How do you handle yourself when something doesn’t go your way? Do you sit with your feelings, process them and move on? Or do you become grumpy, edgy, or angry… and then carry those bad feelings around with you all day?
We all do it, push unrelated emotional stuff on to someone else. Maybe it’s a bad day that we can’t seem to let go or a past hurt we haven’t processed or resolved that continually haunts us. Maybe we’re in a bad mood for no seemingly particular reason. In any instance, our bad feelings can seep into our interactions with others. We end up throwing our emotional mud at someone else.
Here are some “red flags” that you might be throwing mud:
- Have you ever been rude to the person at the coffee kiosk, for no good reason?
- Do you jump online making unfriendly comments to strangers?
- Do you yell at your family when you get home from work?
- Are you passive aggressive–not letting anyone know why you are mad but they surely know that you are?
- Are you verbally, nonverbally and or paraverbally (in tone and pitch) aggressive in interactions with others, even if they haven’t done anything?
- Are you ever just looking for a fight?
If your answer was “yes” to any of those questions, you might be throwing your emotional mud at others. It’s natural, but it’s also a choice.
We have to put mud somewhere
When we feel bad inside we have to do something with those bad feelings. If we haven’t learned how to express our emotions, self regulate, and move through these tough feelings it can really put us in a bad mental space.
When talking about feelings and emotions, I often share examples of young kids’ behaviors because they are so transparent. They haven’t had much time to create internal ways of coping. When they experience uncomfy feelings on the inside they might hit, kick, or bite. They do this because they don’t have the language to talk about their big feelings and they don’t know how to cope with the energy they are feeling inside. They also don’t have the developmental capability of solving their way out of a situation….. like adults can.
What contributes to our mud throwing?
Mud gets displaced for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s “old mud,” or it could be the result of a bad mood, our genetic disposition, how we learned to relate to others, our view of ourselves or something we’re picking up in the toxic online environment.
“Old mud” comes from many sources.
Our mud can come from numerous sources. One can be old mud, which we all have. Past hurts, emotional injuries that we push down so we don’t have to deal with them. But the old mud can rise, get thick and eventually we get stuck in it.
When physical things happen to our body it self repairs. We cut ourselves. It requires a little TLC, some neosporin and a bandaid. But sometimes the injury is bigger and the band aid won’t work. We need more attention to repair. It’s the same thing to heal our emotional wounds.
Past experiences can be like a heavy backpack we carry around. When we feel uncomfy feelings, get triggered or engage in an argument we unzip the backpack and all the contents spill out onto the ground. The old contents in the backpack are muddied with past hurts.
Bad moods rise and fall, sometimes without explanation.
Sometimes we can just be “in a mood”. We all have them and they rise and fall. Grumpiness comes with being human. Commonly the grumpiness is for no apparent reason which can be hard. We humans like an answer to why things are happening but sometimes there isn’t one.
Genetics contribute to our way of being in the world.
Sometimes it’s how we are wired. We all come out a certain way, our nature. We have tendencies of how we deal with our emotions and feelings. And if we don’t recognize our tendencies and learn how to deal or our parents don’t show us the way to healthy expression (nurture), we may end up not knowing how to voice to others what’s really going on for us on the inside.
Moods can be tied to anxiety, depression and or other mental or physical issues. Most think that when people experience anxiety they only show worry or frightfulness and depression that someone is always sad. Not true. Irritability comes along with both conditions.
Relationships affect our emotions, too.
Our ability to safely express our feelings and emotions in our relationships can play a part in our mud throwing. When we can’t truly express how we are feeling our action tendency can default to anger. We can feel like there is a wall we can penetrate to share our hurt. We can feel stuck. Exerting anger is an avenue that we pursue in an effort to push through the mud. BUT it only makes a muddy mess causing more disconnection. When we can’t make progress in our own relationships towards stability we resort to throwing our bad feelings onto others including those closest to us.
Our “view of self” contributes to our emotional state.
During the early years of our life we develop our sense of self. This largely comes from how others respond to us, i.e. our parents. This can be direct responses, verbal and non verbal as well as our perceptions of how others view us. We carry these stories of ourselves and they can become the chatter we hear inside our heads about who we are.
