We’ve all felt it, anger, simmering or raging inside us. We have experienced it, at the hands of parents, partners, friends, teachers, colleagues, bosses, strangers, you name it. Most of us do almost anything to avoid it, to risk confrontation with another angry person or our angry self. Some of us can’t control it; they have so-called anger issues like Jake the Muss.
Generally, anger is perceived as a negative and even destructive emotion. Daily events that make us angry, e.g. the angry driver who cuts us off on the motorway and gives us the finger, are quickly and all too easily neutralised by going on-line and watching a ‘healthy’ dose of fluffy kittens (no offence to Mort) or smiling babies on social media or a violent movie in which the ‘good’ girl/guy (with whom we inevitably identify) always comes out on top. Suffice to say that this is often helped with a drink or some other mind-altering substance, i.e. self-medicating to de-stress. Life may not be perfect but it is tolerable this way, right?
Given that we have been brought up to treat anger with suspicion and fear even and thus something to be avoided, it comes as no surprise that many people have no idea how to deal with their own anger let alone that of others. Politicians are no exception. In fact, an angry politician is a bad or at least ineffective politician (e.g. “angry Andy”) because he or she is less rational and thus inferior because the thinking process and decision making is contaminated with/by emotions. Keep your emotions under control or even better, keep them out of the political process altogether, seems to be the dogma.
This perception of the role of anger in politics was confirmed again in a recent short discussion thread here on TS. Luckily, one commenter argued the opposite, that anger can be a catalyst for change. Indeed, anger can be a very powerful energy when harnessed and channelled appropriately. In fact, I’d argue that there’s not enough political anger in New Zealand. Instead, we have an apathetic populace and electorate and we have politicians who tippy-toe around the voters in fear of upsetting anybody and least of all the business community.
Anger can be an excellent motivator for action, e.g. when one is faced with an injustice be it a personal or social one. Instead of whinging & whining, moaning & complaining, criticising & ridiculing, we can all become activists in our own right to make this a better world, for ourselves and for others.
But here’s the thing, it is essential that our anger does not get its own voice. Rather, we need to get a handle on it and integrate into everything we think, say and do. And this is not a small task! The PC brigade is lurking around every corner. We must not upset anybody and even provide safe havens in universities for the precious little snowflakes who cannot handle too much human emotion on display. The latest fad on show on Netflix is the MMA (Mind Martial Art) of Tae Kondo which goes by the motto “Don’t be angry, be tidy”. The presumption is, I assume, that a tidy organized outer life with everything folded neatly away in tiny boxes in drawers leads to a serene peaceful inner life of joy and happiness. Hardly the world in which our raw emotions try to turn us into a raging Hulk in a blink of an eye.
This is nothing new but seems to come more to the fore around this time of the year when people feel (more) inclined to reflect and plan (dream) for the future. Yes, weed out harmful and (self-) damaging ideas but do not pretend you can or should throw away the negative stuff inside your head. There is no way we can shove the stuff we don’t like about ourselves in a rubbish bin or a drawer in the basement or attic and throw away the key thinking (hoping) that we’ll never have to deal with it again. The human psyche doesn’t work this way, apparently, and we would deny a large part of ourselves and stymie our psychological growth and development. Sweat the small stuff, it doesn’t matter how trivial it seems. If it helps us realise that there are no inner demons other than (only!) our shadow side then it becomes a very valuable thing or experience indeed.
However, there’s a more dangerous and sinister problem with not facing up to our ‘negative’ side. Some people are very good finding those messy drawers hidden in the basements of our psyche and they can use the contents to exploit our weakness and play us like a fiddle. Think of it like a computer hack in which the hacker can, in some cases, gain full control of your device, sometimes even without you realising it. Such people used to be called demagogues but nowadays they are most commonly called and known as populists.
We and politicians alike should face up (or down) to the side of ourselves we’d rather not know and use it to our advance. The energy that becomes available, instead of being used to keep the lid on our shadow side firmly down & closed, can be used to accomplish much-needed action for change. We will also gain a better understanding and appreciation of another person’s drive and passion and we will be better able to build bridges, find common ground, and collaborate instead of staying polarised and being defensive and competitive at the same time.
So, when you are angry, do not count till 10, but look inside and dig deep to find the origin of this anger, become aware and conscious of it. Then embrace it and make it your tool, your Stormbreaker so to speak, which only you can control. Alternatively, stick with the status quo and live long and prosper.