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At our recent family reunion, I was totally caught off guard by my cousin, who had always been a dear friend.
She acted strangely toward me, and I began wondering if she harbored a secret animosity and was trying to hide that she really didn’t like me anymore.
With my aunt Lisa, who had never liked me, the signs were very clear that she was jealous and nasty in her actions where I was concerned.
But, the same signs weren’t there with my cousin, so why did I feel like a bullseye was strapped to my back each time she looked at me?
A secret animosity can develop over time or manifest quite suddenly if it’s triggered by an event, but the risks of being near someone who secretly hates you are real.
Knowing how to spot the signs of secret animosity is vital to surviving when someone acts nice but wants to stab you in the back. Here’s what you should know and look out for.
What Is Animosity?
While we can’t all like each other—humans tend to be critical beings, after all—feeling like you hate someone or hold ill will for them isn’t the healthy norm.
This ill will, malevolent feelings, and dislike is what is at the heart of animosity. The root word “animus” means to bear ill will, which is exactly what animosity is all about.
When you feel animosity toward someone, you hate them to your core, wish them ill-luck, and you’d cheer if something bad happens to them.
You may not actually take action that endangers the person you hold animosity toward (at least, not if you’re a normal non-psychotic person), but you feel very strongly about how much you dislike them.
Animosity often triggers open signs that you don’t like a person, such as rudely cutting them off when you speak, glaring, staring, swearing at them, smiling when they are in pain or if they fail, and clearly not supporting that person.
It’s never nice when someone doesn’t like you, and they are filled with loathing and hate for you, but if it shows openly, you at least know where you stand with them. The other form of animosity is secret animosity, and this type is way more devious.
What Is Secret Animosity?
Secret animosity is when someone feels jealousy toward you, but instead they pretend to be your friend or that they like you.
It’s typical of that colleague who’s “behind you” all the way but then actually ends up stabbing you in the back, which is usually when you discover they never liked you at all, and they hate you instead.
Secret animosity is ill will that is hidden, not because the person who carries ill will knows it’s not good to have such negative feelings, but rather because they are waiting for you to fail. In fact, they may actually do things that will cause you to fail.
If you’re lucky, the person who bears you ill will won’t break the law and actually use a knife to stab you, but if you’re not, and if that person has other forms of mental illness, they may actually act out their feelings of ill will.
Where animosity that’s known is a pain, and you try to avoid that person, being the object of someone’s secret animosity is dangerous as they usually try to get close to you (and pretend to like you and be your friend).
So with the negativity of jealousy, you also have to deal with feeling betrayed when that person’s ill will becomes known.
Secret animosity is the blow you never see coming, so you can’t take steps to protect yourself from the damage of someone else’s ill will.
Why Secret Animosity Is More Dangerous
Having someone be jealous of you or bear you ill will is never nice, but why is secret animosity more dangerous than publicly knowing someone hates you?
As I hinted, I knew to avoid my jealous aunt Lisa, but I had no idea about my cousin’s change of heart.
While we were chatting at the family weekend, I revealed my plans for a new business venture that I was busy signing with an investor, foolishly trusting her.
She mercilessly got all the information from me that she could, and then, when I least expected it, she stabbed me in the back.
My cousin called my investor, made up a story that put them off my business proposal, and then shared my business idea with her friend who snapped up the idea, leaving me broke and in my regular job. For my cousin, it was the ultimate revenge.
My cousin was secretly jealous because I had always had more attractive and better off boyfriends than her.
She felt left out (when she compared us) and the family never spoke about her much, while I often received praise from everyone for how hard I worked and what successes I’d had.
I never saw her betrayal coming as I didn’t even know she harbored animosity toward me. And this is why secret animosity is worse than regular “hate you in your face” animosity.
Animosity VS Anger
You may think that animosity and anger is the same thing, but they’re not. When you feel animosity, you can also be angry. In fact, animosity often starts as anger that never gets expressed, so it festers and becomes an ingrained dislike of someone.
When you have animosity, nothing will make it stop. Nobody can convince you to let go of the ill will you feel toward someone.
However, anger can fade on its own. When you are angry at someone, the chances are there that an apology or even a bit of time to cool off can make you forgive the other person and move on.
Reasons for Harboring Animosity Against Someone
Now, if you’re not the jealous and vengeful type, you may wonder just what can drive someone to act like my cousin did or even just hate someone publicly (like Aunt Lisa).
But there are a few reasons why someone would begin to hold animosity toward someone, whether it’s public or secret animosity. The reasons are:
11 Warning Signs that Someone Has Secret Animosity Against You
As the name says, it’s “secret” animosity, so it’s hard to spot. It’s not like the person who hates you wears a flashing neon sign. So you often have to look for a combination of signs that hint at the person secretly hating you and wishing ill will.
