This thought-provoking post by Claudia, from lifeofcloud.net. draws connections between mental health and the so-called cancel culture. She suggests that personal trauma or other emotional insecurity contribute to unreasonable demands for the censorship of others. I think there are two key omissions from her argument. People who have been historically discriminated or attacked in their society are understandably and, perhaps, rightfully triggered by their oppressors. Whilst their demands for outright legal censorship may undermine freedom of speech values, their demands not to be belittled or abused in normal interaction, whether in the form of humour or tradition, are completely reasonable.
Secondly, some of the biggest cases of censorship are not offended individuals or groups but corporations and governments that hide evidence to pursue certain policies, sell their products and entrench power. The personalised mental health model of censorship fails to address, perhaps, the most pressing and important issues of corporate and governmental censorship for profit and power. Nonetheless, from the point of view of the individual and building resilience to hearing opposing views and being offended, which is important for any functioning society, I think it has real value.
Are happy people less easily offended or emotionally triggered?
This is the question that arose in my head today. It came into thought because I’m part of an email that recommends “banned books”. They’re not truly banned, but they often look at, are a commentary on, or question the idea of “cancel culture”.
And then I began to reflect on the people closest to me in my life, including my husband and some expat friends I’ve formed over my years in Paris; they are all not easily offended, they all hold an air of, “That really doesn’t bother me at all/Their opinion doesn’t invalidate my experience,”, and they all are anti-”boycott” and anti-“cancel culture” because they don’t see it as a solution to a problem, merely an emotional reaction to a trigger.
And I subsequently began to reflect on people who bully, intimidate, smear, try to control, or otherwise “cancel” people in social spaces, I thought about the admins I spoke about yesterday trying to mold and manipulate the story they want told in “their spaces”, and wondered: Are they truly, undeniably happy?
According to UpJourney who interviewed numerous psychologists (so this is not just one study, but many), people who are easily offended are:
- Overcompensating due to their own moral guilt
- Suffer from anxiety
- Feel invalidated and insecure and seek validation through playing the victim
- Have parents who modeled sensitivity or babied their oversensitivity
- Unable to control their emotions/poor emotional health
- Trying to rewrite a pain from their past
That last point is especially important because it really drives home the point that cancel culture and emotional sensitivities are actually a trigger for unhealed trauma. This is something I made a whole post about on Instagram, in the past. None of the psychologists who were asked for their responses said anything positive about people who are emotionally offended – if a word like “compassion” was used, it was in the sentence “They need your compassion and love,” which means they are lacking it.
This is, quite literally, an answer to my first question. Indeed, yes, happier people are less easily offended or emotionally triggered. Which truly does support the idea that those who are emotionally triggered, supportive of “cancel culture”, or easily offended are, in fact, not happy.
On the page, Emotional Wellness and Behavioral Specialist Kevin R. Strauss, M.E., writes, “People who are easily offended, most likely, have experienced emotional pain in their past, and could have lower overall emotional health. The more easily offended a person is the deeper their emotional pain probably is. Any similar experience can trigger a person emotionally because it reopens a wound or it could be a way of protecting themselves from experiencing again a similar pain from their past.”
This strengthens the position that healed people (people who deal with their trauma) are less likely to be easily offended, and it aligns with what I wrote in my Instagram post, as well.
In an academic paper presented by Frontiers in Psychology, it’s written that: “In social psychology research, the feeling of offense has been viewed so far as typically triggered by a blow to a person’s honor, hence to his/her public “face”; yet this painful emotion, beside nicking the reputation and self-concept of the offended person, is often felt also in interpersonal relationships, that it finally may seriously disrupt. Feeling offended belongs to the so-called “self-conscious emotions” (Lewis, 2008), like shame, guilt, and pride, and like shame and humiliation it is caused by a blow to the person’s image and self-image.”
One of the easiest ways to shift blame when your life is not as you hope (ie. not joyful), is to look at others and isolate them as the reason for this unhappiness. They are not making you happy. They are not responding to (xyz) as you expect them to. Rather than carefully analyzing why you would even need to control the situation/opinion/idea/dialogue, it is much easier to throw out the victimization card of, “I am offended.” But I get it – it’s an attempt to find a little bit of joy in an otherwise emotionally unfulfilling life.
And I’ve been there! When I was in my mid-twenties, having my spiritual awakening, and thinking I was superior to all (while simultaneously completely unfulfilled in life, unhappy in my relationships, and desperately trying to make my personal goals and dreams come true), I, too, was easily offended by so much. I, too, declared myself a feminist killjoy who screamed at everything and everyone in the name of justice.
But it is amazing how that all vanished when I became really, truly happy. And the first step for that was to invest in my healing (and I have completely eliminated my anxiety, depression, and PTSD through this work).
I do not get easily offended. I am not stressed by things I cannot control. I am not bothered by the opinions of others. I am not threatened by the Leftists pushing cancel culture. I am just living, unapologetically myself, living a life that is truly a fairy tale. I have no desire to cater to what makes others more emotionally comfortable if it is also requesting me to be someone I am not.
As a truly happy person, my brain is being consistently fed serotonin and less of the stress hormone cortisol, and, as such, my reactions are less emotional or reactive (offended). According to Very Well Health, a positive mood or a happy life can lead to overall emotional health: negative emotional health was one of the reasons people are easily offended.
My life is truly a beautiful fairy tale, but it is exceptionally beautiful because I am active in carefully selecting what I allow to “infiltrate my emotional space”. I am not stressed by delays, disruptions, disagreements. I am not offended by sarcasm or different opinions. I am not bothered by people who don’t like me, no matter how invalid (or valid) their reasoning may be. I am not moved by the desire to cancel everything that doesn’t align with my interests. I am living my life, my journey, on my own terms.
In addition, happier people are far less consumed by the ego that initiates “I AM OFFENDED” reactions. Happier people are on a path to Alignment, and there is a reason spiritual masters near and far refer to it as Nirvana.
Truly nothing can shake you when you have made it to Nirvana.
Post Scriptum: To anyone (who is easily offended) who may read this and think, “Hypocrite, look you’re so offended you write a whole post about it,” – this is a reflection put into words in my personal space that no one is forced to access or read. I am not pushing my opinion, or ideas, or researched collection of thoughts onto anyone else. You have every right to read this and be offended; but that’s not on me, it’s on you and your own emotional health.
2 December, 2021