When I was guided that this week’s topic would be anger, my immediate reaction was, “Hell no!!!! I do NOT want to write about anger!!!” Probably because, honestly, I’m a bit embarrassed by my often fiery Aries temper. So I came up with a bunch of other topics I’d “prefer” to write about. But I kept coming back to the topic of anger. And my Muse led me on a journey again.
So here goes . . .
I started with the Oxford Dictionary meaning of anger: A strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. And some synonyms: pique, crossness, displeasure, irritability.
Probably like you, I have a “strong feeling of annoyance” when I’m stuck in endless phone menus (“I just want to talk to a human being!!”). But annoyance, displeasure, crossness, pique?? None of these even come close to what it feels like when my fiery Aries, Irish temper erupts like a volcano! Instead, two other synonyms stuck out to me: outrage and indignation.
Outrage and indignation about what? Immediately my answer was: one thing is what’s happening in the U.S. as portrayed in the news I watch and read online. As I write this, heavily armed, unidentifiable, camouflaged federal “officers” are apparently abducting people off the street into unmarked vehicles on U.S. soil. And I realized, “You’re damn right I’m outraged and indignant!!”
Then the term “righteous indignation” came to mind. “Righteous”? Thus, is some anger justified? So I googled it:
Righteous indignation is typically a reactive emotion of anger over mistreatment, insult, or malice of another. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice. . . . “Righteous” means acting in accord with divine or moral law. . . . “Indignation” is anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy. The Standard Dictionary describes indignation as a “feeling involving anger mingled with contempt or disgust”. —Wikipedia
” . . . anger mingled with contempt or disgust.” Like when I see a certain political figure on TV espousing policies that are totally opposed to my values and beliefs, and then he denigrates me for having those values and beliefs. He is not of my “tribe” and is supported by the “other tribe” and the “other news network.” But I likewise must acknowledge that from January 2009 through January 2017, that other tribe felt a similar anger about the political leadership and the country’s direction. So there’s intense “tribal anger” on both sides.
But it’s worse than that. I think we’re engaged in full out “tribal warfare,” thus “War and Peace” in the title of this blog. So let’s dissect this all a bit . . .
What basically is “anger”? (I’m going to get “into the weeds” here—hey, I was a Psychology major undergrad, which is maybe akin to “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV.” So for in-depth, scientific/expert info, I invite you to do a google search for yourself.)
I’ve heard that anger is a signal that our personal boundaries have been crossed. Also, anger is a “secondary emotion” usually, if not always, preceded by a “primary emotion”—an emotion that makes us feel vulnerable or weak, like rejection, fear, or helplessness. And anger is a knee-jerk reaction providing some armor to protect that vulnerability from exposure. But the armor that protects also shuts us in; the anger that makes us feel like we’re taking some action, that we’ve taken some control, actually can end up controlling us.
Maybe in the case of tribal anger, we feel that not only our boundaries are crossed, but even more, our values are being trampled. The Oxford Dictionary meaning of values: one’s judgment of what is important in life. Our values are part of our very foundation. So how do we bridge deeply-opposed sets of tribal values??
First, let’s consider a few things I posit:
- Tribal warfare over differing values is a war that neither side can win, and the perpetuation of which impedes our progress as Human Beings.
- I never read “War and Peace,” but the title represents a critically important either/or situation:
If we truly want peace (and a new Path to Oneness for ourselves, our countries, Humanity, and the planet), then anything resembling “war” is self defeating to that goal.
- As I said in a previous post, “shooting arrows” at (sending venomous energy to) a political figure or the other “tribe” only adds more negative energy to the mix, and upsets us and our bodies.
- The “primary emotion” being triggered here is probably something like helplessness, hopelessness, fear, etc. Yelling “Idiot” at a political figure on the TV news does nothing to alleviate those feelings, or to remedy the situation.
SOMEHOW we must break the cycle of tribal warfare. SOMEHOW we need to rise above the outrage and indignation, detach from the drama, and move into positive action and solutions. We need to think and act outside of the confining box of tribal thinking.
* Stay informed but not to the point where you’re boiling with anger. Take an occasional break from the news.
