Incensed: From Anger to Ashes

“I don’t know why but everyone just seems so angry in 2015, the ones you meet or have to deal with on a daily basis… Everyone around me just feels so angry all of a sudden and I don’t understand it.”

In mid-March, I had someone say that to me and I must confess, up until then, I hadn’t really given it much thought but ever since, I’ve mulling it over and in retrospect, I am starting to see how true and alarmingly accurate that person’s seemingly simple statement was.

Not just because I see it reflected in people the world over but because I see it in the ones who live in my country, province and city.

I see it in myself at times and it terrifies me because not even then do I understand where this palpable anger, this intense frustration, is coming from.

I recognise that anger, seemingly directed at both themselves and those around them, in people I have never before seen and who, after I have hastily passed them on the pavement or stood behind them in the pay-out queue, I will, in all likelihood, never see in my life again.

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Sometimes I even think I can sense it in people whom I know by sight – you know, the cashiers at your local grocery store or the people who work in your immediate vicinity – the ones that are strangers to you but they are ‘familiar strangers’ because they form a part of your daily life in some way or form.

Honestly, I’ve known for a long while now that the world we live in is a place of intense hatred, recurring frustration and uncontrollable rage… Directed at each other, at people of a different race, sex, religion or preference than that of our own, at other continents, countries or even just simply at other parts (or people) of our own country, at ourselves (yes, self-loathing counts too…) – at ‘everyone’, really.

I don’t know whether you have felt it yet but I certainly have, time and time again. All that anger… for what, for whom – and above all, why?

I’m not sure whether the world needs to collectively pop a ‘chill pill’ or go for anger management classes with Jack Nicholson but something has to change… and soon.

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These new terrorism groups sprouting up all over the globe or joining forces with their brainwashed affiliates, as well as all the appalling and utterly mindless acts of xenophobia in our own country this year, what is their true motivator?

Not religion or shoddy border control in case you’re still two steps behind – no, it’s something far older than that, something far harder to control: anger. Fury at the hand that life has dealt them, as much as at the things that they simply don’t possess or have control over but which others do… this is the true maglinant tumour, which we now see spreading across our planet.

Deep down, it’s not the world that has changed… it is humanity. Before, when we wanted something, we tried to get it through a peaceful means or we let time take care of things… people lived with more patience (you certainly needed a great deal of patience if you lived in the 1800s…).

Yet now when we want something, we take it by force. We’ll do whatever it takes to get what we want and to hell with anyone or anything that tries to stand in our way.

(Mann, S. Dr, 2013) Mann’s (2013) Huffington Post article indicates that… “Road rage, car rage, plane rage… there seems to be a rage for everything these days! Rarely a week goes by without some report in the media about someone who has ‘lost it’ as the red mist descended. There are angry people in supermarkets (trolley rage), on buses, in cinemas, at restaurants… Is nowhere safe anymore from our anger?”

Dr Sandi Mann – who, aside from being a columnist, is a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire and the director of ‘The Mind Training Clinic’ – was referring to the “increasing rage” in the U.S. but I believe it is true of the entire world.

According to her, it has a lot to do with raised expectations, which, consequently, have caused our stress levels to rise, given that we now follow “a more frenetic and frantic pace of life.”

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“Our raised expectations mean that we, as a society, have much higher expectations of our world; we believe we have the right to expect things to go well, indeed, to be perfect… When, as is inevitable, reality falls short of these expectations, we feel that we have the right to get angry about it.”

Dr Mann’s article further states, “Things that go wrong often appear to conspire to stop us achieving some objective, whether that be work or pleasure-based… Because of our stress levels, our tolerance for such obstacles is low… and we get angry. This combination of raised expectations and stress levels gives rise to the ‘angry personality’… there seem to be more Mr and Ms Angrys about these days.”

This is hearkens back to what I said earlier about having less patience and expecting ourselves and others to do more, even though we appear to have less time on our hands than ever before.

So, what are the solutions that (global) society has come up with to both deal with the rising pressures and to try keep up in this fast-paced world?

