Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.
I can imagine how frustrating and distressing this situation must be for you. Your question is very evocative that there is so much behind the simple few words you write. I will try to give you an answer that touches on why most people who find themselves defending themselves angrily and compulsively do so in spite of themselves. My answer is based both on my training as well as my experience working with people who are so frustrated with this problem.
And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. Taking offense by lashing out at others often feels like it is obsessive. But it's most often not so much an obsessive disorder as it is a problem of self-worth and self-image.
Interestingly, I just finished a few months ago working with a man in my office who came with this exact problem to therapy! In his case it was this need my client had to create an image of competence and of being right. What do I mean?
If you look "as a psychologist would" at the act of lashing out at what feels like an offense, you will see that in a case like my client's, every such action has one of a number of common purposes: anger at criticism, feeling of disappointment that one may not look good in someone else's eyes, feeling secretly that one may have been "exposed", etc. See the problem that is emerging here?
That problem is one of not feeling able within himself to make himself be the person he wants others to believe he is. That was my client's situation. Yes, it's a self worth problem. And it does most often relate to one's childhood and youth experiences. In fact, my client was bullied (not sexually) very much in middle and high school.
I can't recommend the things we did in therapy because you're not in my office in therapy. Though therapy might be something you might consider to undertake. But let me suggest some things you can do on your own as well. Here's the first:
Take some time and feel what you feel when you feel the flush of anger and the need to lash out. You have to get familiar with that feeling and need. And when you feel that feeling in front of someone who you feel did something to offend you, you need to tell yourself to hold on and not speak. To take a minute, a full minute if you need, and breathe and not do the automatic lashing out to make yourself feel better. Just that. Get to know the feeling and then not make the lashing out automatic. Take a breath first and choose how you want to answer. This self help step is very powerful if you do it faithfully.
The second step is a self-worth building exercise for self help:
And in our society the best tools we have for popular consumption when it comes to confidence in self and building self worth is the motivational speakers. Here's a simple YouTube search I put together on "motivational speakers":
Some like Tony Robbins are the classic big guys. Some are newer. There are now wonderful women speakers as well. There are now great women speakers as well if you're interested as well. Watch them all. Get inspired. Buy a book or two. Here are some possibilities, but they are only suggestions as there are so many good ones.
The first book is the father of all these type of books. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. There are classes in these books now! It was written in the 1930s and still has something to say to us today that is very worthwhile.
I think very highly of the second book on my list, which is a real classic: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It is the book that has helped more people than probably any other.
The third book is by Anthony Robbins. He's one of those speakers who fills up huge auditoriums. For a reason. He's a terrific speaker and writer. The particular book (if you like it, try his others): Awaken the Giant Within.
Okay, I wish you the very best!
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