The 7 steps we can take to calm it down
In 2003 I wrote a column for the local paper about the growing lack of civility in politics and news media. Here we are 15 years later and culturally we are angrier, ruder, more quarrelsome, more anxious and stressed, and have a new outlet for nasty discourse: social media.
Technology has played a role in this. We can’t get a break from news, rumors, crises, and notifications of tweets, ‘likes’, emails, texts, private messages, and Facebook telling us our fans haven’t heard from us in a while!! Vivek Wadhwa, distinguished fellow at Harvard and Carnegie Mellon, just released a book, Your Happiness Was Hacked: Why Tech is Winning the Battle to Control Your Brain—and How to Fight Back. In an interview he said the tech industry knows full well how they got us hooked on answering those texts, worrying about likes, and responding to those little red bubbles on our phones. It throws us off balance, reducing our chances of having a sense of wellbeing and increasing the chance of irritation or feeling overwhelmed.
With the state of the world and politics in this modern life many of us are getting angrier and angrier. Let’s look at this. Anger is a natural human emotion. It is neither right nor wrong. On a scale of emotions from negative to positive its near the bottom, but above apathy, hatred, fear and unworthiness. Certainly, fear plays a significant role in anger. Inherent in anger is a fearful feeling of powerlessness or a lack of control. If we had control, we would change what was making us angry!
We grew up in cultures where it was discouraged to show anger, as if anger is not allowed. Of course, if it is denied—doesn’t get relieved—it’s harbored within, expressing itself in destructive ways and eventually affecting our health. On top of that, many of us weren’t taught how to cope with strong emotions. Undigested anger comes out in so many ways.
Extreme judgmental behavior
Trolling (make a deliberately offensive or provocative online post with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.)
Physical symptoms: constricted muscles, poor digestion, inflammation, tendency for skin rashes, or heart disease to name a few.
While we’re angry, solutions are blocked, visions of higher possibilities vanish.
In its best function, anger is useful to move us through a bad situation. It can give us the energy we need to make a needed change in our lives, to right wrongs, to stop others from doing something harmful, and to transition ourselves from lethargy to taking an active role in our lives, moving us to a higher state of being. Anger does make us feel more powerful temporarily. When it becomes destructive is when we don’t have an outlet, don’t take any action, and have not learned methods of moving through the anger to a better feeling place.
We could be on the edge of a spilling over of anger that we haven’t seen since the 1960s, when people took to the streets to protest, even riot with the extreme anger over everything going on at that time.
What do we do when our irritation, anger, or frustration rises up? Understanding what is going on in your brain first can prepare you. Our higher brain functions are used logically and calmly, but when we get afraid, threatened, or angered, our reptilian brain—the primitive part that is designed for survival—gets engaged, high-jacking these higher functions. The fight or flight response takes over, instincts that prepare us to run or fight.
What can we do? I hear people talk about feeling so helpless as they learn about the atrocities going on in the world. The injustices, the suffering, the political vitriol, the violence, killing, the frightened, the wars and battles going on day in and day out. When we lived in small farming communities we weren’t exposed to daily and hourly news of horrific things.
The best way to deal with all this? I have a few ideas to help you reframe the suffering going on living on planet earth and help yourself cope to regain some balance.