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On grouchiness June 3, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Personal.

Grouchiness being an adjectival form of the noun grouch:

  1. A habitually complaining or irritable person.
  2. A grumbling or sulky mood: in a grouch about the long line for tickets.

I have, on more than one occasion, been accused of being the above, most notably definition #1. I will also admit to freely claiming that I am a grouch, or at least can be on many an occasion.

But it just got brought home to me today in a rather public forum that this grouchiness, which I always perceived as being gently irritable, is in fact interpreted by most of humanity surrounding me as being actively angry. Yelling and so forth. Which frankly, I've never perceived myself as being, but maybe this requires re-visiting.

This was brought up publicly, as I said before, in a general spirit of light-heartedness, but it was difficult for me to escape the notion that the person bringing up this point -a person for whom I have tremendous respect- was either consciously or unconsciously chiding me for this curmudgeonly, grouchy, angry exterior. And it gave me pause.

Serious, extended pause, of the type that makes you want to stop and consider if you've been wandering around for the last 20 years with your fly open and you've just now fully realized it. The combination of shame and self-examination is very uncomfortable, to say the very least.

Then leading to another question: If true, exactly how does one go about changing a series of behaviors that have been in place more or less for over 30 years? I've training in counseling psychology, and if a client came to me with this, I'd be daunted in creating a meaningful program of behavioral change.

All I will say in my defense against the notion of being serially angry is this: Such people may exhibit the following symptoms/pathologies:

  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Personality disorders
  • Other mental health problems, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
  • Stroke


I show exactly none of these symptoms, not even the hypertension, for which at my age (let's just say past 39) I am certainly a candidate.

But in the end, the issue is not one of whether or not I am "angry", the issue is one of perception. I apparently am surely seen as angry. . .and with the idea that perception contains at least in some senses reality, I have become bothered by this.

Yet, in attempting in some senses to control this grouchiness in the past, I find myself also limiting my other emotional reactions, both sadness and happiness (laughter) in favor of showing less irritation. A priest whom I often talk to describes my interpersonal skills/personality as akin to a Formula 1 race car; it runs like no other (like when interacting postively, or when happy), but is very finicky, requires constant maintenance and is prone to breaking down easily (get upset easy, show irritation which then offends people). So, among other professions, being a politician is out for me.  I can't shoe cheerfulness all the time.

I am often also referred to as one who wears emotions on my sleeve; you can always tell when I am happy/relaxed, and when something is eating away at me. But if I attempt to control my grouchiness, I end up damping the other, more positive aspects of my personality.

So, I toss the question out there to my limited readership; how DOES one radically alter one's interpersonal skills/reaction to events? Can it even BE done? Is it worth the effort?



1. Shirley - June 3, 2006

My only credentials for speaking here are: I am one of your limited readers, have had much life experience and am married to a man who is reputed to be a grouch–at least a curmudgeon–which by the way is a word I love. Just adore the sound of it.

Yes, I believe you can change your reaction to events. Just do it, while refusing to let your other good qualities be dampened. You speak as a mature, intelligent man, so yes, you can do this. Control your actions; the feelings will follow. And yes, I believe it is worth the effort. Your friends and colleagues will surely appreciate it.

Easy to hand out advise, huh? Here I am, never fastened my peepers on you, never even visited your site before, handing out directions as though I know what I’m doing. I’m just a regular person, and you are the one trained in counseling psychology. Nervy of me, I’d say.

Wish you every blessing.


2. demolition65 - June 3, 2006

Not at all, Shirley. I asked for advice, and you gave it.

Just what I was looking for! 😉

3. brian - June 4, 2006

Hoody, it can be done. It just takes a lot of work. The mind is flexible (for the most part); I’m sure you can train yourself eventually, but it won’t be easy at first.

My dad has some serious interpersonal problems, and I’m trying to help him out. Its like he completely perceives things differently from everyone else, which makes him irritable and over-reactive.

Hmmm…this is an interesting subject. I might post something about it on a blog…

4. She who likes to advise - July 25, 2006

I’m guessing that it is not fun for you to be grouchy. Maybe you can write out a chart of your feelings and then write considered responses to each of those feelings (most of us have some cognitive distortions that can be brought to light this way). You probably will be skeptical, but some of the cognitive exercises in a book by David Burns really help (Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy). Yes, the book is a little corny (and the title probably sets off all your curmudgeonly instincts), but it is based on sound science.

5. demolition65 - July 27, 2006

Thanks, she!

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