Well, here are a few of the more common (yet no less idiotic) examples:

1. Need to get some place fast? Then just blow your hooter and drive like a complete lunatic – weaving in and out of traffic and endangering the lives around you in the process – so that you can take off from an intersection five seconds sooner or wait in the bumper-to-bumper traffic behind one fewer car… It’s a rat race, after all.

2. Do you have a desire to feel more fulfilled, to feel like less of a screw-up? Then why not destroy someone’s else joy, steal their pride/dignity or break down their self-esteem, piece by fragile piece? I mean, that ought to make you feel just grand, right?

3. Are you having a bad day? Well, since it’s not your fault (just everyone else’s), go ahead and glare at that random person, who just cheerily greeted you because seriously, they shouldn’t expect common courtesy from you when you’re ‘hating on’ the world and your life is a total mess… Oh, the nerve of some people!

I’m not saying you’re alone in your ways… I freely admit that I am like you sometimes. I have been and done all those things and more (except for the first… but probably only because I don’t have my licence yet) – but now I want it to stop. All of it.

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I no longer want to feel as though my blood is boiling and turning to thick, molten lava in my veins. I am sick of feeling intensely angry without even knowing or understanding why, of lashing out at people for no apparent reason and then having to feel ashamed, apologetic or perplexed several moments later when that mind-altering red mist has lifted and I am able to think clearly again.

I am tired of blaming myself and others – especially those closest to me – for things no one on earth can possibly control. I am done being a minuscule, though still telling, part of the problem… it’s time that I try to be a part of the cure by cutting out and radiating the hell out of this cancer before it can damage any more of my inherent goodness.

There’s a theory that believes that we draw our emotions and/or moods from those around us. It’s a pretty good one when you think about it… That’s why when everyone around you is happy or caught up in the moment – like at a sports game or music concert – you ride that euphoric wave of emotion right along with them and experience a natural high.

It’s also the reason why when everyone around you is short-tempered or sad, even if you were previously in a wonderful mood, your goodwill toward all men begins to slowly dissipate and you start to pick up their irritation or carry their sorrow around with you like a leaden weight. It’s natural… it’s human, even – but above all, it is terribly contagious, much to our collective downfall.

Like some airborne disease or contact sickness, we catch it by being around someone or by touching them… Perhaps we breathe in the noxious fumes they are letting off or perhaps their bad mood does indeed rub off on us as we lean in close to them.

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Whatever the case may be, once the sickness has spread, it quickly begins to infect us internally, attacking our core emotions, just as a real sickness would our immune system.

Sometimes, I even think we pick it up visually… by watching the news, listening to/watching a YouTube video or reading that passionate Facebook status (read: rant), which a friend shared on your News Feed after some random Armenian guy posted it online.

Perhaps someone had to translate it but all the same, his anger, his discontent and his outrage in that little vent session resonate with you because you feel them too and how could you not when they surround you or else you encounter them at every turn?

Your perceived problems and complaints might be worlds apart but one thing unites you and it’s that irrepressible inner rage that’s as faithful as the ringing of church bells on Sunday.

You can stay stuck in your rut, blaming the world for everything that’s going wrong or you can endeavour to find happiness in the small, simple things that we, ungrateful wretches that we be, generously receive each and every day but pay little heed to: the breathtaking sunrise after a long, dark night, the intensely sacred gift of life, the chance to start again even when we’ve failed or have been failed so many times…

I’m no doubt being philosophical and preachy now but this simple fact remains: we live in a world that knows so much hatred, so much anger and such heartache – do we really need to contribute any more to it?

Isn’t it time that we start being somewhat more grateful or, dare I say it, a little bit happier? Isn’t it time for us to stop spreading the sickness? There are so many people who haven’t caught it yet… let’s give them a chance at immunity for just a while longer, if we manage to do nothing else.

Because anger – justified or no – brings nothing good or useful with it, only greater loss… Loss of humanity, of love and friendship, of hopefulness and kindness, of life and above all, of self.

For these reasons and so many more, is it not time for us to stop being so incensed before we go from dust to dust and from anger to ashes?

Now that I have become conscious of my recent toxic conduct, I want to be different, to be just a little bit better again… and I hope I’m not the only one.

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[Date Written: 26/04/15]


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