Snapping Happens

Photo by Rupert Affen. Available at

Yesterday, my coworker snapped at me. I was leaving a voice mail for my boss and my colleagues were sitting at the meeting table just outside my cubicle. I heard a silence – and worriedly thought they were listening to my message and how dumb I mu. After I hung up I called out “were you guys listening to me?” My coworker responded with “WHOA, WHOA – you really think everything is about you. PLANET STEF. WHOA.” I felt immediately stupid and small. I replied as nonchalantly as I could, “You just noticed?”

With this particular coworker I feel she interprets my worrying as self-centered. Of course, worrying is in its very nature is self-centered. I think she mistakes the motive of the worrying though – that I don’t think it is “all about me” I am actually genuinely worried and often compulsively so, to the point I find it difficult to stop from voicing baseless and irrational worries.

Following this interaction, as often happens when I’m snapped at a bit hurt and angry. Then I had a thought and it was really one of the first times I’ve had this thought. Kind of like a “snapping happens” thought. Every time I get snapped at in this office or in the outside world, my brain automatically goes through a stunned, shock process. Every time it happens I can’t believe it’s happened. I go through the same emotions of disbelief, feelings of unfairness (“I did not deserve that”), hurt and anger.

What I realized is that maybe it’s not about being tougher and weathering people’s criticism. Maybe it’s about realizing that nobody likes being snapped at. But, it’s going to keep happening – to everybody. It doesn’t say anything bad about me, that I somehow caused this person to snap at me.

In the compassion workshop I attended we talked a lot about “common humanity” which is something people with depression struggle to deal with. When we are depressed we simply believe we are the only ones experiencing this level of pain and that creates a huge isolation. In fact, everyone feels pain – it’s just hard to see that when you are depressed. Similarly being snapped at is an isolating experience if you feel like you’re the only one it happens to.

My takeaway today is: snapping happens!

Photo by Rupert Affen. Available at



I had an appointment with my counselor yesterday. I find the sessions with her helpful. At first, I think I put her off. When we met, she took my belief that cognitive therapy wouldn’t work as a personal judgement against her when it was really about my belief that my mind is broken and I can’t fix it.

Now I think she sees that I am open and hopeful, with heavy doses of pessimistic realism. Yesterday we expounded on a topic we had discussed the week before.

I described to her the difficulty I have with close relationships versus less close relationships. She said something along the lines of “it must be hard to have difficulty connecting with people”. I asked her what she meant, since as far as I’ve been aware I connect with people all the time on a daily basis, I’m very social.

Yesterday I started to understand what she meant. I explained to her when people get angry with me, I feel like it’s the worst thing in the world. And she explained that happens when people have a lack of intrinsic trust with their connections to other people. In other words, if my friend snaps at me, she has betrayed my trust by breaking what I thought was a mutual understanding of cordiality. It feels like a betrayal. Every time someone is angry with me, especially in a close relationship, I feel that they have broken my trust when they snap or behave rudely. My trust in my connection to others is weak.

I think about my relationships with men and how I can never get angry with them because I’m afraid to break the connection we have by doing so. I don’t feel confident enough in our relationship to get angry. It’s also easier for me to befriend people on a superficial level because they are less likely to sever the connection with me as we are still communicating politely.

Now what remains is: How do I learn to trust people so that I feel that my connection to them isn’t so easily broken? 

Photo by Brian Yap available at: