Tired of being mean? Tired of being on the receiving end of meanness? The nasty trait produces a lot of unnecessary suffering, both for the person who’s being mean (the “hell of your own meanness,” a character says in Jane Eyre) and for the recipient of the meanness. Meanness is often a compulsive behavior that’s difficult to remedy without deeper insight.
Puzzled by his meanness, a fellow wrote, ”Every time I see a girl I like I always end up being mean to her. I try not to, and I know that I’m doing the wrong thing, but I just can’t help it. I don’t know why. I mean I’m really nice to my friends who I know really well, but to people I’m attracted to I end up being mean. Can someone give me some tips on how to fix that?”
“Tips” or advice won’t usually help that much in resolving an emotional problem such as meanness. Insight is a better tool. Mean people have psychological issues that can be resolved with insight. People who are frequent targets of meanness also have their issues, since unwittingly they can be attracting aggressive behavior from others.
Let’s take a deep breath and dive into the issue, using as an example the situation described by the fellow above. His meanness could be a symptom of his unconscious expectation that he is going to be rejected or seen in a negative light by others. More is at stake for him emotionally when the problem involves a girl he likes. If she sees him in a negative light, he feels the rejection more deeply. Consciously, he wants her to like him. Unconsciously, he likely expects her to reject him or to see him as inadequate or defective. He is psychologically entangled in the feeling of rejection, which means that, even though it’s painful, he’s attached emotionally to rejection or to being seen in a negative light. Instinctively, he feels the need to deny (defend against or cover up) this emotional attachment. By acting mean toward her, he can claim that he caused the rejection to happen: “I’m not looking for the feeling of being rejected—the problem is I get mean and cause it to happen.” Now, however, he feels bad and guilty for being mean. [Read more…]