Why are we as a society so angry?

January 15, 2019


It has been said that anger is an emotion that makes you feel as if you matter

(Merle Shain).  So when you feel sad or helpless, anger is one response to dealing with that situation.


A recent article examined the roots of American anger (Charles Duhigg, January, 2019, The Atlantic). It is well worth reading as he explains how our use of anger has changed and combined with cable news and social media we are losing control of our behaviors. He believes that anger can be useful and when under control can help resolve issues. However, when anger persists and people feel that they are helpless to resolve their problems, it becomes a weapon as we wish to see other people punished for their behaviors.  Righteous rage is the theme spread by cable news and social media, it is certainly a component of most TV shows and movies.  Duhigg believes that if we scrutinize the sources of our anger, we should see that our rage is not for our benefit but for someone else’s. He feels that we must take the time to understand the motives of these anger merchants and then we can start to take back control.


Of course one problem is that we have not taught people the skills to help them deal with problems that they cannot control. Once the feelings of helplessness takes over, it is easy to have that righteous rage. 


There are a number of new books written about anger in America, it is a complex subject and many men grow up angry and frustrated. For women, it is more about repressed anger and how that may contribute to their struggles and illnesses such as autoimmune diseases.  There is the anger toward the poor and any government benefits received and the rich keep getting richer and are rigging the game to increase their wealth.  In the mid 1980’s the bottom 90% held 35% of the US wealth, today it is 20% and most of that lost wealth went to the top .01 percent.


The last Presidential election found all sides angry, Trump supporters, Sander’s supporters, Clinton’s supporters and our media happily fueling the fires for better ratings. The branding of people as liberals or conservatives and then associating them with any position that party may support. Lying, omitting facts, misleading statistics have become far too common and if you do not have the skills to better cope with these realities, you will be controlled by the anger merchants. Media stations needs good ratings and getting you riled up helps to do that.  That is one reason why they make comments on Twitter national news.


This is all combined with people spending too much time on the Internet in its many forms, social media, video games, etc.  The limited contact and interaction with people in person makes it so much easier to be at odds or believe views of other people that may or may not be real.  Interesting that when one is out of the USA for a month or more meeting an American is usually nice. Over the years when I am away, I have met Americans from many parts of my country. They are now my friends, why, because they nice people and they are from my country. We accept our political differences and enjoy our many commonalities.  I see people from European countries behave in the same manner, Brexit becomes secondary even if they disagree, especially if they are both from England. The anger merchants always want you to think first are they liberal/left or conservative/right and are quick to note a position that is held by a minority of that group and try to rile you up. Healthy people want to seek compromise and not because they have ulterior motives, but because they can put aside the anger and view differences more clearly. Conservatives need to remember that 8 years of the Obama Presidency did not destroy our country as the anger merchants claimed it would.  And our country survived 12 years of two Bush administrations. I can add that I have had policy differences with Republican and Democratic administrations, neither were perfect, but the fear mongering from the anger merchants remains a concern.


If nothing else, think of your health, anger is the cause of many physical problems. Food is used for pleasure, but boredom and depression combine to help food lead to obesity. It should not be a surprise that anger, depression, being overweight or alcohol/drug problems are all connected. Think about all the situations that make you angry, are they really that unexpected. Sure at the moment, you are upset, but does your anger motivate you to find a solution or help express within reason your feelings? The answer is simple, does your anger help you or does it perpetuate a negative feeling on a regular basis. Too often it is the later, but as noted, we all need better skills to be healthier. If we don’t change, we trap ourselves into situations that we believe cannot be escaped and perpetual anger becomes the answer. 


One answer is for our news media to change and not be influenced by advertising revenue, ratings or owners. It should be based on telling the facts, all the facts about situations they report. However, we cannot control that, we can learn skills that will help learn how to better cope with these situations. And schools and our youth are the best place to start. 



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