A reader asked:
That social anxiety “are you mad at me” post, I feel what you answered was a manifestation of the problem. We with social anxiety ask/wonder it an inordinate amount, and our friends get angry, thinking we doubt them. That post was not about actual problems, but the guilt complex and fear of “did I do something unknowingly/did they hate that but are trying to help me save face?” Your answer gave me the feeling of “if you even have to ask, you probably DID hurt them.”
It’s definitely the case that some people think that asking if you’re angry a lot is manipulative in and of itself. It isn’t, and that’s important understand. Some people need to ask a lot, because otherwise they can’t tell, and constantly wondering if someone is mad can be excruciating.
It’s ok to need to check in a lot. If you’re really insecure, chances are that when you need to ask, nothing is actually wrong.
Usually, it’s going to be your guilt complex making you feel ashamed for no good reason. But sometimes, when you feel bad, something actually will be wrong.
If you have to ask, it’s because you don’t actually know whether it’s your insecurities or an actual problem.
Most of the time it’s going to be your insecurities. But if you have to ask, then you have to ask sincerely. Which means being open to the possibility that something actually is wrong, and that the answer might really be “Yes, I’m mad at you.”
If you’re not prepared for the answer to “are you mad?” to be “yes, I am mad”, then what you’re doing isn’t really asking – it’s demanding that the other person reassure you that they’re not mad even if they are.
It’s not ok to demand that someone reassure you that they’re not mad, even if the overwhelming probability is that they are not. It’s ok to ask, but it has to be a real question. (And, in practical terms, asking sincerely is more effective at getting meaningful comfort anyway. If you’re not asking a real question, it’s harder to trust the answer you get.)