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Why human psychology might be causing increasing anger in politics

Posted by / November 8, 2018

Ask yourself: do you like being angry?

Now ask yourself one more time: do you like being angry?

Ask yourself a third time. Really ask yourself: do you like being angry?

Sometimes you have to ask yourself a question over and over before you get to the truth of how you feel. In this case, three times probably isn’t enough to realize that you secretly enjoy being angry. That’s because anger is an incredibly useful way of hiding things you don’t want to deal with: pain, difficultly with being vulnerable in relationships, and more. Anger also masks very complicated emotions you might not want to confront. Think of the last time you got angry with someone. Picture scene as vividly as you can, paying particularly attention to how you felt right before you got angry. Were there other emotions there? Guilt? Sadness? Anxiety? Anger sometimes flares up to prevent us from feeling things we don’t want to feel.

But anger does something even more complicated in our psyches. It makes us feel better about a situation, whatever the situation. We get to clearly define the world in two camps: the perpetrator and the victim. The world makes more sense when you’re angry, and everything is in it’s right place––especially you, you’re the innocent one. And that inspires you. It makes you feel more powerful and willing to take action.

Enter anger in politics. If you feel like politics have gotten really angry, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of the “exhausted majority“––a whopping 67% of Americans who are so tired of the bitterness in politics. Speaking as someone who is definitely Reddit threadpart of that exhausted minority, it’s still easy to feel the pull of anger. Thousands––perhaps hundreds of thousands––of Americans are ready to protest as a result of Jeff Sessions’s firing and the threat that represents to the Mueller organization. CNN’s White House correspondent had his press credentials removed, and we recommend that you don’t read the about that piece of news, otherwise you might find your anger getting up.

The problem is that anger is a very compelling emotion, and anger breeds more anger. The more we use anger to paint our political rivals as perpetrators and ourselves as villains, the more we start to see the world through that lens. As a natural result of that kind of worldview, we get angrier. What’s my proposed solution? To quote Bob Newhart, just stop itWhen you find yourself getting angry about politics, ask yourself a few questions: what other emotions might I be feeling? What harm might this anger be doing to me or to others? Is anger benefitting me in some way, healthy or unhealthy? What could I do to channel this anger appropriately and constructively?

More about your health.


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