How to stop worrying when someone is mad at you | O'Sullivan advice (2023)

Interpersonal conflict is one of the worst types of stress we encounter. As humans, we strive for social connection. When conflict arises or we are afraid of it, it is normal to experience a range of intense emotions.

In this article, I'll examine real, perceived, and expected conflicts in relationships, how they affect us, and what we can do about it.

External events that cause insecurity in relationships

External events are things that happen outside of us. It is an action of a specific person or an event in our environment. here are some examples:

  • rare contact
  • No response to SMS, email or phone call
  • A person's cold or withdrawn attitude
  • A person who lies or cheats
  • A third party implying that a person is mad at you

Internal events that cause insecurity in relationships

Internal events are everything that happens to us internally. These can be thoughts, emotions or behavior:

  • Random, imaginary scenarios that pop into your mind uncontrollably
  • Worst scenarios that come to mind
  • Play and analyze recent interactions (rumination)
  • Strong emotions: fear, anxiety, sadness
  • Physical sensations: palpitations, sweating, muscle tension

Why distinguish between external and internal events?

Identifying what is causing the insecurity about the relationship is the key to dealing with it.

Often, a trigger is a mixture of external and internal events. They don't happen in isolation from each other: an external event happens to us and we have a specific internal reaction to it.

However, it is not uncommon for the events to be wholly internal: a thought pops into our head, we have an emotional response to it, and our mind connects to it and functions with it.

If it's purely internal, it's usually a clear sign that we have our own business to do. It has nothing to do with the other person(s), even though our focus and blame may be there.

Automatic thoughts: what we have no control over

We have no control over what appears in our brain. The clients I work with are often relieved to hear this, because we can easily relate to our thoughts. That is, we think that what comes to mind is who we are: “Well, it came to mind. it's my brain, so I have to be responsible for creating the thoughts. It is me"

You are not responsible for creating the weird, bizarre, illegal, insane crap that pops into your head. You didn't create it.

And all the garbage that appears is perfectly normal. we all do, we just don't talk about it. Otherwise we wouldn't have friends. That's why we go to therapy.

When we worry, automatic thoughts kick in. Some may be realistic, others are distortions of reality.

Cognitive distortions and relationships

Whether it is an internal or external event that we are dealing with,cognitive distortionsare usually a variable. Cognitive distortions are thought patterns that distort our reality. They are perfectly normal, but they are errors in our thinking.

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Here are a few that often come up when we are concerned about a specific interaction or relationship:

read minds– Our mind convinces us that we know for sure what is going on in another person's mind. For example, a friend makes a certain facial expression and we are convinced that the person is angry with us.

Emotional Thinking– “I am afraid, so there must be a threat.” Just because we're scared doesn't mean there's a real threat. And many times our mind seeks and creates situations that correspond to the inner experience. That means we create problems that don't really exist.

black and white thinking– Our brain loves to put lives into simple boxes: my partner is totally happy with me or totally mad at me. In reality, a situation is rarely all good or all bad. And rarely is a person 100% trustworthy or 100% untrustworthy. Life is full of grey.

catastrophism— Our mind convinces us that the worst possible outcome will occur. "My boyfriend is mad at me and is going to turn everyone against me. Soon I won't have any friends." Catastrophe thoughts are often to blame when we experience anxiety.

personalization- Our minds can blame us for things we are not guilty of. Maybe a friend falls short and we have a thought, "I must have done something. I have to be. In reality, maybe the friend is just having a rough day that has nothing to do with us.

Cognitive distortions should not be punished. You are completely normal. We all experience them.

Trying to stop the thoughts doesn't work.

In 2018, a study was published that looks at thought suppression (i.e. trying to stop certain thoughts) and involuntary "mental time travel", i.e. involuntary thinking about the past or present.

The study found that when people try to get rid of certain thoughts about the future or the past, the thoughts return more often.

This means that when we or someone else tells us, "Stop thinking about it," not only does it not work, it makes it worse.

This is very important with automatic worries and thoughts.

pensive and worrying

Therefore, we establish what we have no control over. So what do we have control over?

When we worry, we are probably meditating.

Dr. Michael Greenberg, a specialist in OCD, defines rumination as follows:

Rumination is making a decision to engage in mental problem solving, which involves analysis, mind checking, mind checking, visualizing, monitoring, and directing your attention to the problem.

However, there is a fundamental difference between reflection and productive problem solving. Productive problem solving means bringing something to your attention and finding a solution to the problem. It's over and over again.

Pondering means thinking about it over and over again without finding a solution.

It's not because you're not smart enough or because you haven't thought about the problem long enough. Is that the problem cannot be solved.

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When we worry that someone is mad at us, we solve a problem that we cannot solve ourselves. The only way to be 100% sure someone isn't mad at you is to look inside their mind. This is impossible.

Be careful when looking for peace of mind

"But I don't have to be a mind reader. I can just ask if they're mad at me."

Maybe, but probably not.

Logically, going straight to the source makes a lot of sense. In reality, however, feeling safe is often a heightened anxiety.

And if you tend to worry a lot about someone getting mad at you, it's probably not the automatic thought or the other person that's the problem. Over which you have no control.

The subject is reflective. That is, the decision to actively deal with the unsolvable problem.

If you tend to worry about relationships, seeking validation is likely to bring you temporary, short-lived relief. But over time, you come back to the same concern: "Is he mad at me?"

