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Monday, April 23, 2012

Top six destructive emotions: Recognizing the signs and symptoms of dysfunctional behavior

I am not an “expert” in psychology, but I have been around the block a few times and have learned a few things about people. I am a keen observer and from my observations, I have noticed that people with the most serious issues often have problems dealing with some or all of the emotions I have listed below.  

On any given day, any one of us can be affected by one or many of these emotions. The point of this post is to explore and recognize some negative emotions and acknowledge that they have the potential to destroy relationships and bring very destructive situations. Having a bad day is one thing, having a bad life is quite another.

It is often human nature to blame others for the ills that befall us. Habitually blaming others or events for character flaws will only serve to prolong the suffering and cause the individual to be in a repetitive cycle of these destructive emotions.  

Owning unhealthy emotions and the problems they can cause is the first step towards correcting the behaviors that accompany them. 

We are all works in progress, but it is important to recognize and address behavioral patterns in order to grow into the best person we can become.

Here are the top six destructive emotions and what they can yield in a person’s life:
1.      Frustration:  I believe that frustration is one of the most destructive of all emotions. I have seen frustration eat away at a person to the point of deep depression and physical illness. Frustration causes a person to question and complain about every aspect of their lives, and it feeds on itself. Frustration can also drive one to many of the other negative and destructive emotions on this list.

Chronic frustration is often caused by personal dissatisfaction with some aspect of the person’s life. Each individual has a responsibility to attend to the issues which are causing them frustration. It is all too easy to try to find blame outside of oneself; but at the end of the day, the frustrated individual needs to take personal responsibility to fixing their own situation and happiness. It isn’t anyone else’s job to fix someone else's life or problems.

Constant negativity is a vicious cycle and is at the heart of most people’s bad attitudes.

2.      Rage: While healthy anger is a good emotion, rage is a dangerous emotion for the person experiencing it and everyone around them. Inability to harness rage is at the heart of many crimes of passion. Dealing with anger in a normal, acceptable manner is entirely different than raging and exploding at people. Road Rage is not a joke, and in many states it is actually illegal.
Rage is an emotion that stems from chronic frustration. It has been scientifically shown that extreme rage can actually cause heart attack or stroke. Irrational and extreme anger is not productive and only leads to serious relationship issues.

Learning to cope and manage anger is a critical part of interpersonal relationships. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of extreme rage will know how terrifying and unsettling it can be.

3.      Jealousy: Most people will experience jealousy at one time or another. It is not unusual or dysfunctional until it becomes obsessive and controlling. There is a difference between feeling jealous when your significant other or spouse seems interested in another person and the point where a person is suspicious, obsessively controlling or imagining unreal or unfounded scenarios.

Another very unhealthy aspect of jealousy is when a person is jealous of the good fortune of others. Often this sort of envy will lead a person to frustration and bitterness. Realizing that others may have more of something doesn’t need to lead to jealousy or envy. If a person is fully actualized and mature, they will be able to accept that there are always going to be people who have more, but there are also people who have less.

Being satisfied with what is doesn’t mean a person has to be happy about it. It simply means that they don’t allow jealousy to gnaw away at them and drive them to a dysfunctional and destructive level of envy. 

Focusing on the things one does have and the good parts of their own life can help to ward off jealousy and unhealthy envy. It is pointless to be concerned with what others have, unless you find a way to have those things that you want in your own life. Strengthening one’s own self-worth and being mindful of the goodness in life can drive away the negativity that jealousy creates.

4.      Bitterness: One of the saddest things in life is seeing or being around a bitter person.  Bitter people are not good company. Their bitterness will drive most people away because just as we respond better to sweet foods, most people prefer to be around sweet people.
No one is sweet all the time. That would be annoying and unrealistic. But if bitterness and its accompanying behaviors are the norm, it is probably best to steer clear of this kind of person. People who have become bitter are usually those who are frustrated, jealous, and unable to accept things that have happened to them in life. That is a choice they have made.

Sadly, bitterness begets more unhappiness because it drives people away and is a self-perpetuating condition. The more bitter a person has become in life, the less love, happiness, or respect they will be able to experience.

5.      Insecurity: There are many reasons why a person becomes insecure. The problem with insecurity is that it eats away at a person’s self-confidence to the point of leading them to many of the other negative emotions on this list.

Insecure people can become bitter, jealous, and frustrated. If a person doesn’t believe in themselves or have a sense of personal security, they can never reach the point of feeling at peace or happy. If you don’t love yourself, how can you love anyone else? Insecurity can create a false persona or fake personality. Pathological insecurity can lead to terrible consequences and impedes self-awareness or improvement.

6.      Entitlement:  We all have come in contact with people who have an air of entitlement, and it is an awful thing to experience. Somehow these people believe that their needs, wants, and desires are more important than everyone else's. Whether it is in the workplace, or family, or acquaintance; dealing with someone who feels that they are the most important person in the room is exhausting and demoralizing.

Toxic bosses are a prime example of the person who feels entitled. Their entitlement causes stress and upset to anyone in their path. You can usually spot the entitled person because their motto in life is basically summed up by this sentence- “It’s all about me!
There are many reasons a person can get this dysfunctional attitude. It is a combination of selfishness, fear, insecurity, and jealousy. Once a person espouses this attitude, it is not easy for them to reform. Usually the best course of action is to minimize contact with such an individual and cut your losses.

Until a person loses their sense of entitlement, it is virtually impossible to form any kind of meaningful or lasting relationship with them, unless you are prepared to cater to their needs at the expense of your own. 


  1. very well written and some insightful information ... thank you!

  2. Thank you for your kind remarks. I am glad you enjoyed it.