Unfortunately, about 80 percent of our chatter is negative and 90 percent repeats. If you can imagine someone whispering into your ear all day negative comments about you and how that might impact your mood. It can create bad feelings and uncomfortableness causing you to feel on edge. Again, those bad feelings need to go somewhere and we may displace them onto others.
The “online mud bath” fuels bad feelings, too.
Texting, instagram, twitter, snapchat – they’re how we communicate with those close to us and how we often interact with strangers.
Sometimes being online can feel like swimming in one big mud bath. It’s a venue for people to sling mud at each other. It’s so easy to release your anger into the abyss with no face to face interaction or consequences for behaving so badly towards others.
But mud slinging that happens online does have consequences. The mud trickles into our psyche and the slinging feels like an attack. We begin questioning ourselves. Sometimes the unkind words we hear from others become our own negative self-talk that ambushes our self-worth.
It’s not just mud thrown directly at us that has an impact. It’s seeing it thrown everyday all around us. We witness the unkind nature of people and it can be disheartening. The world can feel unsafe. All the negative energy can take a toll, causing a low-level fog of bad feelings we aren’t even aware of and how they can make an impact on us.
Depending on what our youth have access to, or are following, they may be a spectator to this world that feels very unkind. One teen described to me that it doesn’t feel like bullying any more, it just feels like people hating on each other.
I always want to ask those who sling mud online — “What is going on in your life? Are things not going well? What is your payoff for being so cruel to others? Do you know you are throwing your emotional mud at someone else?”
What might another person feel like when we throw mud?
In your close relationships, the person on the receiving end of the mud might be confused. “I asked this same question yesterday and I didn’t get that reaction…” “I am not sure what I did?” “This seems very out of the blue,” or, “This seems like an overreaction to what was happening.”
If you are a regular mud thrower, the people around you most likely feel like they are walking on eggshells. Constantly wondering what they can do to mitigate and please. Feeling a little lost and quickly trying to figure out the puzzle before they get in trouble. This can create a tense environment with high anxiety and disconnection.
Learn to handle mud “in the now.”
One of the most helpful things we can do for ourselves and in our relationships is own our stuff. Own our bad moods, our feelings, actions/behaviors, our history and how that impacts how we think, feel and behave.
To own it you have to be present. Present in your body noticing what energy are you feeling internally and present in your mind listening to what your internal dialogue is chattering about.
AND if you are owning, you’re not blaming.
Become more emotionally mature.
Just like we teach kids non aggressive ways to deal with how they are feeling- we as adults need to do the same. We may not be hitting or using physical aggression but we are pushing our bad feelings onto another. It’s kind of the same.
Ask yourself – “How do I handle myself when things don’t go my way? Do I carry it all day? Do I bring it into my interactions with others? Am I displacing my anger onto someone else? Am I not being upfront about what’s wrong and being passive aggressive towards others? Is there old stuff that I haven’t dealt with that keeps showing up?”
Process the mud instead of throwing it.
In my observation, merely expressing how you’re feeling with someone who simply listens and validates you helps reduce your bad feelings by about 25%. This is because you are processing out loud which helps you organize your thoughts and feelings. You can move through your negative emotions in a healthy way, bringing relief. AND because someone has shown they care by listening, you feel a little less alone in the mud.
Whether it is due to something that has happened recently or something from your past that keeps resurfacing, feeling stuck in the mud never feels good. It can be lonely in the mud and sometimes we want company.
Before you push the send button to message someone – in person or online – PAUSE and think about what’s going on for you.
In the pause, ask yourself questions like these:
- “Am I upset with the person in front of me and expressing my true feelings?”
- “Is there an extra edge to what I am about to say because of something that hasn’t gone my way today?”
- “Are there underlying past injuries?”
- “Am I just throwing my emotional mud and it has nothing to do with the other person, they just happen to be in the line of fire?”
I challenge you to notice when you might be feeling stuck in the mud. Talk about the mud with someone else who will lend an empathetic ear.
Whatever you do, just don’t throw it.