Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Post No. 107: Is There a Positive Side to Anger?


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Some weeks ago, we expressed concern about the “tone” of discourse in our forum. It never reached the level of name calling, but it came darn close.

Acrimony and invective rose to a level where many complained that they were not interested in the accompanying message, no matter how well articulated or founded.

As put by one of our visitors, “Why would anyone, at least without a lot of cash, be interested in dealing with angry people?”

(We do not consider all of those using personal attacks as angry people, but we appreciate the point.)

It was our goal to create a forum for civil discourse, and the exchange of ideas, whereby we all could learn.

Although we had the ability to screen comments, we chose not to do so.

We wanted to encourage expression and attract all points of view.

One of the things we learned is that most people maintain their ideological positions throughout, despite being presented with thought-provoking arguments from many angles from many others.

Rarely did we note someone acknowledging the merit of a position which they had not previously considered.

As the Optimizer often says, theories and positions are good for something, but not nearly as much as their proponents argue.

In an effort to get beyond what the Laughingman termed “justified” criticism by those on the left, middle, and right, that our topics reflected our bias, several weeks ago, we sought topics from you.

One of you, whose analysis, wit, appreciation of history, and tone of presentation we respect, suggested that he had a theory: There is an “upside to anger.”

He was concerned about the mischaracterization of “righteous anger” as “hatred” or “rage.”

He also felt he had “a right and obligation to speak out.”

Having long considered anger to be a wasted emotion, considering the source of the topic, we asked, “What does anger gain one,” as opposed to, “But what does anger gain one?”

For weeks we observed everything about us to locate an “upside to anger.”

We looked at sports, child rearing, scientific research, and food preparation.

We considered angry teachers, ministers, government officials, and medical professionals.

While still pondering the question, we viewed a symposium on the economy on C-Span. We were struck by several things.

There were roughly 10-13 economists, journalists, former banking officials, and other business professionals.

Notable was the absence of politicians, government officials, comedians, and talk show hosts.

What immediately struck us was the civil tone of the discussion.

It was difficult to figure out who was liberal, conservative, Democrat, or Republican.

The participants were respectful of each other’s views.

They approached the subject analytically, with little emotion, and placed our current economic woes in historical context.

There was quite a bit of discussion about whether we, as a society, had learned anything about the functioning of our economy and the societal repercussions, following repeated recessions, price and wage controls, the savings and loan debacle, the bursting of the technology bubble, Enron, and the demise of the major investment banking firms.

It seemed like a Common Sense and responsible way to approach the problem to us.

We noted the contrast between this thoughtful, non-combative event, and the anger vented on our blog, in Congress, and on the talk shows.

We asked, “In which context are we more likely to generate some fresh ideas to deal with this very complex and serious situation, and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the underlying causes?”

After giving some, if not due, consideration to the topic, and despite the respect that we have for our reader, we couldn’t find an “upside to anger.”

We view anger as a primal, instinctive, and perhaps more immediate reaction to an event or set of events. Responsible people, after acknowledging the event, set about dealing with it, and in our view, anger makes that more difficult.

Our friend may be correct that we’ve seen a mischaracterization of “righteous anger” as “hatred” or “rage” on occasion. However, we just don’t see its utility after one feels it.

Few are going to listen to your point of view while you’re “screaming” at them literally or figuratively.

Suggesting, even obliquely, that those who disagree with you are morons is probably not the way to go.

As much as it may serve some personal function, we just don’t see how anger advances any long-term, positive, societal interests.

Let’s keep that in mind going forward.

All of us.

18 comments:

  1. I appreciate your comments re: anger. On my own blog I have found that 25% of readers come from searches having to do with anger. Obviously, it is out there and some folks are actually looking for answers for managing and dispersing the effects of anger on self and others. I was struck by your statement: "One of the things we learned is that most people maintain their ideological positions throughout, despite being presented with thought-provoking arguments from many angles from many others." I rediscovered the truth of this statement after my last blog post. A good friend, who took exception to some of my statements, even after an exchange attempting to clarify positions, could not get away from her original response. It was as though we were each dealing with a different subject. Under such circumstances it is difficult to imagine that a subject like anger will respond to logic and resolution, even if the discussion is “intelligent.”

