In Spite of Everything

What can I do to stop being spiteful?

To spite someone is to intentionally annoy, hurt or upset them even where there may be no apparent gain, or even where the spiteful actions may cause actual harm. For psychotherapists spite is viewed as a form of self-harm based on a series of negative interactions. This is often related to anger and to withdrawal.

Spite has a negative impact on our relations with those we are spiteful towards. Being spiteful stops us from enjoying ourselves by preventing us having the positive actions we may desire or even crave. This means that spite is corrosive. It will corrode your relationships and lead to superficial or plastic interactions.

There are a number of reasons why you may feel spiteful:
You may feel they have wronged you and want to get back at them – revenge. You may resent the person while being afraid of being open and honest with them. You may feel it is too difficult to talk openly and honestly to them about you’re your feelings. This may be because they are closed, indifferent, hostile, aggressive or abusive. You may be scared to confront them directly. Or you may feel that you are in the wrong and you don’t want to admit this or be held accountable for the consequences of your actions.

Psychotherapy can help you to explore what motivates your spiteful actions. People may come to be spiteful because of their childhood. An overbearing parent or a school bully may have left you feeling that you have no other option than to be spiteful towards them. People may choose to be spiteful because of their position at work. You may be having bad experiences with your colleagues such as arguments about milk, sugar, coffee and tea. You may hold someone to be not pulling their weight, swinging the lead or sucking up to the boss. These may all produce negative thoughts and lead to spiteful actions. And then there are managers or other authority figures who may put their own needs before yours, take credit for your work or regard your time as their own.

Psychotherapy can help you to find a more reasonable and productive course of action. Talking to a psychotherapist can allow you to voice different, possibly shameful yet genuine feelings and thoughts. Talking to a psychotherapist can allow you to work through issues that you don’t want to share with those close to you such as your life partner or those with power over you such as your line manager.

Your psychotherapist will evaluate your circumstances and help you to address your issues by going to the roots of your unhelpful behaviours. Your psychotherapist will help you to understand why you are behaving in these damaging ways. They will suggest strategies to help you change and adopt positive behaviours. One such strategy is to keep a journal that sets down your hurts, your anger and even your shame in words and pictures. Over time you will learn to be assertive in appropriate and effective ways. In this way you need never be spiteful again.