Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Anger - the second least useful emotion

Anger is rarely a useful strategy in your personal life or in business.

A lot of people are angry these days, and it really is pointless. They shout out in impotent frustration, raise their blood pressure and....

...accomplish nothing.

As I noted in my Fear entry, emotions are often destructive to the individual. And as I noted in my They're BAITING You! entry, when people, institutions, and government can play to your emotions, they can get you to think irrationally and against your own personal interests.

Anger is not a very useful emotion, unless it is directed at yourself. Getting angry at others is really self-defeating. Let me explain what I mean.

If you get angry with a friend, acquaintance, or work associate, chances are, you will later feel bad about it and end up apologizing. You won't have accomplished much and chances are, whatever point you were trying to get across is lost.

Getting angry at a company, bank, service institution, or the like is also self-defeating. Customer service reps are trained to "shut down" when someone starts screaming at them. And let's face it, when was the last time that shouting at a bank teller or a phone rep actually worked? If anything, it backfires, as it makes you out to be the unreasonable person (even if you are in the right) and then they have the high ground - and the power - in the transaction.

Getting angry at the government or politicians is similarly stupid, as the only thing that really affects their actions is your vote and your money. As I have noted in the past, ironically, many people who are angry all the time at the government and listen to "talk radio" often don't vote and don't contribute to political campaigns.

Make a calm informed choice in your voting. You have usually a choice of two candidates, get over that. Pick the less odious of the two and move on. Getting upset because there is no candidate that reflects your exact political philosophy is childish and also self-defeating.

Your political opponents win when you fail to endorse your candidate because he is not radical enough for you. This is how Obama got elected, and how the Democrats will lose the mid-term elections. The radical right didn't think McCain was right-wing enough, so they didn't get out the vote. Many far-left Democrats are not enthusiastic about Obama, because they think he is too conservative. The net result for people of either political persuasion is that a person gets elected who has the diametric opposite political views as their own.

Which is worse, someone whose views are not entirely alike as yours, or someone who is diametrically opposed? The angry political types would argue that if a candidate is not going to mimic their exact beliefs, then they will stay home and not vote. Not a very mature political world-view, is it? And that is what anger does - gets you thinking stupid.

So forget angry talk shows, angry TeeVee shows, getting angry in general. Because in addition to wasting your time, getting you to do things against your own interests, and getting you to squander money, anger is bad for your health. Anger raises your blood pressure and can lead to hypertension. As a result, you could end up having a coronary.

Getting angry with yourself can sometimes be useful. When you make a stupid economic mistake and shrug it off as "oh well, who cares?" you learn little and end up making the same mistakes over and over again. It is instructive, when you make mistakes, to get a little angry with yourself, so you remember the incident and try not to repeat it.

But as I have noted again and again, Life is Not an Optimized Event, so don't get too angry with yourself. Beat yourself up a bit, and then get over it. Vow to do better next time.

As I noted at the beginning of this blog entry, being angry seems to be the trend these days. Angry television shows encourage people to be angry. They tell them what they want to hear - that "but for" the actions of others, they would be wealthier and happier, and that somehow, someone, somewhere, has taken this all away from them.

But if you think about it, the "solutions" the anger-mongers offer are largely vague and undefined. And this is by design - they don't want to offer specifics, because the specifics they want to offer you are probably contrary to your own interests.

Many of the "angry" are middle-class or lower-middle class people. Selling them on the idea of tax cuts for the rich is an interesting task. So they don't talk about it that way. They talk about "people on welfare" who are taking all their hard-earned money. They can get people living in a trailer to argue for repeal of the Gifts and Estate Tax (the "death tax" they call it). They can get people who are paying little or no Federal taxes and who are recipients of much Federal largess to argue against their own position. 

And how do you do this? Anger. Get people so angry that they can't think straight, and you can do anything.

But on a personal level, if you want to improve your own lot in life, listening to talk radio for 10 hours a day and harboring a seething anger is probably not useful. You will make yourself unattractive to others, as you blather on about your political "opinions" (which are little more than Fox News Talking Points, verbatim). And you will also make yourself virtually unemployable. Employers shy away from folks who act and talk like they will "go Postal" one day, and if you are seething with anger all the time, you likely will have trouble getting and keeping a job.  You will end up sad and lonely.

And in a way, such behavior enforces this type of anger. The "Angry White Man" loses his job because his obnoxious opinions alienate everyone at work. And since he spends all day listening to talk radio and wasting other people's time talking politics, he rarely gets anything done. So he is not an effective worker and gets laid off. And of course, he blames it all on "political correctness" because the person who fired him was a minority, a woman, or both.

