May 14, 2020

When our Anger Makes us Harmful rather than Helpful (& How to Fix It).

I was a fist pumping liberal—the champion of all causes. 

I was angry and frustrated with people who could not seem to see the injustices I saw. I exhausted myself and everyone around me. Today, I have completely turned around. I have also forgiven myself for my horrible behavior. 

All of us are being called to action on any number of issues facing society. We are given a problem, a few solution ideas, but no playbook. I didn’t know the rules! I had a heart full of love and pain, and I was on fire because I cared. It is understandable.

Perhaps you know someone like me, someone who feels passionate about finding solutions and gets on board with ways of helping. It is excellent to want to help, but there are ways of helping that are not helpful for us or anyone.

Here are the ways I created harm when I wanted to help:

>> I made the issue personal.

When I made it personal, it was no longer about helping. It was about me and my ego. Making it personal led to feelings of self-righteousness and being offended, which began to harm my interactions with others. When I became self-righteous, I ignored my own biases and shortcomings. I started building my echo chamber. My conversations about people, in general, become negative.

>> I got angry

Anger is a negative, activated state. I was flooded with testosterone, a hormone associated with aggression, negative thoughts, and blaming. Rage and blame were directed toward anyone who interfered with the achievement of my goal. I even extended the blame to persons in unrelated situations. 

As an angry person, I had a narrow perspective, and low cognition, making creative problem solving difficult. Anger has a debilitating effect on goal achievement. Anger is a graceless emotion that boosts self-esteem at the cost of the dignity of others. When angry, I justified my anger and, therefore, my actions and ignored the inevitable consequences. 

>> I alienated other people.

Now that I had built my echo chamber, I started using my anger to try to subjugate others. I ignorantly believed my negative energy was a force for change while, in reality, I was working against myself and my cause. While arguing and spreading negativity, I wasted precious time pushing people away in an effort to convince them I was right. The recipient of my negativity may not have been sure they were right, but I convinced them I was wrong.

And I was. 

Judgemental finger-pointing, accusations, and blame cause pain, and causing someone pain is not helping.

>> I created a bias against myself and my cause.

After one or more negative interactions, the topic itself can cause pain. In that instance, just the mention of the subject, no matter how kindly, is met with dismissive aversion or anger. The bias I created during hostile discussions became so great that they sometimes chose to act against their interests out of revenge

Now what?

I needed an attitude change. The first thing I did was to take full responsibility to start over and make it right. I acknowledge we all add to the problems we face in society. We are all doing our best; what our best is will look different for each of us from day-to-day. I also need to remember that it is not my right or responsibility to control other people. I am in charge of me and no one else. 

I need to be respectful, be kind, be happy, and then be a good example. I can resist judging. Nonjudgemental people are a joy to be around. When I am a joy to be around, I have the most significant influence on a conscious and unconscious level. 

If I am triggered, I move away and recognize it isn’t my day. I categorize and acknowledge all my feelings. It helps!

It is a whole society issue.

People I like, and people I don’t, are all involved. I can keep it professional, and if I am serious about wanting to help, I can start with making these promises. 

I promise to be kind and respectful to everyone I meet online and in person, no matter what.

I promise to apologize when I let my feelings get the best of me and take me off track. Some words I can borrow are:

I am sorry. I didn’t say that the way I meant to. Let me rephrase that.

I promise never to use logical fallacies. I promise to entertain opposing viewpoints and invite others to do the same. 

I promise to publicly post differing views on social media and refuse to sit in an echo chamber. I promise to treat myself and others with dignity. 

I promise not to spread negativity but to remain hopeful. Hope is contagious. Especially with the children. 

One of my favorite sayings is, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” William Shakespeare wrote it in Hamlet. It helps me remember to be humble. This is what I humbly acknowledge; technology has powers I haven’t yet imagined. Miracles or what look like miracles happen all the time.

Here is a billboard that turns the humidity in the air into drinking water where drinking water is hard to come by. Isn’t that amazing? What else is in store for us?

I don’t know how this story ends or if it ever does, but if I am going to be a force for change, I will be a positive one. This will lay the foundation for cooperative and creative community action that helps without harming


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