Generally those suffering with misophonia feel guilty about the way they think and act when being triggered. We typically reserve the list of powerful emotions discussed in the previous chapter for our worst enemies or times when we’re greatly offended, but people with misophonia regularly direct these responses to those who are closest to them. The ugly miso– emotions are literally jerked out of the misophonic individual when they are being triggered. Additionally, once the fight–or–flight response kicks in, the person may scream, verbally assault, or even push, poke, and shove the person who caused the trigger. If looks could kill, everyone around the misophonic person would be dead! Nearly everyone with misophonia feels a varying degree of guilt after being triggered. Most feel a great deal of guilt because they recognize that their response was out of proportion to what the triggering person did. For example, children are often triggered by a parent, which causes these extreme negative emotions to be directed at their primary attachment figure. One person reported that their trigger person was his stepfather, whom he dearly loved. He was a great man, even his hero. But when riding in the car, the stepdad would chew gum, and suddenly the child experienced nearly every emotion affiliated with misophonia, including wanting to hurt his stepdad. Afterwards, the person felt guilty for wanting to hurt someone, especially someone he loved so dearly. Guilt is also very common for a parent who has a child that triggers them. The love of the parent for the child is inconsistent with the rage felt toward that child for making an innocuous sound like sniffling. Again, guilt follows. Misophonia generally develops to sounds made by someone who spends a lot of time with the misophonic individual. Except in cases where there is an embroiled relationship that is full of conflict, abuse, and contention, the strong miso–emotions are directed toward a loved one, and are inconsistent with the emotional bond with that person. Guilt is common when we act differently than we think we should act, which is why it is such a recurring emotion among individuals with misophonia.
If you have misophonia, have compassion for yourself. Guilt is the feeling a person has when they have intentionally done something wrong. If a child steals candy from the store, then they should feel guilty for doing that. If a sales clerk accidentally gives you five dollars extra in change and you know it, you should feel guilty for keeping the money because you chose to do something that was not honest. But if you get the extra change, only to discover it later, you should not feel guilty because you did not do choose to do something that violates your moral values.
If you have misophonia, you may have horrible feelings toward a loved one; but you are not choosing to have these feelings. These feelings are literally yanked out of you, or imposed on you by your misophonia. They are not really “your” feelings or feelings you have decided to express toward that person. They are an emotional reflex. As previously discussed, a reflex is an involuntary response to a stimulus. In this case, the emotions simply happen as a direct result of being triggered.
Because you are not choosing to have horrible feelings toward a person you love, try replacing your guilt with regret. You don’t want to have such ill feelings about someone after they trigger you, and you regret that you have them. If you want to be tall, but your height is only five feet, then you can regret that you are not taller; but because it is not your choice, guilt would be an inappropriate emotion. So be good to yourself. Beating yourself up and feeling guilty about your miso–emotions doesn’t help in any way. Anything that decreases your feeling of well–being will increase your misophonia. So smile, and realize that at this stage, the extreme miso–emotions are beyond your control.
However, there is hope! You do have a degree of control over how you respond when you have misophonia triggers. These are your coping behaviors. If your coping behaviors (fifth box on the drawing below) are aggressive, then you can and should work to change those. But this change is not easy, and it takes time and concerted effort.
Although difficult, you can (and should) work to manage your coping behaviors by deciding what you want to do when you are triggered. The change may be slow, but keep trying. A good therapist can help you with this. One of the easiest ways of reducing aggressive coping behaviors is to reduce the number of triggers you experience, especially situations where you cannot escape the triggers. I know it sounds like a lot for now, but relax: we will talk more about how to do this in the chapter on misophonia management techniques. For now, I just want you to stop beating yourself up over the things you’ve felt and said as a result of your misophonia, and instead take the time to regret some of your misophonia induced feelings and behaviors.