How to Get Over the Bad Habit of Feeling Offended

27 October, 2020
Have you ever reacted disproportionately to someone else's words or actions? Feeling offended occurs when the primitive brain takes over. So what can you do to get over it?

Some people feel offended by everything. Who hasn’t reacted disproportionately to something that wasn’t important at least once? Why does this happen? What makes you go after “the enemy” who says things you don’t like?

For some reason, people’s judgment becomes clouded under certain circumstances and the most primitive and emotional brain takes over. You’re aware you’ve exaggerated your interpretation of the facts if you think about it logically. Thus, why can’t you control yourself in a given moment?

The habit of feeling offended can cause a lot of pain. It makes you believe that others just want to hurt, humiliate, or underestimate you. Thus, you remain in a constant state of alert. In addition, this extreme sensitivity affects your interpersonal relationships. It either makes them tense, breaks them, or just makes them miserable for all involved. So what can you do about it?

A distressed woman.

Feeling offended

Under no circumstances should you allow anyone to harm or disrespect you. In fact, there are many situations in which there’s indeed an insult or aggression. Thus, it’s logical and even healthy to become defensive and defend your integrity. However, there are many instances in which a person has no intention to offend you. Thus, you must learn when not to overreact.

Main factors

These variables may explain your oversensitivity:

  • Childhood injuries. Everyone experiences situations that leave a mark during the first years of life. Lise Bourbeau describes five wounds in her work. This is why the memories and the pain resurface and magnify a given situation in which someone touches a wound that hasn’t healed. You’re not really offended by what someone did or told you; they only awakened the old pain in your memory.
  • Lack of self-esteem. People who are easy to offend have low self-esteem. Their inner feelings of inferiority lead them to try to hide it by all means. Thus, their defensive and fragile self-esteem can’t stand an attack, even if it isn’t real. They’d be exposed otherwise.
  • Rigidity. Characteristics such as cognitive inflexibility or dichotomous thinking offend some people. Those who feel others should be and act a certain way often misinterpret anything these do or say. They’ll take offense to a silly joke when they believe it’s inappropriate to react with a sense of humor.
  • Habit. Repeating a behavior or thought pattern only increases the likelihood it’ll repeat again. Repetition strengthens the associated neural connections and certain reactions become automatic. Thus, being offended may already be ingrained in some people and it’s difficult for them to find other cognitive pathways to interpret information with.
A man trying to console a woman.

How to stop feeling offended

The main thing you need to understand is that nobody can offend you unless you give them permission to do so. This is because you can’t control how others speak or behave. Thus, you only have control over the way you react. Thus, don’t jump at their throats and basically be picky about what you find truly offensive.

Obviously, some attacks are clearly intentional and even harmful. Still, be assertive and respectfully defend your rights. Walk away from that relationship if you have to but not before analyzing the veracity of your interpretation. Do your best to perceive what’s happening through a lens other than that of your wounds and shortcomings.

Thus, get out of the habit of feeling offended; get used to looking for and using other cognitive pathways. Don’t make assumptions and ask questions instead. Often, your sensitivity leads you to expect the worst and to see negative intentions where there aren’t any.

Be more flexible about how you interpret what others say or do during their interactions with you to avoid conflict. It’ll improve your interpersonal relationships and even your mental health. Try it out! Peace of mind is always healthier than being right.

  • Bourbeau, L. (2011). Las cinco heridas que impiden ser uno mismo. OB STARE.
  • Aguilar-Morales, J. E., & Vargas-Mendoza, J. E. (2010). Comunicación asertiva. Network de Psicología Organizacional. México: Asociación Oaxaqueña de Psicología AC.