Most often, the secret animosity will be from someone you know fairly well. Animosity from a stranger can often be picked up as a feeling, but we are blinded to those feelings when it’s coming from someone we love, know, and trust.
1. A Change in Body Language
If you know the person well and notice their body language around you has changed, you should pay attention. The body tells us more than words ever do.
Where they may have been comfortable around you, there could be a change in their attitude that manifests as a sudden physical discomfort when they’re near you.
Perhaps they suddenly cross their arms across their chest when they stand talking with you, which shows self-soothing or defensiveness.
Suddenly crossing their legs away from you when you sit on the sofa together could mean they are avoiding you, and sidelong stares may definitely indicate their feelings about you have become frosty.
Other examples of animus body language include:
2. Genuine Warmth Is Gone
Genuine people are warm, open, and radiate truth. When someone has secret animosity, they no longer radiate warmth.
Instead, they are frigid, mean, and hard. When they look at you, it’s like you can feel the room’s temperature drop.
If they smile at you, there’s no joy or honesty in that smile. Instead, it’s like a predator licking its lips while looking at its prey.
Get a feel for how someone’s “friendliness” thermometer is fairing when around you. Are they warm and happy to see you, or are they blue with malice?
3. They Give Stinging Compliments
When you interact with someone who holds secret animosity toward you, they will choke on a real compliment.
They’d rather chew through their own wrists than really praise you for something. Instead, they’ll compliment but then nullify it with a stinging tail that follows on the compliment. Examples of this:
4. Copycatting Behavior
Envious people tend to copy the person they feel resentful about by assuming their body language and mirroring their behavior.
While it may be flattering if you see someone you know starts dressing in your style, it could also be a sign they are secretly emulating you because they resent you, are boiling with jealousy, and harbor animosity.
5. Bragging and Self-Praise
For some people, it’s normal to change the topic of discussion to how amazing they are when you talk about an accomplishment. Even if you talk about how bad your day has been, theirs was always worse.
Bragging and self-praising themselves is how someone with animosity tries to reassure themselves they are better than you. Their jealousy needs fuel to run on, and trying to one-up you is a way to self-soothe themselves.
6. They Take the Wind Out of Your Sails
You’re really excited about something, like I had been with my business idea, and when you tell the person with secret animosity about your excitement, they really find a way to rain on your parade.
They know just what to say, so you begin to lose interest in your idea, feel like your news isn’t all that great, or that you’re not good enough.
7. Intentional Sabotage
What my cousin did to me is an ideal example of this sign. She intentionally ruined my business idea and changed the course of my life.
Now, while your animosity stalker may not go that far, they could find other ways to ruin your luck.
Perhaps they lose your rings on your wedding day, or they make you extra caffeine-rich cappuccino on the morning of a big presentation (knowing it will give you the jitters).
Whatever their sabotage, it’s aimed at bringing you down, undermining you, and ruining your plans—it’s a knife in the back (and then they buy flowers to cheer you up, right?).
8. Inappropriate Happiness (When You Fail)
It’s normal for us all to fail at some point. Usually, our friends and colleagues mourn with us when we fail, but someone with animosity will show signs of glee. They seem to want you to fail, and they’ll tell everyone how you failed, not caring about your feelings.
9. Feeling Entitled to Your Secrets
“Oh, you can trust me, please let me help.” These words are so typical of someone who has secret animosity toward you.
They pretend to be there to support you, earning your trust, so they can use your secrets against you. To find those secrets, these people ask uncomfortable questions, really digging into your mind.
10. Friendly Feedback
Others may be able to see the animosity that someone holds against you.
They may come and tell you to watch your back, that they noticed the other person was acting strangely, or that they believed the other person to be excessively jealous.
When you hear this, investigate.
Begin looking for other signs of animosity, so you can prepare and take precautions.
11. Rude Over-Talk in Conversations
Finally, when the animosity is about to boil over, a jealous person will shout you down in conversations. They always know best, have the last say, and ignore your attempts to speak quietly. It’s worse than a day on Wall Street’s stock floor.
Final Thoughts on Secret Animosity
If I could choose, I would rather have had Aunt Lisa roast me in public, but it was my cousin, who had secretly fostered animosity against me who really blew me off course.
I had missed the signs of her animosity and her jealousy almost broke my heart. Has someone been jealous of you in the past? Perhaps you feel jealous? These quotes on overcoming jealousy may help.
And if you're looking for more articles about relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 21 Effective Strategies to Stop Interrupting People
- 15 Warning Signs That Your Partner Has Commitment Issues
- 7 Steps to Overcome Insecurities in a Relationship