Monday, January 10, 2011

Post No. 148d: Re-Posting of "That Positive Side of Anger Which So Many of You See...."


Back in late April of 2009, we generated a post entitled, “Is There a Positive Side to Anger?”

Many of you responded that there is a positive side, and perhaps more interestingly, many simply responded that anger is a positive and necessary force, without explicitly addressing whether it should be used judiciously, or whether there are negative ramifications.

One of our readers sent the following story to us a few days ago, and it caused us to re-visit our thoughts on anger. We generally try to avoid posting articles which simply confirm positions which we have previously taken. We do not think that advances anything in the realm of public discourse.

However, this little piece made us re-examine our views on anger, and still arrive at the same conclusion.

“There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he had to hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

“The first day the boy had driven 27 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

“Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all.

“He told his father about it and the Father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

“The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his Son by the hand and led him to the fence.

“He said, 'You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.

“You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. But it won't matter how many times you say I'm sorry; the wound will still be there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.

“Remember that anyone with whom you come into contact is a human and all humans have value.

“Anger has a deleterious effect on us all. Including our kids who observe their parents and others."

This made us think further about anger. This little piece might apply to our children, or perhaps our most intimate friends and family. However, does it also apply to our co-workers, people with whom we come into contact throughout the day, and strangers in general?

What about people more distantly removed, government workers, our politicians and leaders?

What about our institutions, or certain professions, or industries, which are not animate beings, but are composed of them?

Let’s assume that you agree that the use of anger against individuals (of course, those who you claim don’t deserve it) is inappropriate. What is the theoretical or principled position that justifies the use of anger against your broken down car, a business, a profession, a government or a governmental official?

Don’t we have the intelligence as human beings to articulate the substance of our frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc. in words, even well chosen forceful words, without accompanying them with invective and making the points personal?

What say yee you morons, imbeciles, idiots, and vermin?

12 comments:

  1. That nice little piece applies to every human being, even to the more distantly removed ones. There is nothing wrong with anger, the problem is that not everybody has learned how to deal with and/or express anger. If everybody would hold their breath, count to ten, think about what exactly the anger is about and then speak the world would be less violent. I'm just saying that because the problem is not always somebody else. Since we do have a choice of either expressing, repressing, or calming our anger it would be wise to first calm our anger.

    In light of the most recent events in Arizona, I noticed that the shooter was immediately declared a 'Raging Teabagger' and that Sarah Palin get's the blame, so much for misdirected anger.

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  2. I agree with wsteffie. We, individually, can and should control the anger in ourselves. But most people, the vast majority, do not express their anger as violently as the miscreant in Tucson did. It is only if we look at society as some kind of sprawling single entity with a collective mind and spirit that we can say "we" need to control "our" anger. This is not true, of course. While we may believe we are our brother's keeper, we cannot control him. Let me illustrate with a story from my past.

    My first wife and I used to argue. A lot. We argued over just about anything and everything. I tired of it. I wanted some peace and quiet. So, instead of arguing, instead of countering her insults with stronger ones of my own. I decided I would no longer argue. I would set an example. I would simply say "you are right" or "I'll think about that" or "I can't agree but I won't fight about it."

    Did this bring peace to the house? Not at all. It just made her more angry. She seemed to need that anger.

    And some people do. Need anger, that is. I need it sometimes to force myself to complete a task. I use the passion of anger to spur myself to do more than I thought I could. But that is anger directed mostly at myself. And it was a device I learned to use.

    I don't think it is the general level of anger in society that triggers the impulses of someone like Loughner. Someone like him (and, reportedly, he had been unpredictable and angry for many years) might even go off because of an innocuous statement. As I recall, Chapman stalked and killed Lennon because he was a devoted fan and thought Lennon was straying from the "path" Chapman thought he should be on. It wasn't the violence of society's anger that triggered it or even fed it. It was the poor wiring of his, Chapman's, brain.

    At some point in Loughner's life, there should have been an intervention. Family and/or friends should have tried to get him some help. It might not have prevented this, he could still have relapsed, but it is about the only thing that could have been done.

    But what actually happens? People turn away because they cannot deal with someone like Loughner and he becomes increasingly isolated. His behavior needs to be monitored but there are fewer and fewer people in his life to do that because of his behavior.

    We live in an open society. We believe in the individual. Do we trade that for a seemingly more secure, collective society? One where the State can intervene and restrain people it deems potentially dangerous and force them to undergo treatment?

    I hope not. An open society will always be a dangerous one. But it will also be a free one.

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  3. WSteffie and Douglas: Thanks much - Two of our most valued and loyal readers are "johnny on the spot" and our first contributors during the New Year. Both of you anticipated some of the thoughts we plan to share in our first post to be published later today.

    We'll respond directly to your comments about the publication of that post. Thanks again and welcome back.

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  4. WSteffie and Douglas:

    We just re-visited your comments and have very little to add. You both covered the issue, at least in terms of maintaining some rational perspective, rather well in our opinion.

    A couple of comments:

    Several of the Fellows laughed at Douglas' re-counting of how when HE stopped arguing his wife did not. They had similar experiences. However, one suggested that the 180 degree change in attitude "Yes, Dear, I now agree with you," might have been suspect.

    Perhaps another option might have been to say somewhere at the beginning of the argument, "Honey, I had not considered that aspect or that issue. Hmmm...."