So, laid off, he spends even more time getting angry and the cycle repeats itself.  Worse yet, he sits at home polishing and cleaning his collection of guns.

Any activity that takes that much time out of your day and adds nothing to your bottom line is something you should think long and hard about. Watching television, listening to talk radio, obsessing about politics - there is little to be gained personally from it, unless you are a political commentator by profession. A "follower" makes no money from this activity, he or she just wastes time.

There is no reason to follow politics on a day-to-day basis or hour-by-hour, as the new media wants you to do. Again, your opinion only matters in a voting booth, or when you are writing a check. Anything else is just time-wasting. There are other areas where people let anger get the best of them - getting angry or allowing anger to fester over local "issues" that are never resolved. Some of my neighbors get upset when people trespass on our road. There is little we can do other than put up "no trespassing" signs and lock the gate. Getting angry, shouting at people, and possibly causing an incident really don't have any effect. To some extent, you have to "let go" of these things.

Oddly enough, some of the most "laid back" people in the world are the angriest of all. In our local village, for example, people are angry at one woman, because she donated money to the college there, to fix up the dilapidated buildings. Yea, I don't get it, either. But what is really amazing to me is that these "angry" people are the same "peace, love, and brotherhood" folks from the 1960's.  UPDATE: In fact, hippies are some of the angriest people I know - next to Trumpers, that is.

Or take my other neighbor. He is angry and upset because a neighbor is building a shack down by the lake. OK, so it is an ugly shack. But he is violating no zoning laws or breaking any rules (my neighbor called the authorities, so we know this!) It is just his taste in architecture that offends the senses.

An ex-hippie getting all bent out of shape like that. What ever happened to "Do your own thing, baby!" I guess the baby boomers are hypocrites, like anyone else.

Zoning boards and angry zoning board meetings are filled with ex-flower children, who, now that they are getting older, have decided that being an "activist" means telling their neighbor what color they can paint their front door. Do your own thing, baby, provided it conforms to my norms and expectations.

Giving up and letting go of such trivial things is important for your own personal sanity and well-being. My neighbor tried to get me upset about my other neighbor's lake shack. But after a while, I realized that there was no way to "force" him to change it, and moreover that we really shouldn't even try. You can't and shouldn't enforce your own tastes on others. And moreover, such things can boomerang, when you decide to remodel your own property.

The trespassers on our road? Well, they are taking a shortcut that saves them 3 miles of driving and 15 minutes of driving time. You can't blame them for trying. Many have offered to pay for the maintenance of the road in exchange for the right to use it. But the angry types turn it down again and again - they'd rather have a decrepit road that is "private" than a paved one that is used. So we will have trespassers over time, and there is little or nothing to do about it, other than stop using the road entirely.

Either way, though, getting angry about any of it really serves no purpose.

Or take condo boards. Ouch. Talk about anger! People who live in condos tend to get sucked into these petty "controversies" about the management of the condo. And they will stoke the fires of discontent and try to get everyone feeling bad about the place. But when elections come up for condo board representatives, the angry types refuse to run (even when there are vacant seats on the board!) and when they do join the board, they often end up "quitting in protest" because the messy business of running a condo association is more than they want to deal with. Better to be the angry outsider, shouting demands and suggestions, than to have to actually do anything.

The best bet, if you are in a condo, is to vote carefully for your condo board candidate, read the meeting minutes and then throw them away. The board members will either act in your best interests or not. And if not, your only recourse really is to sell your condo. See my article, Never Buy A Condo! for more information on that topic. If you really want to avoid the whole controversy, it is probably just better to rent an apartment. Chances are, you'll pay less in rent that it costs to own, and you rarely make money on condos anyway.

So why do we get angry? It is a human reaction and human emotion. Your emotions are often more a function of your body chemistry than anything else. If you are low on blood sugar, you will be more likely to get angry. So going to the bank at lunch hour, before you have eaten, is likely to make you angry, if the teller is an ass or there is a long line of time-wasters in front of you (and there always is, isn't there?).

Staying hydrated and keeping your blood sugar steady are two ways to avoid anger. And coincidentally, in America, we promote an anger diet. A majority of Americans are now not only overweight, but obese, and are eating horrible diets that cause their blood sugar to soar and then plummet several times during the day. You get angry listening to Rush Limbaugh, not because of what he says, but because you are listening in the late morning, during that low blood sugar time before lunch.

Not surprisingly, many on the far-right defend America's poor diet choices as the choices of a free-market. But cheap starches and high-fructose corn syrup didn't come to dominate our diet because of free market forces.

But that's another story.....