175: What are you doing with your anger?
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Sometimes in my escapades around the internet, a certain topic will present itself over and over again, and then I know it’s something I need to bring to the podcast/my blog for some discussion. Lately, that topic has been “anger.”
I’ve read some things about how anger is like a drug, as in sometimes the feeling of being angry can give you a high of sorts. It can give you a sense of power that’s somewhat addictive.
I’ve also read some things about “righteous indignation”, and how it comes with the desire to maintain anger, because it makes one feel morally superior. (credit to ZedsGarden on Flote) Meaning, we feel something in the world is wrong, and that’s why we are angry. We feel morally superior to those who aren’t angry, because obviously they just can’t see what’s wrong like we can.
And I think about the anger that I see online and (sometimes) in person, and it started to make some sense to me.
If anger is a drug, and that feeling of power or moral superiority is addictive to you, you want to keep it going. That’s why we have to find something to be angry about. That’s why we have to keep digging until we find something that doesn’t line up with our expectations—so we can be angry.
It’s why we latch on to an article about “something that’s going to happen” and blow it up. It’s why we take half of a headline and push it forward with drama and fear—so we can continue to be angry, and get other people angry.
It’s why people eat up the nightly news. Or the alternative news. Or wherever they get their “nuggets of truth”.
Anger can be like an addictive drug. And even though we say we don’t want it, we can so easily cave to it when it’s offered.
Anger that gets stuff done vs. anger that spins our wheels.
When I posted a discussion about anger on social media, I had a few people who didn’t like what I’d said. I was reminded that anger is good, angry women change the world for better, and there is no shame in anger. I was also accused of telling people to be a doormat and that they should never get mad.
There is a big difference between anger that gets stuff done and anger that spins our wheels. And I think a big chunk of the world is stuck—and has been stuck for a long time—in anger that just spins our wheels. I think that kind of stuck with spinning wheels anger is like a drug. It’s addictive. Anger feeds anger.
But also I also think people get stuck in that kind of anger (especially in today’s culture) because ranting and raving about something is seen as having the right to say what you want to say and so let’s just do that until we’re blue in the face.
Now, I absolutely support free speech, even if I don’t agree with what you’re saying. (Keep in mind you still have to deal with the fall out of what you say.) I’m also a huge fan of being yourself and being honest. So, if you’ve got something to say, that’s great. You’re unhappy about something? Say it.
But, then what?
No, really. Then what?
Because the person who sits in front of the television and screams at what’s going on in the world every day for a month generally won’t have changed anything about anything in that month. Not about their life, not about anyone else’s life, not about anything.
So you’re unhappy. You let us know what made you unhappy.
Your anger is valid. But you have to do something with it.
I grew up as a people pleaser. When I hit my late teens/very early adulthood, I realized that my people pleasing had got me in with some folks and situations that weren’t ideal. Not only was I an extreme people pleaser, I was also someone who thought people who got angry were ridiculous over the top rage monsters, and I wasn’t going to have any part in that.
My problem was that I had to learn that it’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to not like what someone is doing. I also had to learn that nothing changes if you don’t work through it. Nothing changes if you don’t learn to speak your mind in a way that people will (potentially) listen and start pulling apart all the junk to find a solution.
As it turns out, you can be very angry and upset that you’re in a bad relationship. And you can complain and whine and tell your friends and your family and yourself that you’re not happy, but guess what? You’re still in that relationship.
The answer isn’t to just put up and shut up. The answer also isn’t to rage stomp around and destroy the world. The answer is to say what you don’t like and then fix the issue—or leave the relationship.
Is that easy? No. Does it suck. Yeah. But last week, “someone” talked about choosing your own problems. (You should definitely go listen to/read that one.)
Two ends of the spectrum, same lesson
I had to learn that just because someone is speaking their mind about things they’re not happy with, doesn’t mean they are some tyrant monster that just stomps around with a bunch of nonsensical rage.
Oddly enough, in an opposite way, I think a lot of people need to learn that.
Whether you need to learn to speak up (me as an 18 year old) or calm down (cousin George who is frothing at the mouth because his UPS shipment hasn’t arrived), I think a lot of people need a reminder that you can be angry and make sense. You can be unhappy about how something is playing out or how you’ve been treated or decisions that have been made without being an ass. You can voice your opinion and then do something to make changes to the sucky situation.
