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This is one of a series of lesson-4 articles
on satisfying relationships. This article offers perspective on "hostility,"
and proposes effective ways to respond to it in yourself or in another
using anger and frustration constructively
Is significant hostility from - or toward - another person stressing
your life? If so, this article
suggests options for understanding and managing "hostility" effectively.
How would you define hostility (or animosity) to a young
person? How would you illustrate it? If there is a hostile person in your
life, what traits of theirs justifies that label? Would anyone currently
label you as hostile?
Let's say that
hostility is an attitude of scorn (disrespect)
+ rejection + dislike or hatred of one or more people
and a conscious intention to hurt
them. The latter can be covert (like gossip and slander) or
blatant (like verbal or physical fighting or a legal suit). Because
hostility is an emotional reaction between people, it is rarely affected by
logic or "clear thinking." Does this match your experience?
some combative situations (like sports competitions), the opponents can try
to outperform each other ("win"), but they may not be "hostile." In other
combats (like wars), opponents vow to injure, kill, and capture the foe. In
other words, aggression and competition may or may not be
manage hostility in yourself or others, you need to know what causes it.
Let's explore common surface causes, and then the underlying
Surface Causes of Hostility
Picture your favorite hostile person, and see if any of these describe her
S/He feels threatened, humiliated, scorned, ignored, attacked,
manipulated, and/or injured by you and/or someone else;
S/He resents you or another for an imagined or real behavior or attitude
(like superiority, distrust, rejection, dislike, or disrespect);
S/He covets something like your possessions, relationship, traits, social
status, looks, job, family, and may feel "entitled" to them but unable to
S/He feels you have threatened or hurt someone s/he cares for, and s/he
S/He strongly disagrees with key values you hold (like religion, evolution ,
abortion, or bigotry), and resents your disparaging him/her or supporters
S/He feels personally and/or socially rejected (excluded) by you or someone
S/He feels you don't listen to her or him on important matters, and/or you
Can you add other surface causes of hostility and animosity?
Try out the idea that noneof theseare the real sources of a hostile attitude.
surface (secondary) factors are genuine stressors - and they are each symptoms of
Primary Causes of Hostility
1) Typical hostile persons have
inherited significant psychological
from early-childhood neglect, abandonment, and abuse. They don't (want to) know this -
or if they do, they don't know what to do about it.
Psychological wounding typically promotes impulsivity, anger, sarcasm, ignoring
long-tem consequences, disrespect, arguing, selfishness, focus on the past,
envy, entitlement, righteousness, rigidity, superiority, reality
distortions (like denials), bigotry, dishonesty, blame, self-justification,
and an inability to see one's self as half the problem.
2) Typical hostile
people are unaware of effective communication
repeated dynamics like
They are often unaware of
they try to fill their social needs, and how their way often makes things
3) These two
factors combine to promote mutual dislike, disrespect, anddistrust, which powerfully
inhibit effective problem-solving, forgiveness, and genuine co-operation.
these causes seem reasonable to you? can you think of other primary causes
of a hostile attitude?
what can you do with this knowledge?
Manage Your Own Hostility
you suffer outbursts of rage and hostility at times, you have powerful
options to curb those intense feelings. If you don't, read the following as
possible advice to others whose anger and frustration "get the better of
Feeling the need to "get even," get "revenge," "strike back," "not be walked
on," or to "show someone how it feels" happens when one or more of your
ruling subselves think that threatening or hurting someone is the best way
to protect you. That's usually a reactive
Inner Child and/or a
Guardian subself (a "false self") who distrusts your true Self to keep you safe.
guard against acting impulsively and regretting it...
Short term, breathe,
remind yourself you have a wise leader available to manage the situation
(your Self). Firmly tell whatever subselves are giving you the aggressive
thoughts and feelings to STOP! Tell them to stand down and trust you
(your Self) to handle the situation. Expect them to resist, and repeat this
as often as needed.
tr3ue Self is
take time to identify what you feel.
if your subselves feel threatened,
identify what they fear and review your options to reduce the threat;
if they feel angry, explore whether
they're hurt by the other person/s behaviors. Often, hurt follows
scorn, disrespect, and/or rejection;
if subselves feel frustrated,
identify what specific
are being blocked, and evaluate your options. Choose a mutual-respect
attitude, and use these seven
to assert your feelings and needs and handle expected "resistances" from
the other person/s. If you have trouble doing this, a false self
still controls you and/or you need to study Lesson 2.
study and apply
Lesson 1 to
your Self to guide your other subselves in all situations;
study and apply Lesson 2 to upgrade your communication effectiveness - specially your
assertion and empathic listening skills; and...
intentionally evolve and live by a healthy
that uses natural anger and frustration energy to solve problems.
If you know anyone who is ordered to - or chooses to - attend an "anger
management" class, consider giving them a copy of this article. Their class
will probably not teach them Lessons 1 and 2 basics.
thing you can do when you're aware of the primary causes of hostility
Respond Well to Others' Hostility
This brief YouTube video about "difficult people" previews some of what
you're about to read. It mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this Web
site - I've reduced that to seven.
When you're with a hostile adult or child, what do you
usually feel? Common reactions are alertness, annoyance, anxiety, and the need to "calm them
down" - specially if the person has a history of violence. You also may feel
concern ("What's wrong?") and a wish to help.
hostility is directed at you or someone you care about, you may feel
threatened, defensive, reactive, resentful, intimidated, paralyzed, guilty -
and/or hostile yourself. How would you describe your normal reaction
to incoming hostility and aggression? Does your reaction help fill your and
the other person's current needs?
If your true
guiding you, you're most apt to view the other person with
compassion, vs. disrespect. You'll see them a someone who is
unaware thru no fault of their own. That will help you decide calmly how to
best respond. You can learn to...
well, and mentally review your rights to
prepare for any needed assertions;
see that you have a genuine mutual-respect attitude. If you feel
superior or inferior, a false self controls you. You face and body
language will probably conve2y your attitude;
what you need now (e.g. select from the following options, leave, and/or
call for help);
the other person what, specifically, do they need from you now;
to the other person without debating, arguing, or agreeing with them.
This is essential, for otherwise the person's raised
will prevent them from hearing you;
assert any needed limits and consequences calmly and firmly (e.g. "I need you
to lower your voice and take a breath."), and handle expected
resistances with respectful empathic listening.
if you've hurt, misjudged, or offended them;
help and/or leave if the other person is out of control and violent.
If you practice these steps and pay attention to the results, they'll become
automatic. Notice the difference between these true-Self options and common
responses to hostility like raising your voice, threatening, blaming,
insulting, bringing up he past, generalizing ("You always / never...");
name-calling, numbing out, trying to reason, explaining, lecturing,
pleading, crying, whining, giving in, "getting physical," etc.
Think of the last encounter you had with a hostile adult or child. Can you
imagine trying some version of the steps above with her or him? What do you
think would have happened? How would you have felt?
Bottom line - when someone intends to injure you for whatever
reason, you have many ways to respond. The worst thing you can do is "hurt
them back," which amplifies your conflict.
The single most important option to
develop is top
keep your true Self in charhe of your other active
subselves. S/He will know how best to respond!
Did the adults who raised you model and teach you options like these? Are
the young people in your life learning to practice them? If not - who should
Lesson-4 article defines hostility as aggression + a wish to
scare or hurt another other person. It proposes common surface
and primary causes of hostility, and options for managing your own animosity
and reacting productively to someone else's hostile attitudes and actions.