People from all sides of the political spectrum are more angry than ever before at what’s happening. Some people have even described their anger as “rage,” even at the sight of an opposing political figure.
Where does this kind of anger come from?
- The more powerless and out of control we feel, the more angry we become.
- When we’re afraid, we become angry as a way of “fighting” what we think is threatening…like fight or flight.
- We become angry when we have either consciously or unconsciously relied on politicians and government for our well-being and now we believe they no longer represent us.
I have a friend who says he gets angry when he sees political injustice…he feels powerless. A client says they are angry because they don’t know what’s going to happen in the future…she feels afraid. Another friend says he hasn’t had to be involved in politics for decades, because “things seemed to be moving along ok and he’s now angry…he’s been dependent on politicians.
Anger can be positive, like being cathartic. And anger can also help motivate us to do what we need to do. For example, when I had a private practice of 12 therapists and two office staff, we were giving a presentation in the community and nobody had done the mailers I asked for. I got angry enough that I went home that night, printed out the announcements, had my kids help me stuff envelopes and mailed them myself the next day.
But when it’s rage, or extreme and reactive anger, it’s not helpful. What’s the process of dealing with this rage? By:
- Taking a step back from whatever is really bothering us and stop obsessing about what’s going on.
- Then, getting some self-reflection into either why it’s bothering us so much or what we are doing that is making the situation worse.
- From this insight, making decisions on what we need to do and what we need to develop about ourselves. It’s about figuring out who we want to be. How we want to act in the face of adversity.
- Stepping back into the world and practicing what we have decided to do. What characteristics we need to develop about ourselves so we are stronger, more fortified and grow more into being who we want to be.
For example, Donald Trump puts a ban on 7 Muslim dominated countries and there are rallies and marches across the United States. Some people feel outraged at him putting on the ban and others feel outraged at the demonstrations. Take a step back and clear your mind. Stop obsessing and being self-righteous. Focus on calming down your thoughts. Then, figure out why this is bothering you. Are you feeling powerless that whatever happens you really don’t have any say in it or that so many people are against what you think you have to defend your position? Are you afraid, on one hand, that this action is taking away due process and equal protection or, on the other hand, that the country is being ruled by liberal activist who don’t give a damn about terrorism? Are you simply believing that there is so much confusion and division in this country that the relative peace and prosperity you have depended on in the past is now threatened? Well, decide what you’re going to do. Get more involved in politics yourself? Limit the amount you’re going to listen to news? Talk to friends about options you might have? Run for office yourself? Stay calm and active at the same time? Make sure you take care of yourself and keep routines in your life that contribute to your well being?
When productive anger becomes rage it’s time to take a step back and figure out what you’re going to do to feel more in control, less afraid and more independent.