Anger Management

Insdie Out Anger

I have a temper. I suspect it’s inherited; I offer a tip of the hat to dear old dad.

Being uncomfortable with confrontation, I try to control the impulse to explode. This isn’t always helpful as it produces a surly muttering version of me. So when I need to yell, I yell—in my room or in the car. In private.

As someone whose temper sometimes flares, I work very hard not to employ anger as a weapon. Mine is more about frustration anyway. Common irritants include lousy customer service, my aching back, challenging bureaucracy, bouts of loneliness and the rise of dis- and misinformation. Hard to blame any one person for all those feelings.

I’ve been reading about American anger, especially as it applies to the electorate. You know the mantra: We feel insecure. We live in unpredictable, scary times. Oh, and don’t try telling anyone it’s always been this way. People have short memories as well as short fuses.

What bothers me is so much voter anger is fueled by massive quantities of misinformation and significant misdirection. Too many people are led to believe “X” is both important and true or, maybe worse, they don’t care if it’s true because it feels significant. They are willing to direct their fury at identified bogeymen because it’s both easier and emotionally satisfying.

Look: Politics in America have always been nasty and voters have often fallen for dirty tricks. Nothing new. During the 1828 Presidential campaign, the accusations about John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson (mostly Jackson) included murder, adultery, corruption and sex for hire. Adams was horrified at the tenor of the stories and avoided the dirt. Jackson, angered by charges against him, eagerly participated. Jackson won.

Anger in politics? Also not new. Hitler’s rise to power was built on his ability to foment anger by identifying the supposed villains who had robbed the German people of greatness. Mideast politics seem to be a cycle of repression, anger, change and repression.

Not new but still depressing in America in 2016. Those of us who believe in evolution keep hoping human beings have progressed. Imagine a world where people demonstrate a willingness to come together to create practical solutions to difficult problems. Now imagine a world where the worst of humankind keeps triumphing over the best. Which world do you want?

Anger can unite. It can encourage action. It can bring about change. It can also incite violence or bring people under the sway of a charismatic demagogue. Public anger can turn on a dime, which is why we must take care to manage it carefully.

angry bird

About Nikki

Author of non-fiction books HOPE IN SMALL DOSES and BECAUSE I SAY SO as well as numerous published essays. Her new novel, THE FORMER ASSASSIN, is due out January 2018.
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11 Responses to Anger Management

  1. maria heng says:

    An important message when clarity is our best hope, and manufactured anger the fire that burns the bridge to it.

  2. Lezlie Bishop says:

    There are two kinds of anger when it comes to political matters: Well-reasoned frustration with policies of the day is one. The other is manufactured anger that results from unscrupulous politicians and their minions deliberately and strategically manipulating a population that, for whatever reason, is willing to buy all their lies. The latter is the reason a “career” in politics for me was about as palatable as shoveling manure.

    • Nikki says:

      “Manufactured anger” is the danger we’re facing. And too bad about your feelings about a career in politics, Lezlie. Some of us were willing to support your candidacy.

  3. Steve Gorelick says:

    Nikki: Your finger right on the pulse, as usual. And with style!

    I know I didn’t make this up, but I seem to wake up each morning thinking of the dumb phrase “The Age of Rage.”

    Rage has become a valuable commodity. It attracts audiences, it converts voters,and and sells products. Everyone is sick and tired of “something.” Even more, the very act of being sick and tired of something is seen a path to joy, tranquility. Rage focuses. Rage energizes. Rage feels like action.

    What kills me is that it almost doesn’t seem to matter to people what that “something is. The rage is the thing, the joy of being pissed off at that whatever that can stand in for everything that’s ever bothered you, every person who ever did you wrong. I had a great aunt — gone for many years — who actually called this the “Those Bastards” theory of history. From the smog over southern California to the person who cut in line at the supermarket checkout, from shoplifting to genocide, it was always “those bastards” who were to blame. And on the rare occasion when some good came to this bastard-filled world, that was always thanks to “they.” “They cured illnesses, they found your car keys, and they finally put a traffic light at that busy intersection.

    Sometimes this all leads me to an incredibly sad conclusion: The 133rd psalm reminds us “how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Too often I see a world in which people never seem as unified and close to each other as when they are dwelling together in hate.

    When we look to grievances as a salve for our discontent, we are in deep poo, no?

    Great, provocative post.


    PS Please feel free not to post given the expletives. It’s just that “I’m sick and tired and can’t take it anymore.”

  4. Emily Conyngham says:

    Well written, Nikki. I agree, and feel that the media, as Richard says, fuels anger, all emotions really, to sell their product. Information has a lower rate of return.

  5. Richard Brown says:

    There was a time when we were taught, “Never talk about politics and religion.” There was a good reason for it. Now, in our social media / cable news / always connected age, we do nothing BUT talk about religion and politics, any difference of opinion is not a disagreement but a character flaw, our outrage buttons are constantly pushed, and we are always conscious of bad news, like a toothache that won’t stop throbbing. Yet somehow, when I turn off devices and interact with people in the “real” world, I find myself calmer and more conciliatory.

  6. David McClain says:

    I love history and if there is one thing I have learned in a lifetime of studying history is that nations, no matter how advanced or backward, reach a point in their history where anger, resentment of injustices real or imagined, reach such a point that they boil over into violence on a grand scale. After all the killing is done and the anger and resentment is spent then the nation, if they are lucky, will pick up the pieces and start again. I believe we are fast approaching that point. I honestly believe that sometime within the next five to ten years this country of our is going to unravel in an orgy of bloodshed brought about with the help of unscrupulous politicians bent on fanning the anger of the people for their own ends.

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