Watch and do not participate

So what do we do? We can't stop the thoughts. If we try, it will only make things worse. And we can't answer that question either. Even if we get the answer directly from the source, it doesn't work.

The only other option is to look at our automatic thoughts and opt out.

We observe our thoughts like a passing weather system.

When it's sunny, this is easier. When it comes to a hurricane, the desire to compromise and the need for security are strong.

When we are involved, we refer to what we do simply as “I am committed to caring”.

It's common to go back and forth between being aware, being addicted to our thoughts, and then becoming aware again, being addicted.

The more we become aware of this and the more careful we are to be observers of our thoughts rather than participants, the easier it will be to stay on the observer side in the future.

intentionally go to the worst place

Another exercise that can be helpful is to intentionally aim for the worst possible outcome in your mind.

What if he's mad at me?E?

Well, then maybe he doesn't want to be my friend anymore.. And if that happens, so what?

Well, I'm going to lose my best friend and I'm going to be very sad.And if that happens, so what?

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You're left wondering "so what?" Ask until you get what you want to avoid. What we usually find is that it's something we don't want. But it's also something we can easily survive.

Identify your core belief

We all have certain beliefs about ourselves. It's a narrative we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Core beliefs drive our automatic thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

See this example situation of two different people going through the same event:

Event: Invite John to dinner on Saturday. On Friday night, John sends a short text message: "I can't come tomorrow".

A"I'm bad"Thought:"John is mad at me"
Feeling:fear, sadness
To behave:seek rest
B"I'm adorable"Thought:"I hope John is okay"
Feeling:a little disappointed
To behave:Make plans with another friend.

Same event. Completely different results.

And most of the time this all happens behind the scenes without us noticing. In a way, we are completely out of control and at the mercy of these invisible conduits.

However, we can make them visible and regain control.

One technique you can use yourself is called the down arrow method.

First you start with a situation and realize what the automatic thought is. Take, for example, texting a friend and never replying. The thought "They are angry with me" immediately pops into your head.

Then you ask yourself, "If this is true, what does this mean to me?"

"Well, that means he doesn't like me." So you ask yourself again. "What does that mean if it's true?"

"Well, that means I'm not good enough."

Here we go. You've achieved a core belief: "I'm not good enough."

Why do automatic negative thoughts pop into your mind? Probably because of their core beliefs. Why do you have intense emotions in certain situations? Probably because of their core beliefs.

theoretical link

Attachment theory in psychology states that our early relationships with our caregivers shape the way we relate to others for the rest of our adult lives. This means that we develop internal working models or models of how relationships work.

There are three types of attachments:

  • secure attachment
  • anxious attachment
  • avoidant attachment

A person with a secure attachment style usually believes that people will be there for them. Your relationships are generally consistent and balanced.

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A person with an anxious attachment style fears that other people in their life will abandon them. They often seek reassurance that others love them and are there for them.

An avoidant attachment person believes that others will not be there in times of need. There is distrust and therefore a high motivation to be independent and a general avoidance of putting oneself in situations where one relies on others.

How is this relevant?

It can be helpful to think about which attachment style you might fall into. If fearful attachment sounds like you, this is great information to take with you going forward.

It can be a helpful reminder that security is not the answer, but working on your attachment style and core beliefs is.

Like core beliefs, attachment styles are not set in stone.

Develop your tolerance for uncertainty

Uncertainty is difficult. At the same time, the pursuit of certainty is like a drug. It's never enough.

Building your tolerance for insecurity is like building muscle. It takes time and consistency.

It also requires practicing awareness and intention.

Be aware of your need to seek rest. And try not to give in. Instead, label your urgency: “I want security. I know where this is going."

By simply naming our self-talk and impulses, we move into the logical parts of our brain, where we control our impulses, and out of the emotional part, where we have little control.

Also, practice developing different perspectives on situations. Make it a game to see how many alternatives you can come up with that contradict your core belief:

  • "Yes, John might be mad at me, but there are other possibilities."
  • "He might be too busy"
  • "She could have had a family emergency"
  • "Maybe his girlfriend broke up with him"
  • "Maybe someone else took her phone and texted her"

This is helpful because it shifts our focus from trying to gain certainty to automatic negative thoughts that validate our core beliefs. By doing this regularly, our brain learns that it can face intense emotions head-on.

We trade short-term relief for long-term gains.


Bretherton, I. (1992). As Origens da Teoria do Apego: John Bowlby e Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28(5), 759-775.

Clark, G.I., Rock, A.J., Clark, L.H., & Murray-Lyon, K. (2020). Attachment, preoccupation and affirmation seeking in adults: investigating the role of uncertainty intolerance.clinical psychologist, 24(3), 294-305. doi:10.1111/cp.12218

Del Palacio-González, A., & Berntsen, D. (2018). The tendency to experience involuntary mental time travel into the past and the future is strongly associated with thought suppression: an exploratory study.psychological research, 83(4), 788-804. doi:10.1007/s00426-018-1132-2

(Video) Worried or Anxious? Remember These 4 Things | Sadhguru

Greenberg, M. (October 20, 2020). Meaning of rumination. Retrieved on March 27, 2021 from

Riaz, A. and Jamil, K. (2020, July). Only love can make things work: a case study in CBT and interpersonal therapy. InTechnium Conference(Bd. 5, S. 18-07).

Sally Planalp, James M. Honeycutt, Events that Increase Insecurity in Personal Relationships,Human communication research, Volume 11, Number 4, June 1985, pages 593–604,


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