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  2. "They approached the subject analytically, with little emotion, and placed our current economic woes in historical context."

    This was the most telling statement in your post Log. Because after approaching the subjects analytically, with little emotions they went their merry ways and the drummer continued to beat the same rhythm. Nothing was accomplished, no one in this group was inspired to take any action, but they could all feel righteous that a "civilized" discussion had taken place.

    Action demands passion! Commitment demands passion! Anger is the most basic passion! Angry commitment to a cause has been the energy that has propelled civilization forward.

    Can you say honestly that Lincoln was not PASSIONATELY angry when he gave the orders to save the Union? Do you really think he "approached the subject analytically and with little emotion"? Like Hell he did! Because if he had he would have said, "Thank God the North is rid of that archaic bunch of arrogant fools", and let the Southland die on its own terms and then slide into its own form of poverty and eventually choke on the slim of bigotry over-burdened with a down trodden and illiterate population which the Southern Whites had created and fostered. Look at South Africa if you need an example of what the South would have been if not for Lincolns passionate desire to keep the Union intact under his watch.

    Passionate (emotional) anger has inspired more scientist to look for cures for diseases that had taken loved ones than pure unemotional discussions and decisions. I feel sure Sulk said to himself, "Well I think I'll look for a cure for polio this year." No, he saw children crippled and dying from a horrid disease and got emotionally, passionately angry!


    Of course you understand this is just the opinion of that often bitchy opinionated old broad who sometimes blesses you with her hard won wisdom. Much love, BB :)

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  3. do you think anger is non-productive?

    or do you think anger is only productive sometimes?

    I think anger can be a catalyst sometimes.

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  4. Anger does not have a universal definition for it. Therefore, its meaning vary from one individual to the others.

    If you from its broad perspective, it has its own good side of it. Because it allows the individual, to be himself, to express his true feeling on the subject, exactly he wants the other party to know, without any distortion. In this instance, it is sometime important to let the other party know that he has crossed the line especially when dealing with those who have a very narrow /closed mind set.

    Imagine you were stayed control of your temper and expressed out without any emotion, the danger of it is that the other party may view it is still within your tollerence level. Therefore, the tendency is very high that they excert it further for their personal gain/hidden agenda.

    Trust my humble opinion is of value to your discussion.

    In this extremely circumstances, if you do not express in that manner, then they will exerts their views and expected everyone to abide to it, through law or by forces or whatsoever they can.



    then I would say that applied

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  5. There is no question in my mind that anger has a positive side. For instance, Jesus displayed anger. There are limits, of course, on HOW anger may be licitly expressed.

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  6. In light of the preceding comments, some questions:

    (1) Your spouse has cheated on you sexually for the first time. What should you do during the first 24 hours upon finding out, and how long should your anger last?

    (2) A descendant of a Native-North American Indian tribe is still "angry" about the manner in which his ancestors were displaced from their native lands. What angry conduct should society tolerate at this point in time, and for how much longer should he be allowed to express it?

    (3) Kobe Bryant is driving to the basketball and about to dunk a ball, and the defender on the opposing team spits in his face in mid-air. What angry responsive conduct by Kobe should we as a society tolerate? What about his teammates? What about Los Angeles Lakers fans in the audience?

    (4) President Obama is angry at the North Koreans firing a missile at Guam, and is on the air responding to the attack. Should he be permitted to use profanity? Should he be permitted to attack their racial background? What responsive military response should he take within 24 hours, 30 days, and 1 years?

    (5) You are Pro-Life. Your 17 years, 11 month old daughter has just been raped, and being Pro-Choice, she has announced that she plans to abort the baby. You are angry at her choice. What responsive conduct do you feel justified in taking with respect to her decision?