    Another approach might have been to say, "Give me some time to think about it further," and later return to say, "You know, I've thought about it further, and I see the merits of your position, but I still ....

    Finally, we strongly suspect that the shooter was mentally ill. The illness can progress gradually. When one sees someone on a daily basis, one might not notice the symptoms. In some instances, we suspect that the ill person might try harder to mask the symptoms around his or her loved ones. By the time it becomes truly obvious, then a stranger on the bus observing one would KNOW it.

    How do we distinguish "mental illness" or perhaps substance abuse or some other cause which concerned friends and family members might be able to provide assistance, from the following:

    Exhaustion

    A difficult problem at work

    Some physical ailment, such as debilitating back pain

    Financial difficulties

    Puberty

    Menopause

    Mid-Life crisis

    Maturation

    Old age

    An upbeat-active enthusiastic person caught in a depressed region

    And how many instances of "strange" or "abnormal behavior" must occur before we intervene? 3, 6, 9, 12; and at what level of severity?

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  5. Dan:

    Glad to have you back. Thanks.

    Virtually no one can establish a direct cause and effect relationship between an environment and an act, and different people will respond differently while in a particular situation or environment.

    A question: Assume that this individual was suffering from some type of behavioral disorder or mental illness from a clinical perspective. Is it possible that his act/behavior and the environment were simply co-existing?

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  6. The experience with my ex-husband was similar to the experience Douglas had with his wife, nothing worked, even when I choose to keep silent. Instead of getting angry myself I eventually started to figure out why he was angry. He was angry with himself and the only way to deal with that anger, was to project it on me. Once I figured that out I could only feel sorry for him. Then again maybe he was just a woman trapped in a man's body?

    I do not know what went wrong with the Arizona shooter, but it sounds to me that there was much more involved than anger. There are usually many different factors that come into play. Somehow the whole thing does not even look political motivated to me. If he wanted to kill just Rep.Giffords, he could have done that, but instead he killed several other people including a child.

    Strict gun laws (like we have over here in Germany) do not prevent tragedies like that. In march of 2009 a 17 year old student killed 16 people in a school over here. Unfortunately we do live in a society, were more and more people fall through the cracks.

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  7. WSteffie:

    The Logistician used to have a collection of what he referred to as "artificial constructs," which he suggested be used to guide behavior or conduct, or be used to analyze one's own behavior or conduct with a goal of improving it.

    The constructs were "artificial" in nature in that they obviously were not always true, and they were obviously not applicable to all people or situations. However, by applying them, we are forced to consider our conduct pro-actively.

    One of his constructs went something like this: All negative things that happened to him were his fault, and all positive things that occurred were pure luck. This is obviously not true in real life, but the application of the construct forces one to consider, "What could I have to prevent my involvement in the negative event or exchange?"

    Another, although seemingly contradictory, was, "Very little of someone's negative, emotional reaction is about you. It has more to do with their experiences with many others, most of which were prior to their contact with you."

    Once again, this is "artificial," but when applied during an argument, it allows the recipient of anger to consider the possibility that the anger directed toward them may not really be personal.

    We will not bite on your statement to the effect that your ex-husband may have possibly been a woman trapped in a man's body.

    Our sense also is that the shooter in Arizona may not have been purely politically motivated. It also appears that some element of mental illness may have been present.

    People will always fall through the cracks. Most people are too busy trying to keep their own lives in order, to have time available to assist others, especially those with problems.

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  8. It seems that what we're really talking about is not the fact that we have anger but rather what we choose to do with it. I read once (and I apologize for not remembering where I read this bit of info) that anger management classes are 95% effective. That, to me, indicates that how we deal with anger can be a learned, and therefore changed, behavior. I've personally always believed that anger indicated fear ... that the angry person is afraid of something. If we could somehow understand that fear, we could diffuse the anger. These days, there are many frustrated people ... people losing their jobs, unable to support their families ... unable to achieve the "American Dream". It's not hard to see fear in people's faces. That doesn't justify harmful or even rude acts towards others (or our cars, etc.), but it may help us all diffuse the situation which started it.

    You mentioned the "intelligence to articulate the substance of our frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.". In my opinion, many don't have that intelligence ... which is, I believe, caused by a failing education system and weak parental (family) influences.

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  9. SmallFootprints:

    Thanks for responding to our invitation to visit us again.

    We think that you have essentially articulated a consensus regarding the role played, if any, of anger. In one sense, the high effective rate of the anger management classes surprised us, and in another sense, "in thinking about it further," it does not. As WSteffie so aptly described it, it's about taking the time to pause and think.

    Thanks for weighing in. We hope that you will visit us regularly.

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  10. Came across a post which I think you may find interesting:

    http://www.theriverwanders.com/2011/01/campaign-silent.html

    Take Care!

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  11. Small footprints;

    Wow. This deserves a responsive comment in the form of a new blog post. Wow.

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. That nice little piece applies to every human being, even to the more distantly removed ones. There is nothing wrong with anger, the problem is that not everybody has learned how to deal with and/or express anger. If everybody would hold their breath, count to ten, think about what exactly the anger is about and then speak the world would be less violent. I'm just saying that because the problem is not always somebody else. Since we do have a choice of either expressing, repressing, or calming our anger it would be wise to first calm our anger.

    In light of the most recent events in Arizona, I noticed that the shooter was immediately declared a 'Raging Teabagger' and that Sarah Palin get's the blame, so much for misdirected anger.

    ReplyDelete

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