rules about how to communicate in a conflict without setting each other off. For instance, some people need to explicitly reassure each other that this is about a specific thing and not your judgement of whether they’re a good person (sometimes judging people is appropriate and necessary. This kind of reassurance only help if that really *isn’t* the issue).

This is not an exhaustive list. There are other patterns of interaction that could be going on here. But whatever is going on, it probably isn’t just your depression and anxiety making you unreasonable. It is ok to expect people to either keep plans or let you know when they have changed.

About anger and social violence

Those of us who experience routine social violence can’t afford to become enraged about it every single time. We also can’t afford to fight it every single time.

If you don’t experience social violence, this can be hard to understand. It can be easy to think we’re under-reacting and that we ought to be flying into a rage and reporting it. You might want to get furious on our behalf.

As furious as you think you’d be if that happened to you. The thing is, when it happens to you multiple times every day, you can’t always afford to make a big deal of it. If we did that, we wouldn’t be able to do anything else. It’s important to fight sometimes, but not always. There are other things to be getting on with.

So telling someone “wow, you should report that!” is not necessarily a helpful response.

Similarly, it also isn’t helpful to try to calm someone down or come up with lots of ways to interpret what happened as just an innocent misunderstanding. 

Misunderstandings aren’t so benign when they happen to you several times a day and prevent you from doing what you need to do. Particularly when people become hostile when you tell them that they’re creating a problem, no matter how polite you are about it. Sometimes things really are that bad, and sometimes you’re not in a position to fix them.

Sometimes we don’t need help adjusting our perspective, or help filing a complaint. Sometimes what we need is to know that you are willing to listen to something that happened to us, and that you will believe us and understand.

Sometimes, you can’t make it better in that moment. Sometimes, we can’t make it better, and all we can do is survive it. We can’t fight every battle. And sometimes, the battles we don’t fight can take as heavy a toll on us as the battles we do fight. It is not easy to let things go when they are unjust and in which we’d really like to fix things. But, the only thing to do is see it as unjust *and* go on without fighting a battle then and there.

Just as no one should ever have to fight these battles alone, no one should have to be alone when they decide to sit out a particular battle. We need support every time this kind of thing happens, not only in instances in which we’re directly fighting.

If you want to be a good ally, don’t pressure people to fight every battle. Instead, stand with them consistently, when they chose to fight, and when they regard discretion as the better part of valor. Presume that they are capable of making those calls, listen respectfully, and offer support that is appropriate to the situation and consistent with the choice they are making about it.

Sometimes, in a situation, all you can do is listen, understand, and be someone who understands that they are being treated unjustly and that it isn’t their fault. It hurts not to be able to do more, but it’s important not to let that pain get in the way of offering the support, respect, and listening that can help some in that situation.

You can’t always fix things, either by fighting or by explaining things away. Sometimes there is no ready solution. But, you *can* always be a respectful ally.

Developing the ability to piss other people off (or even to RISK pissing them off) without knuckling under is pretty much the Holy Grail of emotionally abused kids, I think. We are programmed to respond at the first sign of displeasure, and we don’t have the faith in ourselves and our decisions to weather the storm– or even a mild sprinkle– so we tend to freak out as if the world was ending if a cloud crosses the sun. We freak out about the possibility that we’re wrong, that we’re doing the wrong things, that we’re making the wrong choices, that we’ll make someone angry, because there’s this awful certainty lurking at the back of our minds that says “If you do the wrong thing, you will be in TROUBLE.” And being in TROUBLE is the worst thing, ever, because that part of our brain is forever three years old where our parents are our whole world and being in TROUBLE is the end of everything.

It takes a lot of practice to gain that sort of gut-level knowledge that we’re strong enough to handle this stuff and that the world doesn’t end if someone else is angry at us. It’s not an innate quality that some people have and some don’t; people who grow up in non-abusive homes learn it when they’re young, is all, and the rest of us have to learn it when we’re grown up. And it sucks, and it’s not fair, and it’s not fun, but there’s no getting around it, and you can do it, you CAN.

You can piss people off.

You can be wrong.

You can fuck up.

You can do stuff that everyone thinks is weird.

AND IT IS ALL OKAY. The world won’t end. You will still be a good person. And the likelihood is that most of the things you do WON’T be wrong, and WON’T piss people off, and WON’T be up-fuckery, and WON’T be weird, but if it is? The hell with it; fix it, if necessary, and move on.
PomperaFirpa @Captain Awkward (via awakeforyears)

shakesvillekoolaid:

You don’t owe anyone a platform

realsocialskills:

Two basic facts about the internet:

  1. Unmoderated comment forums are terrible. They get overrun with trolls, low quality content, and off topic remarks.
  2. If you moderate a comment forum, angry people will argue with you and accuse you of censorship

Moderating isn’t censorship. Moderating is…

shakesvillekoolaid said:

On the flip side, excessive moderating can become suffocating and abusive.

realsocialskills said:

That is absolutely true. It’s possible to be bad at moderating, and to over-moderate in ways that hurt people.