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  7. For those, whose opinions and views we appreciate and respect, who think that there is a positive side to anger, should we teach anger, or at least positive anger management, to our kids in school, church, or some other setting?

    Or should we leave it up to parents to teach their children how to be positively angry?

    Does the subject warrant collegiate level courses, and professors who specialize in the area?

    Considering its positive function in society, is it a subject which should be required of certain professionals in our society? For example, should doctors and teachers be required to express anger under the appropriate circumstances?

    Or should we simply permit each individual in society to decide when and how they will express anger, as long as it is within the current confines of the law?

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  8. What is the difference between anger expressed by one man against one individual, and the anger expressed by a sports team against another sports team, and the anger expressed by a town against some outsiders, and the anger expressed by an army against prisoners of war of the opposing army, all resulting in physical violence?

    I agree with the author of this piece. You can't just pick and choose the anger you like or dislike and label it acceptable and unacceptable. It's all unacceptable.

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  9. I don't think that one can teach anger. One teaches respect for other people and respect for material creation, and one hopes that this knowledge and understanding will be sufficient to keep anger within proper boundaries. Anger, considered in isolation, is like a force of nature; as long as it has energy it can do damage, and will do damage until it "blows itself out," one way or another.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Passion begets anger. We can learn to control its effect. We can learn to focus it and use it in a positive manner.

    But... your anger is righteous while your opponent's is blind or destructive.

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  12. @ The Logistician

    Thank you for your kind words about my "Silence of Black Women" writers post. Keep coming back. Your website is awesome as well.

    Do you remember who recommended me on Twitter? I would like to thank them too :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anger is part of human nature. It is fine as long as it doesn't cause harm to others. And if anger can solve the problem, then it has a good side on it.
    Most of the time, I agree with Dan Perin: anger will not respond to logic and resolution, even if the discussion is “intelligent.”
    My experiences told me that anger hurt not only others but our own health.

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  14. Thanks Model Minority for visiting our site. I do not recall who recommended that I pay your site a visit. You might find the article regarding affirmative action, to be posted tomorrow, of interest.

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  15. Earlier today, in our local newspaper, appeared the advice column of either Ann Landers or Dear Abby. A wife wrote in to complain that her husband gets angry easily, and yells and screams at her on a regular basis. It did not appear, from our reading of the letter, that there was any physical violence accompanying the fits of anger.

    The mother/wife was concerned about the effect on their young child who is often present during the angry exchanges. Previously someone suggested that anger emphatically drives home the point that an individual will not tolerate certain behavior from others. What say you about the husband's use of anger?

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  16. "They approached the subject analytically, with little emotion, and placed our current economic woes in historical context."

    This was the most telling statement in your post Log. Because after approaching the subjects analytically, with little emotions they went their merry ways and the drummer continued to beat the same rhythm. Nothing was accomplished, no one in this group was inspired to take any action, but they could all feel righteous that a "civilized" discussion had taken place.

    Action demands passion! Commitment demands passion! Anger is the most basic passion! Angry commitment to a cause has been the energy that has propelled civilization forward.

    Can you say honestly that Lincoln was not PASSIONATELY angry when he gave the orders to save the Union? Do you really think he "approached the subject analytically and with little emotion"? Like Hell he did! Because if he had he would have said, "Thank God the North is rid of that archaic bunch of arrogant fools", and let the Southland die on its own terms and then slide into its own form of poverty and eventually choke on the slim of bigotry over-burdened with a down trodden and illiterate population which the Southern Whites had created and fostered. Look at South Africa if you need an example of what the South would have been if not for Lincolns passionate desire to keep the Union intact under his watch.

    Passionate (emotional) anger has inspired more scientist to look for cures for diseases that had taken loved ones than pure unemotional discussions and decisions. I feel sure Sulk said to himself, "Well I think I'll look for a cure for polio this year." No, he saw children crippled and dying from a horrid disease and got emotionally, passionately angry!


    Of course you understand this is just the opinion of that often bitchy opinionated old broad who sometimes blesses you with her hard won wisdom. Much love, BB :)

    ReplyDelete

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