Anger is a natural human emotion. We experience something infuriating and then our heart rate increases, pressure in our arteries rises, we increase production of testosterone, and decrease our levels of cortisol. In other words, we get ready to fight.
But in modern times, there aren’t many situations where fighting is a legitimate option… at least not if we want to avoid being arrested. What’s more, many times we get angry at ideas as opposed to people or things that would even receive our punch.
This all starts with the experience of something that:
- Triggers our sense of right and wrong
- Goes against our sense of justice
- Is contrary to the values we hold
- Represents less than we believe we (and other humans) are capable of
- Takes us back to a time when we experienced personal pain and suffering
Another way to interpret your anger is simply that you care. The trigger for that anger is something you care enough about to feel a human reaction to it. It’s important to you.
Long before we get to that realization of caring, most of us stop short. We arrive at a feeling of powerlessness and forced complacency with an internal dialogue: “That sucks. I hate it. But I can’t do anything about it. Oh well.”
We’re left with anger and despair.
No one forces this on us. We simply accept it and move on. We look for happiness and empowerment in other areas of our lives.
Meanwhile, there’s another option. One that’s used far less often…
The first step to move beyond anger and powerlessness is to develop a true understanding.
It’s the difference between:
“The world is warming at an alarming rate. That sucks. Oh well, I can’t do anything about it.”
“The world is warming at an alarming rate. I wonder why?”
In the second case, we head over to the Google and ask, “Why is the world warming?”
Answer: “Humans.” “Not humans. Natural processes.” “HUMANS!” “NOT HUMANS!!” “You’re an idiot, I hate you.”
So then a few more of us give up.
A select few refuse the childish argument, instead digging deeper to primary sources. They develop a deeper understanding of the issue. They learn to appreciate the nuance of the arguments on both sides. They see the complicated nature of the many potential causes and solutions.
As we become more informed, we start to develop beliefs. Not shallow, us vs. them beliefs, but informed, thoughtful, and nuanced beliefs. The kind that help us form a strong foundation for thoughtful conversation with other well informed friends and family (who, admittedly, can be hard to find).
This is the basis for real change. Proper discourse is possible in a community where people show up to dinner parties with beliefs and opinions backed by foundational knowledge of issues. Conversations about money, politics, and religion avoid the “inevitable” devolution into name calling and interpersonal conflict.
What results is a group of people who have challenged each other to not only understand the issues and form their own beliefs, but also to be challenged by an alternative worldview.
How do we move on from the tyranny of the media-industrial complex and politics fueled by hate and anger?
We use anger as a barometer for identifying the things we care enough about to learn more. We say things like, “Oh, that’s interesting that I’m feeling angry. I wonder why?” We dig deeper. We learn about the issues themselves and not just about the opinions of media outlets. We instigate and participate in discourse with the people we love, even when we come to the table with different beliefs.
Anger is easy, but thoughtful conversation is hard.
But solutions lie in the conversations. Shared vision for the future comes from productive conflict amongst people with different life experience. If we want a better future, it starts here. It starts with you.
Only once we’ve become informed can we take meaningful action to try to solve big, complicated problems. Nobody is holding you back from being the instigator with your friends. So what are you waiting on?