Wednesday 19 June 2024

Self-Help For Cynics #38: Mr. McGee, Don't Make Me Angry...

I believe I've passed the age of consciousness
And righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too
I had my pointless point of view
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right

OK, it’s time to grasp the nettle.

So far in this feature, I’ve looked in detail at all manner of negative emotions, including sadness, anxiety, low self-esteem and paranoia. But there’s one emotion I’ve danced around confronting face on, possibly because it’s the one that scares me the most – in other people and in myself.


Anger, can make you old 
Yes it can 
I said anger 
Will make you sick children, 
Anger - destroy your soul 

Marvin Gaye - Anger

I knew this was going to be a big one, and I knew it was going to take some serious investigation to understand and… well, we’ll have to see whether management is possible. That’ll come further down the line, I guess. Let’s start with an attempt at understanding. And who better to help me get to grips with this most unpleasant and destructive of emotions than our old friend, sweary Dr. Faith? Her book Unfuck Your Brain certainly made my grey matter less opaque, so I figured she might be able to offer similar insight with one of the follow-ups…

fiREHOSE - Anger

Almost straight away, Dr. Faith pointed me in another direction, towards the work of Dr. R. Douglas Fields, a neuroscientist who sought to find an answer to the anger inside him after he beat up a pickpocket who tried to steal his wallet while he was on holiday in Barcelona. When I read about his research, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this guy…

Since his creation in 1962, the Incredible Hulk has remained one of the most consistently popular comic book characters because he appeals to our most primal emotion: the desire to have a big tantrum and smash the shit out of everything when life isn’t going our way. Unlike most other superheroes, the Hulk doesn’t want to save the world, avenge the death of a loved one or help those less powerful than he is. All he really wants is to be left alone.

Spearmint - Leave Me Alone

And when he doesn’t get what he wants?

Talk about comic books as wish-fulfillment fantasies! You don’t get any more rudimentary than that.

Bill Callahan - The Ballad Of The Hulk

But… Dr. Faith say: “Hulk Smash: BAD!”

As I tell my clients, “you are allowed to be crazy, but you aren’t allowed to act crazy. Being irritated as fuck because someone jacked the parking spot you were waiting for? Totally legit. Going postal over it? Not so helpful. Not so helpful to everyone around you, not so helpful to greater society, and – for purely selfish reasons – not so helpful to you.

Editors - When Anger Shows 

As we've discussed in previous installments of this series, emotions are just the brain's way of sending us information designed to make us take action. However, our brains were designed for the primitive world - a world where everyone thought and spoke like Hulk, and fighting or fleeing were pretty much the only responses available if we were faced with saber-toothed tiger or another neanderthal from the tribe down the track who carried a bigger club. Sadly, we don't live in those times anymore, much as our brains might like to think we do...

Technology has evolved faster than humans, so we have bodies adapted for simpler times. Instead of hunting, gathering, cuddling, and napping, we are crossing more terrain on a daily basis, interacting with more people, and taking in far more information than we are built to manage. It’s a continuous overload.

Gina Birch - I Am Rage

How do we deal with that overload and stop Hulking out at every little thing that doesn't go our way? That's what I'm going to try to figure out over the next few weeks (though it could actually take months - there's a lot to digest). Because I don't want to be angry all the time, for the reason Bill Bixby explained in the simplest terms possible, back when I was a kid. "You won't like me when I'm angry." And we all want to be liked, right?

1 comment:

  1. As a right wing lunatic once sang Anger is an Energy


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