The thing is, if you moderate at all, ever, you will be accused of harmful over-moderating, whether or not it is true.

It’s important to continually think through how you are using your moderating powers, whether they are serving your objectives, and whether they are creating a good platform.

Part of the process of thinking through that has to be understanding that it is literally impossible to please everyone and that you will always be criticized no matter what you do.

Part of moderating means deciding which criticisms to pay attention to and which criticisms to ignore.

That social anxiety “are you mad at me” post, I feel what you answered was a manifestation of the problem. We with social anxiety ask/wonder it an inordinate amount, and our friends get angry, thinking we doubt them. That post was not about actual problems, but the guilt complex and fear of “did I do something unknowingly/did they hate that but are trying to help me save face?” Your answer gave me the feeling of “if you even have to ask, you probably DID hurt them.”
realsocialskills said:
It’s definitely the case that some people think that asking if you’re angry a lot is manipulative in and of itself. It isn’t, and that’s important understand. Some people need to ask a lot, because otherwise they can’t tell, and constantly wondering if someone is mad can be excruciating.

It’s ok to need to check in a lot. If you’re really insecure, chances are that when you need to ask, nothing is actually wrong.

Usually, it’s going to be your guilt complex making you feel ashamed for no good reason. But sometimes, when you feel bad, something actually will be wrong.
If you have to ask, it’s because you don’t actually know whether it’s your insecurities or an actual problem.

Most of the time it’s going to be your insecurities. But if you have to ask, then you have to ask sincerely. Which means being open to the possibility that something actually is wrong, and that the answer might really be “Yes, I’m mad at you.”

If you’re not prepared for the answer to “are you mad?” to be “yes, I am mad”, then what you’re doing isn’t really asking - it’s demanding that the other person reassure you that they’re not mad even if they are.

It’s not ok to demand that someone reassure you that they’re not mad, even if the overwhelming probability is that they are not. It’s ok to ask, but it has to be a real question. (And, in practical terms, asking sincerely is more effective at getting meaningful comfort anyway. If you’re not asking a real question, it’s harder to trust the answer you get.)

Anger is an emotion, not a moral blank cheque

hello i have a question, do you know how to deal with someone who hurts and manipulates you and then makes you feel bad about it? like, if they say mean things about/to you and justify it by saying ‘i was angry’ but if you are ever mean to them, they get really mad at you for it and say you’re a terrible person?
realsocialskills said:
I think in that situation, the best thing you can do is get distance so that person can’t keep hurting you like that.
Some people treat anger like a blank cheque that justifies anything they decide to do to you in their rage. Those people are abusers.
Anger is not a justification. Things that are wrong when you’re calm are still wrong when you are angry.
One thing that anger does is lower inhibitions against certain kinds of actions. That can be a good thing, if it makes it feel more ok to protect yourself. It can be a bad thing, it if makes it feel more ok to hurt people who don’t deserve it. It’s easier to make certain kinds of mistakes when you are angry and have lower inhibitions against doing things that might hurt others. We all make mistakes in anger, from time to time. 
But those mistakes *count*; the anger doesn’t cancel out the actions. People who treat their rage as a justification for mistreating you are unlikely to ever start treating you better. If someone still thinks what they did was ok once they’ve calmed down, then they *actually think it was ok* and will do it again next time.
What people say when they’re angry counts. What people say when they’re drunk counts. What people say and think always counts. This is especially true if they are very distressed by the possibility that you’ll judge them for saying mean things, but not at all concerned about the possibility that they hurt you by saying mean things.

If someone calls you a terrible person on a regular basis, assume they mean it. Even if they say they don’t later. Even if they say it was just anger (or alcohol, or stress, or exhaustion.) And keep in mind that friends are people you like who like you, and people who dislike you aren’t friends. 
People who regularly tell you that you are a terrible person are trying to make you feel unworthy of friendship so that you will put up with anything they decide to do to you. If they really thought you were a bad person, they’d be trying to get away from you, not trying to keep you close.
The best thing you can do is distance yourself from this person, and spend time with people who actually like and respect you.

It is not upon you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it

I’ve learned a lot about rape and rape culture from Tumblr, and now I want to start educating people. However, I am quite socially awkward, so I’m not really sure when and how to bring it up appropriately. Also, how do I make sure I don’t overwhelm them when it is the first time I am talking about rape culture to them? Should I arrange a campaign at my high school or should I talk one on one? Also, I don’t want to trigger anyone, how do I do that?

