Posts tagged: neuroticism

Are Some People Angry and Bitter by Nature?

One thing I’ve learned in observing failed attempts at reconciliation is that some people just don’t want to be reconciled with others. They would rather remain angry with them, or worse, to be bitter and contemptuous towards them.

I find it easy to be angry and bitter with others; and I experience contempt regularly. But I am exhausted by these feelings. I’ve rather not have them; they drag down my soul.

But I’ve realized that not everyone is this way. And I wonder whether it is just a feature of the psychology of some people that they naturally experience negative emotions towards others. They just default to being angry, bitter, or contemptuous, and they have to work hard to get out of those states. I think many people find setting angry, bitterness, and contempt aside as a greater burden than letting those feelings continue.

Typically I think that people feel these negative emotions because of some kind of pain they have experienced, and that healing is too much to bear or perhaps it is impossible to address the original cause because the people who caused those feelings is out of the person’s life. And perhaps in the meanwhile these emotional states start to feel natural. People internalize anger, bitterness, and contempt so much that it becomes part of their identity, perhaps even a central part of their careers.

So the negative emotions aren’t natural; they have environmental causes, such that very few people experience those emotions unprovoked.

But I think my worldview has been too rosy on the matter. I’m now tempted by the view that some people are by nature extremely receptive to these negative attitudes.

One of the big five personality traits is neuroticism, and neuroticism tends to give rise to lots of negative emotions. Most people don’t feel these emotions by default, but people high in neuroticism are easily pushed into those negative emotional states. So while they are always angry, bitter, and contemptuous, there really are environmental causes, and without those causes, they wouldn’t have those emotional states. That means when you meet someone high in neuroticism whose environmental contains routine provocations, they will just seem angry, bitter, and contemptuous all the time.

So maybe habitually angry and bitter people are high in neuroticism and their social environment constantly provokes them into negative emotional states.

But what’s your experience? Do you know people who are just angry and bitter and hateful people? Or do you generally suppose that they have been hurt, such that almost no one is naturally in an angry or bitter state?