Confession: I Can't Afford to be Angry and Outraged All the Time. Here Is What I Try To Do Instead...
Nearly every day of every week of every month for the past few years I’ve seen news stories, images, and ideas that sparked feelings of anger and outrage in me. Simultaneously, I’ve been told by activists to ‘stay angry’ because that is the only way to affect real change.
The problem is, I can’t.
I am just one of those people who can’t afford to be in a continuous state of anger and outrage. Such internal turmoil tears at the very fabric of my soul, poisons my relationships, and causes me to act in ways that are antithetical to my core beliefs.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that anger is not only a primitive and aggressive emotion and that, in fact, sometimes anger conveys signals from my moral compass that are meant to change my behavior. But, the truth remains that I cannot afford to be angry all the time.
Here is what I try to do instead.
1. Be Curious
Carl Jung famously said that: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
With that in mind, I try to be curious. Is my anger caused by something that is the polar opposite of my belief system or is the anger caused by something that resembles my own faults, i.e. a fear of my own shadow self?
For example, I never get as angry with my teenage son as when he reminds me of me when I was his age. Over and over, I have to catch myself so I don’t overreact because of that…. and to answer your question, yes, I often fail. With Jung’s principle in mind, you could say that I am not reacting to my son but rather to a memory of my own bad behavior.
Being curious often leads to an increased understanding of my internal motivations, which, in turn, informs the actions that I can take in response to my anger and outrage.
2. Work Through It
I have been married for almost eighteen years and have two children. The main reason why those relationships are still in tact is that when anger surfaces we have worked through those emotions and found solutions.
I believe that the same can be done when anger or outrage is sparked my external events. Instead of stewing in my own emotions, instead of nursing resentment, I can take action on everything from voting to donating to volunteering and beyond.
You could say that Harmony Interfaith Initiative is my way of working through social divisiveness. The initiative is based on my desire to work through problems, to find common ground, and reclaim a sense of harmony. Those values represent the very foundation on which our organization is established.
3. Show Empathy and Compassion
It is easy to feel empathy for people that I understand and are the same as me in many ways, but it is much harder to feel it when someone has polar opposite beliefs. As I have written about many times before in my books and articles, empathy requires active imagination. For me to feel empathy, I have to actively put myself in someone else’s shoes.
Compassion, then, in my understanding, is how I act based on my feelings of empathy. If I feel no empathy and cannot see the world from the other person’s point of view through our shared humanity, then I will not act with compassion.
4. Surrender and Guard My Peace of Mind
Sadly, I have to admit that sometimes (quite often, actually) the forces that are instigating my anger and outrage are so far beyond my control that I cannot do anything to change the outcome.
This means that when I’ve satisfied my curiosity through introspection, done what I can, attempted to see the world from another perspective, and I am still no closer to resolving my anger, I simply have to surrender.
Surrender, here, does not equal giving up completely. It simply means that I know that the forces at work are beyond my control. Surrender gives me permission to stop banging my head against the wall. Surrender allows me to guard my peace of mind, and that, in turn, allows me to keep working towards harmony.
Those Are My Preferred Reactions – What Are Yours?
What I have described in this article are my preferred reactions to the emotions of anger and outrage. I don’t always succeed and my process is neither as linear nor as easy as I make it sound. All I know is this: I cannot afford sustained anger and outrage. Maybe someone else can, but I can’t.
If you are like me and can’t afford to cultivate those emotions I am curious what do you do to manage yourself instead? Please share your methods and ideas in the comment section.
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Our mission is to train and support people who want to do good in the world. We do this by providing access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. Our primary goal is to help others create harmony in diverse communities.
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Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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