*Stop any knee-jerk reaction of sending “venomous” tribal anger arrows. Instead, try to identify what your primary emotion is. Concerning certain government policies, maybe we feel sympathy for those affected, and helpless to remedy it? Maybe we feel fear about what other policies could be implemented. So identify and acknowledge that primary emotion, and consciously CHOOSE to NOT go into the secondary tribal anger that feeds the warfare.
And then . . .
* Funnel your “righteous indignation” into proactive, positive action. To begin with, on the spirit plane, say a quick prayer for the situation and the people (of both tribes) involved in it OR envision surrounding them in Light. On the physical plane, identify and do tangible POSITIVE actions that contribute to solutions. And we need to get creative: I read that not only did a group of Moms lock elbows to protect peaceful protestors, but a group of Dads came with leaf blowers to blow away the teargas.
I urge you to listen to your inner guidance, and act on it.
Yes, it really can be as simple as this. At least to start. I can attest that it works: I still murmur “Idiot” at that politician but I don’t yell it at the TV, nor do I send a venomous arrow to his heart. (I apparently made a subconscious choice weeks ago to stop shooting energetic arrows at him.) And I can honestly say that I feel generally calmer, which frees me up to do something proactive and positive.
When I was guided to write about this topic this week, I was concerned you all would think, “Here she goes again, harping on the importance of counteracting (or even overcoming) negative energy with positive energy, kindness, etc.” Well I am indeed harping on this because I think it’s a critical action to take to start turning things around on our Path, as individuals and as Humanity. I’ve asked previously, “What kind of a nation do we want to be?” “Who do we want to be as a Human Beings, as Humanity?” It’s time for us to really think about these questions, start answering them, and doing actions to make it all happen.
I think we’ve become complacent in recent years about things like democracy, common decency, and personal inter-connection and caring. We need to breathe new life into them in a big way. NOW. But again, with positive energy and actions outside of the tribal warfare box.
I urge you to really believe in your own power to do what I ask of you: to act and effect change.
And about all those other instances of anger: Yes, sometimes our boundaries are being crossed and we need to deal with that. But often, especially now, maybe it’s as simple as remembering that we’re all tired, stressed, impatient, and irritable. So angry outbursts are inevitable. But we also have the power to clean it up—to apologize, and to forgive others as well as ourselves.
BTW—It’s important to remember that all news sources (across the political spectrum) are corporate-owned. Their bottomline is profit so of course they slant and sensationalize news stories to suit their respective audiences. Maybe someday we’ll have truly objective news reporting vs. “analysis” and punditry that feeds the tribal warfare. But right now, often I’m not sure what the truth is. I try to keep an open mind—and not get too sucked in to the drama. I don’t always succeed, but I keep trying.
Nancy, you are speaking to my Better Angel today. I really like the breakdown of anger and primary and secondary influences. When I get angry which is not often. Mostly in my journal rather than outloud I am focused on hopelessness and indignation. A lot of those feelings that burn into my journal never get said outloud. Maybe sometimes it should be said out loud. More deep thought on that topic. The idea of identifying the other tribe’s primary influence is what I have been taught with the BodyMind work. Listen with your heart, read the emotional state, look for body language rather than just concentrating on the words spoken in anger. That is what I loved about that work. It gave me new perspective. As always, I got a lot out of this. Thank you.
I just had the thought that maybe prevailing primary emotions in my tribe are indignation and hopelessness as you mention. With maybe a feeling of helplessness thrown in. But I think the indignation may be righteous—people are suffering. And we aren’t helpless; there ARE things we can do about the cause of those emotions. We just each have to identify what our particular contribution to a solution might be. Thanks for getting me to think about that with your post.
Great post Nancy, I become so upset at times reading the paper and watching the news that I find the only relief to to stop! I try to remember that there are others who feel equally as strong in the other direction.
I wish there was a magic bullet (vs. real bullets!) to help us bridge the values gap, but I sure don’t know what it is. Especially since both tribes are so passionate about their beliefs. So maybe our only recourse is indeed to rise above it and do something positive to alleviate the consequences?
Good stuff, again, Nancy!
Thanks Nan – some powerful suggestions for dealing with our world right now………