There is a mighty lot of anger in the United States of America lately. Some folks are so offended by sneaker advertising that they have been burning their shoes. Many of the sneaker burners have been offended because of a deliberate misunderstanding that has been fostered about why football players are kneeling during pre-game national anthem playing. Other folks get upset about the criminal justice system. Some people fear that minorities will somehow take away their rights. The anger is palpable and is causing a lot of crazy making.
Certainly there is a great deal of anger being fomented and used to control the masses in other parts of the world these days, as well. There is so much anger, that it’s tempting to get angry about all the anger that has festered and sprouted up around us. Instead of the much hoped for peace and love, we are living in times of resentment and anger. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all dial back the anger?
It’s easy to point the fingers of blame towards hate-mongers and fear-mongers who wish to manipulate us in order to further their personal agendas. There is no rational reason to take the bait of religious indignation, jingoism, racism, homophobia, and so on. Every time we fall to the temptation of anger, we poison our own minds. We toss our loving and rational selves to the mercy of the whims of strangers who have convinced us that they have our best interests at heart.
Just because they may express similar opinions to opinions we hold near and dear, doesn’t mean we should fall under their influence. Simply because they are charismatic and have become famous doesn’t cancel the fact that they are still strangers. Celebrities have crafted public persona that are at odds with their true selves. Why do we allow ourselves to become angry simply because of some famous stranger’s speech or media appearance?
It’s good to pay attention or to be mindful of our thoughts and opinions. Why do we fear certain people and concepts? We are better served by taking the time to evaluate and re-evaluate why we believe the stuff we believe–all of it. Being attached to views and concepts causes us to build walls around our minds. When our views and concepts are challenged by others, fear and anger easily result.
Of course we are protective of our personal spaces and how we are able to survive in society and the world at large. If a robber threatens us on the street, our fear and anger are warranted and legitimate. That fear is an instinctual response to danger that is present in the animal mind.
The problems arise when influential people manipulate us by appealing to our opinions to arouse our fear and trigger anger. Persuasiveness is a learned skill that is cultivated to enhance our ability to affect others. Persuasiveness can be used for constructive, positive purposes or towards fearful, negative ends. If we want to retain control over our minds and emotions, it is important to keep this fact in mind whenever we listen to the speaking of any sort of leader or acquaintance. It is especially wise to remember this fact about persuasiveness when the speaker claims to align with our own points of view.
Tyrants and criminal manipulators seek out human frailties they can exploit. They are often successful when they target our greed or desire for sex or thirst for power or some other vice. The emotion that is easiest to exploit is anger. When we are angry, we are most vulnerable to manipulation. To see this principle in action, watch a video about a political or religious rally. The crowd is whipped into emotional fury. It is at this point that rationality and wisdom disappear.
When anger is evoked, fears and beliefs become more deeply seated in the participants. There is a field of study relating to control and influence of the public and of crowds. It is fascinating to read about how propagandists use fear and anger to achieve their goals of wealth and power. It’s easy to understand how misuse of this skill can lead to hubris and harmful machinations. The exploitation of fear and anger is a great temptation that too many influential people have chosen.
To know this and to remember this allows us to reclaim our own personal power away from strangers who wish to harness our fears and anger. Knowledge about anger enables more clear-headed thinking.
Passion, frustration, and anger are primal emotions all of us feel on a regular basis. Since they are unavoidable, the least that a wise person can do, is to be mindful when they arise and be aware as to why they arise in us. Understanding our anger is a big step in personal growth that, in turn, leads to a more satisfying life.
The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers this quote from the ancient Roman philosopher/statesman Lucius Annaeus Seneca: “Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.”