Living with our anger as marginalized or abused people

When you’ve been mistreated for a long time, it can be hard to notice that something is wrong. 

Even if you do know it’s wrong, even if you hate it, even if it makes your life awful, it can be very, very hard to realize that it’s ok to object. It can be hard to be upset or even actually *mind* what’s going on in any active way. (And, if you’re like me, you might feel like the problem is that you’re just too broken, and try to shame yourself into becoming someone else)

And then maybe you finally start to get angry. And maybe you meet other people who are angry about the same thing.

And maybe - you start to say so. You find ways of expressing anger. You say the angry things and you even tell people they’re hurting you and that it’s wrong. And you yell and express yourself in emphatic terms in other ways. And you don’t die. You learn that it is, in fact, actually possible to say these things out loud and actually press the issue and win from time to time. And that even when you lose, you survive.

And at first it’s exhilarating and liberating. Because it gives you really, really important things that you’ve never had before.

But sometimes, for some people, this can lead to a place where most of what you have access to is rage. And.. that’s not a great place to be in either. It’s dramatically better than not being able to get angry and express it, but it’s still pretty horrible.

And, a caveat here. Do not even think of using this post to shame people for their anger, or for the amount of time they spend being angry. People have damn good reason to be angry, and sometimes anger is all you have and it is a terrible, terrible idea to try to stop being angry in those circumstances. Anger is important.

Anger is also exhausting and draining.

And anger is not the only way to be able to say what’s wrong without backing down. It is possible to get to a place where you can do that, *even without being actively enraged*. It’s very, very hard to do that, and it’s not always even remotely possible. But it’s a useful skill to acquire and use sometimes, because it means you can sometimes fight these battles without it costing you as much all the time.

It doesn’t mean you stop getting angry. We all get angry, even enraged, sometimes. Trying to eliminate anger is incredibly destructive. Don’t do that, and don’t pressure others to do that. We need anger. We have reason to be angry. Anger is not a failure.

There are other tools, in addition to anger, that we can use to protect ourselves and fight these battles, for instance:

  • Avoiding or limiting emotional entanglement with toxic or dismissive people
  • Spending time explaining things to people who are worth talking to and actually give a damn
  • Spending time with peers who understand and face the same things, and doing things other than being angry about the things
  • Emphasizing and appreciating the value of people like you, even when everything in your world is trying to tell you not to. (Eg: celebrating your culture, eating your food even when it’s stigmatized, body positivity, supporting businesses run by marginalized people, seeing unique value in the perspectives you have)
  • Saying no to things that hurt you even when you’re calm
  • Telling people that they’re hurting others and need to stop even when you’re not enraged by what they’re doing

These tools do not replace anger, but they are also helpful. And so are others. There are a lot of reasons it’s worthwhile to learn additional approaches, for instance:

  • Anger is expensive. It is not as expensive as seeing yourself as someone who isn’t entitled to anger and suppressing it at all costs, but it is expensive and being angry takes a tole.
  • Anger can center the villains more than the good guys. We have damn good reason to be angry. But, push come to shove, good is more important than evil and sometimes it’s worthwhile to center the worth and lives of our own rather than focusing on those who seek to harm us (we can’t ignore them; this is not about positive thinking or pretending that if we don’t acknowledge evil it will go away or any of that BS. What it’s about is making sure we’re remembering to value the people we’re fighting for)
  • Sometimes anger isn’t as effective as something else could be. (It’s more effective than doing nothing, and it’s absolutely legitimate so don’t even try to use this to tone police people. And sometimes it *is* the most effective available tool. But it is not *always* the most effective approach, and it’s good to have other options sometimes)

This is hard. It is also worthwhile.

Hi. I’m triggered by outbursts of anger and by people being majorly depressed around me. My roommate has outbursts of anger and major depression. Help?
My first thought is that you’re probably not compatible roommates. Living with that person probably means you’re inevitably going to get triggered by them a lot, which isn’t good for either of you.
That said, it might depend on how being triggered works for you:
  • Some people can learn to detect when something is about to become triggering and avert it.
  • It might be possible for you to do things like figure out which kinds of contact with your roommate are triggering, detect when it’s about to happen, and extract yourself
  • For instance, if it’s about seeing facial expressions your roommate makes when they’re angry, it might work to leave the room when things are getting too close to the edge
  • But not everyone’s triggers work this way.
  • It may not be possible to find ways to avoid being triggered while still living with someone who does a lot of triggering things
  • If that’s how it is, it’s not a personal failing, it just means you probably can’t safely live together.
  • Not everyone is compatible, and that’s ok

It also might depend on how often it happens, and what the consequences are:

  • If it’s infrequent, it might be bearable. Depending on how that is for you personally
  • It also depends on what kind of trigger it is, and how you feel about it
  • Like, if it’s the kind of trigger where you have to spend an hour freaking out and convincing yourself that you’re safe, you might decide that that’s bearable
  • It’s totally ok to decide that being regularly triggered in that way is deal-breaking, though. Either is ok, it’s a matter of what you want
  • If it’s the kind of trigger where you spend a week fighting suicidal feelings, it’s probably really important to get out of that living situation as soon as possible

Aside from what to do in the roommate situation, some thoughts about being triggered by anger:

  • Anger is a particularly difficult trigger to deal with
  • Because anger is an inevitable part of just about every relationship ever
  • Sometimes people will be justifiably angry at you, and have a legitimate need to express it
  • And sometimes you have to deal with the thing they’re angry about even though you get triggered by the anger
  • Even though it’s not your fault, even though you can’t avoid getting triggered
  • The underlying thing they’re angry about still has to be dealt with
  • Getting triggered by things people can’t reasonably avoid doing is really awful

Further thoughts about anger:

  • Having to deal with anger sometimes doesn’t mean that you can’t ever avoid it
  • Sometimes people have a legitimate need to express anger about something you’ve done, but most ways you’re likely to encounter anger in your day-to-day life aren’t like that
  • Not all anger has anything to do with you, and when you’re not the person someone is angry at, it’s usually reasonable to avoid engaging with anger
  • For instance, it’s ok if you don’t want people to vent to you when they’re angry at someone else or angry about politics
  • And it’s ok to avoid watching angry movies or following angry blogs
  • Or to block angry bloggers who trigger you, even if they’re good people who you respect
  • Or to use tumblr savior or xkit to block tags etc that are mostly people being angry
  • Or to decide not to spend time with people who get angry with you over minor things
  • Or to decide not to spend time around people who are frequently angry or appear angry much of the time
  • In particular, you might be better off not sharing living space with someone who gets angry a lot

I’m not sure what else to suggest. Do any of y'all have thoughts?

Boundaries without anger

One of the hardest life skills is learning how to assert boundaries without being angry.

People will want you to do all kinds of things that it’s ok for them to want, and ok for you to say no to. It’s important to be able to say no even when you’re not angry or offended.

Some examples:

  • If someone asks you out, it’s ok to say no even if it was ok for the person to ask you
  • It’s ok not to want to answer personal questions, even if they weren’t offensive questions to ask
  • It’s ok to decide not to go to the movies with your friends
  • It’s ok to decide not to take particular job even if it’s a good offer and other people think you should

If you only know how to say no when you’re angry, it’s hard to say no to any of these things. And things like that come up pretty much constantly. 

And if you do become angry and say no to something, it’s hard to keep saying no after you cool down. Especially when the person you got angry at didn’t really do anything wrong. It’s also hard to keep saying no if the person did do something wrong, but not in a way that made your level of anger reasonable.

And even if they did something seriously wrong, it’s not possible to stay angry constantly. If you can’t say no when you’re calm, it’s really hard to protect yourself.

If you can only say no when you’re angry, it makes it really hard to have boundaries. It’s usually easier and more comfortable to allow someone to cross a line than it is to become enraged. Over time, this can get really bad, even if each thing taken by itself wouldn’t have been a big deal.

Anger is important. It has its uses. But it’s important that it not be the only tool you have.

Learning to say no without having to get angry first is hard, but it’s important. 

I know some things about how to learn that skill, but thus far I haven’t been able to put them into words. I’m working on it. Meanwhile, comments would be most welcome.

kazahayakudo asked:

…Do you have any advice for dealing with authority figures who make you really anxious or uncomfortable? My math professor yells really loudly and is really angry almost every class, and it startles and upsets me into not being able to listen to his lecture because I feel scared, but I’m not in a position to ask him to lower his voice. Should I email one of his superiors? I am not sure what to do.

I haven’t found a way to complain to superiors that helps; when I’ve tried it’s usually made things worse. This is not to say that it can’t be done - but I don’t know how, so I can’t tell you how.

The only thing I’ve found that works well is to avoid authority figures who act like that. When I’ve been in school I’ve, as much as possible, selected classes largely on the basis of who was teaching them. I make this a priority because I know that I can learn better from people who treat me well.

I understand that this is not always possible (although, keeping in mind that it’s ok to make it a priority makes it more possible than it might seem if you haven’t approached it that way before).

When it’s not possible to avoid bad authority figures, what I do is avoid interacting with the problematic person as much as possible. In particular, I avoid depending on them. If I need help, I ask someone else. If I can’t understand their lecture, I try to learn out of the book. (Likewise at work. If I have a boss who treats me poorly and obstructs my work, I try to avoid relying on them to get things done.)

That sometimes works. Not always.

One suggestion for your particular situation - might earplugs or headphones be an option to reduce the intrusiveness of his loud voice?