Anger is unmet expectations. Anger is “I think things should be one way, and they are not that way” whether that is expecting sunshine and getting a blizzard, or expecting there’s 13k in your business account and finding out your partner stole it.
That’s not to say that unmet expectations won’t bring moments of rage. But if those moments of rage and aggression don’t spur you forward to do something, you’re wasting a lot of freaking time and energy that could be used to bring about change.
And that’s my point.
We’ve got a lot of people that are so caught up being angry they’re forgetting to actually do something to change the things that made them angry.
They just want to be angry. It’s like a cycle they can’t break. An addiction they can’t heal.
How does this relate to current times?
Some people would say that at this point in the chaos, we aren’t getting anywhere with just being assertive. They would say that people have drawn their line in the sand, other people have plowed across it, and now the war is on.
I was at a gathering recently where the conversation dissolved into people talking about how the world is going to hell and we need to prepare for it. There was an older gent there, maybe late 70s early 80s, who was very quiet during the conversation. When everyone was done talking, someone asked him, “You’ve been pretty quiet during all of this, what do you think about what’s going on?”
He smiled and took a deep breath. And what he basically told the group was that through history, the world has swung more conservative and then more liberal and back again, and things always correct themselves before swinging back the other way. He said he thought it was important to have survival skills, and be prepared, but that things would correct themselves and then swing the other way again, because “that’s how it always works.”
The thing that was most enticing about his words and his demeanor? He was so calm. He hadn’t bought into the anger and the fury and the panic that’s often disguised as “toughness”. He didn’t disagree that times were sucky, but his vision wasn’t clouded with anger.
Anger clouds your vision
Like a drug.
Entitlement? Disillusionment? Or something else?
Here are a couple things I wonder about that sometimes aren’t appreciated, depending on the crowd I’m sitting in. You can try them on for size and see what you think.
I often wonder if the, this is the worst thing that’s ever happened! The world is going to hell and won’t ever recover! is actually a form of entitlement. Or disillusionment. Or something else.
Another thing I wonder is this: if I were sitting next to someone who had survived the holocaust, and they were looking at us in our comfy houses with our families and a fridge full of food and clean water and warm clothes, and we’re sitting at our computer making memes comparing this to the holocaust, would they nod at us and say “yeah, you’re right! You go!” or would they raise their eyebrow, and roll their eyes, and sigh, and walk away?
Now, I’m speaking as someone in rural central MN. I know that things are different depending on where you live. And I’m not saying that there isn’t crazy, corrupt stuff going on out there. I’m not saying we don’t have big issues to deal with. I’m not saying that at all.
But y’all, this is not the first time in history this has happened.
I think right now is an opportunity to learn. I think right now is an opportunity to prove ourselves. I think there are people who will come out of all this—whether that’s a year from now or a decade from now—really great and some people who will fall into a pit of despair. And both of those people will write this history differently. And I think that’s been the case over and over again in history.
There are absolutely things right now that suck and are hard and are unfair. But we were never guaranteed that they wouldn’t. If someone told you that, they lied. There has never been a guarantee that we’re not going to run into massive issues in our country, or live through a giant historical event. If they are still writing history books in 200 years, this horrible time that we’re living through right now might be a two sentence blip on a page.
How is that for perspective?
Check out the podcast American Shadows. You will be reminded that while the details of what’s going on in our country right now aren’t the same, what we’re dealing with isn’t new. Whether we’re talking about government cover ups, lies, societal issues, crime, or any number of things, it’s not new. That’s all been going on since before America was America.
This chaos and hard times and unfairness? It’s. not. new. And I don’t think it’s special.
The appearance of your anger
Some people are very concerned with what other people think about how much they care, or their response to current events. I can’t tell you the times I’ve heard people say, “If I’m not angry about it, people will think I don’t care.” Or “If I’m not angry about it people will think I’m not paying attention to what’s going on.”
It’s that all or nothing thinking, right? Because you have to either be really upset and seething, or bouncing around all bubbly with your head in the clouds. There’s no in between.
Now, usually when people insinuate “you’re obviously not paying attention because you’re not angry enough,” they mean the angry that is raging, constantly yelling and flinging nasty comments online, not angry and discussing solutions.
