Introspection is your tool for understanding and shaping your own psychology. Often, your first identification of a feeling is the tip of an iceberg. There is much more work to do before you know what caused the feeling, and can disintegrate any self-defeating beliefs that might be at work. One feeling that is always worth extra introspection is hostility.
Hostility is “a type of projection that directs toward other people the hatred the hostile person feels toward himself.” (Ayn Rand.)
Sometimes this can be confused with the emotion of anger, the feeling you have when you believe someone else has wronged you. But if you learn to recognize the defensive edge to anger that marks some trace of hostility, it is truly important to address it. I would go so far as to say, hostility is the warning bell that shouldn’t be ignored.
Problems in close social relationships create all kinds of emotional issues. And any trace of hostility will undermine your relationship with the other person. It will make you de facto unjust — acting as if you blame the other person for your own mistakes.
But when you notice hostility, you have a major opportunity to understand and eliminate defensiveness. It takes some level of objectivity just to get to the point where you can notice you’re feeling hostile. The next step is the easy one!
When you feel hostile, you know there is an unpleasant fact about yourself that is being covered up. What you need at that moment is some gently ruthless honesty. I say gently ruthless, because you don’t let any toning down of the truth in. But you also don’t allow yourself to blame yourself for feeling the emotions you do. You have no choice over what you feel; your choice is in how you act in response to what you feel. Treating hostility as a learning experience is a highly moral act and you should treat it as such.
The honesty is never as painful as it seems it will be. In fact, when you face the unpleasant fact, you will probably feel a great relief to get it in the open. The truth sets you free — free to do something about whatever that unpleasantness is or was.
When you know what you’re really dealing with, you can do something about it. So, treat hostility as a wonderful opportunity for honesty and growth — and reap the benefits in your close relationships.