Is innately offended

Emotions: Instructions for use for a feeling: being offended


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1. Occurrence

Mimotso say the parents of the Bara people in Madagascar when their children sulk, mihindrotsy say the Tao on the Taiwanese island of Lan Yu. Your children have learned that they must not react openly and aggressively to punishment by a person of authority, otherwise they may face new anger. That is why they get angry inwardly, are insulted and sulk - like children in Ireland, Namibia or Germany. The same everywhere. Even monkeys reacted offended in an experiment: They stopped playing with their keeper when they were given a disgusting piece of cucumber instead of a sweet grape like their fellows.

Disappointed expectations, attacks on self-esteem, rejection by a valued person: there are many triggers for insulted behavior. It is by no means compulsory, and even rather seldom, that being offended is preceded by an actual insult in the sense of criminal law. It is more likely to be insulted in passing, without intent - a skeptical look at the hairstyle may be enough. And a brother who forgets the phone call for his birthday has no idea what he's doing.

Also, whether someone is quickly offended is not necessarily related to the offense. "Those who have a low self-esteem react more sensitively when they are attacked," says the emotion psychologist Jörg Merten. "Emotionally stable people can react more calmly to degradation, while the unstable try to regulate the attack on their self-worth with offensive anger or with withdrawal and depression."

2. Features

All around the planet, pouters have one thing in common: the great silence. When asked "What's going on?" there may be a short "nothing" - then the conversation ends, regardless of the language. The offended is already on the retreat. The philosopher Alain de Botton describes pouting in his book The course of love as "a mixture of great anger and an equally great desire not to share what one is so angry about". The fact that those affected neither can nor want to explain themselves and their feelings makes dealing with them difficult.

Being offended does not have a clear facial expression. "The whole range of the reaction matrix can come to light, especially anger, sadness and contempt," says Jörg Merten, who studies expression of emotions at the Institute for Facial Expression and Behavior Research in Saarbrücken. Crossing your arms in front of your chest, pushing your lower jaw forward, scowling and turning your shoulder 15 to 20 degrees away from your counterpart - this body language is especially seen in offended children. According to Merten, adults tend to show expressions of contempt, mixed with those of anger: one corner of the mouth is tense and pulls up slightly, the gaze becomes fixed, the eyebrows contract. Often certain facial expressions are not necessary - whoever rushes out of the room without comment does not even need to look contemptuously.

3. Purpose

Emotions have communicative value. The offended signal family, friends or colleagues how to react in order to correspond to the emotion. So why be offended? The psychotherapist Joseph Berke differentiates in his book Why I Hate You and You Hate Me three purposes of being offended. First, someone sulks to get something they don't have or think they don't have. A footballer, for example, who was kicked out of the starting line-up by the coach (for guaranteed non-sporting reasons!) Wants his regular place back. Through the conscious, very manipulative withdrawal, a sulking person wants to get the other person to pay more attention (to which he is entitled!).