It was an iconic movie moment when Peter Finch, in Paddy Chayevsky’s movie Network screamed out, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” I wonder how many readers saw that movie when it came out? Or even know of it at all? My question is why is everyone so angry these days over often very trivial things?
Let’s consider things some things/events where anger may be appropriate:
~~ The inept government that has allowed a shutdown
~~ ANY child that goes hungry anywhere in the world
~~ Mass shootings/murders or, for that matter, any senseless violence
~~ Being unemployed for a long time or struggling to find a job
~~ Having a chronic, painful illness
~~ Serious problems with addiction – yourself or loved ones
Now, let’s consider some things when anger may not be appropriate:
~~ Something you read (see comments in my column, Staying Single is NOT Good for Your Kids) hits you the wrong way
~~ A driver cuts you off – not dangerously – but because they’re a lousy driver. It’s annoying, it was sort of close, but it was really not that big a deal
~~ Your Internet connection goes down (for a while)
~~ You lose something like your keys, sunglasses, coat, etc.
~~ Television talk shows, reality shows, or anything with Charlie Sheen
~~ A minor tiff with a family member
~~ Allergies, a runny nose, or a sore throat
Social Media has given the world a forum. Anyone and everyone can express an opinion and do so anonymously if desired. Obviously, anonymity allows a certain freedom to be mean and ugly with no repercussions. But, those comments and writings tend to be mostly ignored or disregarded because of that choice of (anonymous) expression.
It’s when people use words like “hate” to describe something they disagree with or, in the public political sphere, where name-calling is often the norm during heated political discourses, that’s when we as a society are losing our grace, our humanity. How many things really deserve the word, “hate” or the many names politicians call the “other side” when they’re disagreeing?
I suggest, as the lists above illuminate, that more often than not those issues that raise our ire just don’t deserve that attention, let alone the risk of higher blood pressure or simply allowing yourself to then have a bad day. Let’s reserve our ire for things that deserve it.
“Allowing yourself to have a bad day” is in fact, a choice. I often joke that the only thing I control is what I eat for breakfast. Indeed, especially if your married and/or have children, it often seems control is quite elusive. It may be, indeed, but we have full control over our attitude and reactions.
Viktor Frankl wrote about this very thing in his seminal book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” The first half of that book details his ordeal during the Holocaust and how he – truly – had no control over any aspect of his life: whether he ate, slept, lived, or died. The ONLY thing he realized he controlled was his reaction to all he was subjected to. After I read of his extreme nightmare and his revelation that he indeed did have some control, I reflected on my own relatively cushy, easy life and tried to emulate his heroic example.
So, when I get people – my kids included – saying they “HATE” this or that, I find myself laughing inside. Really? You hate your teacher for giving you that assignment? You hate me for writing those words about being single? Is your life so complete and you’ve solved so many of the world’s problems, that this is all that’s left that gets your goat? Wow, lucky YOU!
I talk to myself when I get “in a mood.” I ask myself, “Is this really worth THIS reaction?” More often than not, I end up laughing at myself. Not much in my life merits the word, “Hate” except for some macro issues (world issues – politics – war, etc.).
Consequently, when I do get the occasional angry comment on one of my columns, I usually wonder what is going on in that person’s life to make them so mad and unhappy. Rarely do I take it personally. In fact, most of the times any of us takes something personally, we’re wrong. So often, an angry response is a reflection of the other person’s issues or particular sensitivity to something that has nothing to do with you or me!
Get over yourself is a good motto. My mother often advised me that I should put on a happy face, that no one wants to be around a sourpuss (when’s the last time you read or heard that word?). As usual, she was right. So, the next time you get Mad as Hell, think it over, and I will conjecture you will also laugh at yourself for that over-reaction!
Note: Interesting article on this subject: The Internet Isn’t Making Us Dumb. It’s Making Us Angry.
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