Are You Normal or Nuts? 2013 Edition

Calling all neurotics, paranoids, and phobics! Our panel of experts says you might not be as loony as you think in this fan-favorite feature.

Are You Normal or Nuts?
Illustration by Serge Bloch

The query: Why do I get so angry in an elevator when someone presses the button that I’ve already pressed?

The verdict: All too normal.

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“What, I didn’t press the button correctly?”

“Seriously, do you think pressing it again is going to make the elevator come faster?”

“Pressing the button—what a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that?”

As you watch someone act as if he’s got the only functioning brain cells left on the planet, “Sarcastic remarks go through your head,” says Judi Cinéas, a therapist in Palm Beach, Florida. Those silent screams reflect a very normal reaction to being dissed.

What’s wrong here is the idea that you were dissed. Most likely, says psychologist Michael Woodward, “it was a mindless action” on the button presser’s part—sheer habit. The guy wasn’t dissing you, because he wasn’t even thinking about you.

“When we sit around thinking that everything everyone does is an affront to us, that’s the problem,” says Woodward.

A little self-centeredness is completely normal, shrinks agree. And it’s especially understandable in the elevator-button scenario, because you’re going to be stuck in close proximity to the very person disregarding you. But, says Cinéas, if you get to what might be called the Larry David Syndrome, where you’re raging against almost everyone you encounter, “you may have some issues going on. It could be too much self-esteem, or too little.” Too much and everything’s all about you. (It’s not.) Too little and you feel invisible. (You’re not.)

The solution? Well, this is not from any reputable source, and it may be petty, but I’d say in the elevator situation, you should press the button again, right in front of the fellow. Take that!

Next: What it means if you get the urge to slap people in the middle of a conversation.

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