But my big question here is this: Why are you letting other people determine your supposed level of care and concern? And why do you care if people think you care or not?
Let’s also be honest about the appearance of anger, especially in current times. We’ve got people who are angry about how things are, and they’re preparing for when it all goes down and the shit hits the fan and the world collapses into hell.
To be sure, they’re gonna be completely awesome badass forces to be reckoned with when that day comes.
But right now? My dudes, what are you doing right now? Because when you spend all your time pissed off about what’s happening right now and put all your effort into Future Day XYZ when it all goes down…y’all.
Anger is a drug. Fear is a drug. And it clouds your vision.
But society is collapsing! Run for the hills!
This is also not the first time “the end is coming” alarm has sounded. Heard of Haley’s comet in 1910? Remember y2K? Remember the end of the Mayan Calendar in 2012? Remember lots of different religious end times/second coming of Christ predictions? There’s been many, many times that giant disasters or the end of the world as we know it or the collapse of civilization has loomed on the horizon.
“Yeah,” people will say, “well this time is different.”
It always is, right?
I mean, I could be wrong, but as far as us being on the edge of the collapse of society, awaiting the apocalypse… I don’t know. Let’s maybe check in with each other in a few years, okay?
I will say that my gut feeling is that if the collapse of society is coming, it’s not gonna look anything like in the movies. There won’t be a single cool thing about it. So don’t worry about googling what your apocalypse outfit will because it will absolutely end up being what you’re wearing right now.
Are you comfy?
Don’t get caught up in the anger that just makes your wheels spin
Don’t let anger suck you in and make you forget about what’s happening right around you, right now. The people in your life. The opportunities that you have. The things within the four walls of your house and the boundaries of your property. All the little and big things that keep happening, no matter what’s going on out there.
The most common comment that I get from new listeners and readers of A Farmish Kind of Life is that they appreciate how I can give hard hitting truths but be so calm. I can talk about stuff without losing my head. To be sure, there are people in this podcasting/blogging/YouTubing space who are much louder and angrier.
Their audience is probably not my audience. And that’s okay.
You can pay attention to what’s going on and not lose your head. You can think of solutions to what’s happening and not lose your head. You can figure out alternative ways to zig and zag without losing your head. To me, productive anger is way more calm than the dude freaking out with veins popping out of his skull over the latest headline. He’s lost his head. And you know what? 9 times out of 10, he’s not changing anything and he’s not helping anything.
What do they tell you if get you get lost in the woods? What’s the first thing to do? Stay calm. When you’re dealing with an emergency, stay calm.
If it all hits the fan, I want to be with people who are calm. And if, in the back of my head, I’m creating my zombie apocalypse team, trust me—I’m watching how you deal with anger and fear. Because if you can’t deal with anger and fear without losing your head, I don’t want you on my team. And if you sit with anger and fear and you’re not using it as something to push you forward, I don’t want you on my team.
Do something with your anger.
Anger isn’t bad. It’s the choices you make because of it that are good or bad. If you take that anger and do something horrible? Bad choice. If you take that anger and let it spin your wheels and breed more anger? Also a bad choice. But if you take that anger and do something productive and make changes to what you believe is wrong? Excellent choice.
I think that’s why we were given the emotion of anger. I think that’s why we are given any emotion. As humans, we have the opportunity to feel. If we don’t do something with those feelings, what’s the point?
But don’t kid yourself that being angry and screaming at the TV or firing off nasty comments online or getting stuck in an endless loop of argument at the holiday dinner is doing anything productive. When you’re given an emotion, feel it and then do something productive with it.
If anger pushes you forward to do something productive, then go on with your badass self. But if anger has sucked you in like a drug and you’re just spinning your wheels while you’re trying to seek out more anger and fear, you’re not climbing over a wall. You’re digging yourself a hole.
And you’re getting nowhere.
So, what are you doing with your anger, frustration, and fear?
Let’s continue the conversation.
Interested in looking at more posts about anger and focusing on solutions? Check out my episodes/posts:
90: When it All Makes You Mad, Who is Really in Charge?
102: Living with a Solutions Based Mindset
127: Participation is Optional
131: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
You can also take a gander at my short video from YouTube:
— Amy Dingmann, 12-14-21
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