In our world where attention is commodified, almost every piece of media, every social issue, and every minor inconvenience feel like it’s designed to outrage and trigger our emotions. They do whenever we let them, as that’s how we’re wired as emotional creatures. Whatever grips our emotions become memorable and cause us to take action on it, rarely for the better. This system of outrage needs to be tamed somehow or it’ll just direct our aggression towards destroying everything beneficial in our lives and the lives of those around us. I’m using this article to explore and dig into the darkness behind our aggression and how it can be used in a meaningful way.
The Void Behind Outrage -
Happy and satisfied people don’t usually get outraged and attack others for every minor issue. Smart, hard-working, and functional humans can stay calm and figure out a way to solve their problems, in most cases. Then, why do we see too many easily offended people spewing their outrage at things that do not, have not, and would not directly affect them while justifying it under moral facades? Let’s remember, I don’t mean any particular political or social side in any part of the world, as this culture of outrage is found in every group of people on all sides on the socio-political spectrum, and understanding it might not involve any groups or even the concept of groups. The fault, or moreover the responsibility, might lie with individuals who try to take the lazy and easy way out of their situations, and this almost never works out for people as they’d hoped.
We’ve got to first acknowledge that all of us are human, and nobody is as perfect in reality as certain narratives can have people believe. Everyone has their own day-to-day issues and some intentionally choose to handle them more responsibly than others. Amazing narratives are easy to sell as they are awe-inspiring, works of fantasy which can lead the consumers of such narratives to a state of envy, jealousy, comparisonitis, and rage. Combined with the humane need to self-moralize caused by the ego creates a sense of blame-game, narratives of privilege, and outrage from those who choose to give up responsibility, while the wiser choice can be to get inspired and learn from others to improvise and adapt our own lives for the better. Yet, a life without problems can only exist in fiction, probably making it the most boring, unrealistic, useless, and destructive piece of fiction ever.
Human outrage at every petty occurrence can usually be found as a substitute for constructive obsessions when there’s a lack of purpose. If a dog isn’t given a bone/ball to chase, it could become an over-energetic creature whose impatience and aggression would obsess over everything that catches its attention. I’m not a dog owner and haven’t seen the act personally, but the metaphor does apply to all humans. If we consider our spirit and mind as a car or a truck with full fuel(that replenishes itself regularly) with a foot pressed hard on the accelerator peddle most of the time, then this vehicle(ourselves) would crash and destroy a lot of property if the steering wheel is not controlled, aimless without a destination or a route. Now consider the fuel tank in this metaphor as a nuclear power reactor, constantly producing enough energy to fuel a spaceship, then letting the vehicle move without any intentions can end worlds. The problem some may see with these metaphors is that many humans may normally feel tired, exhausted, and not feel like a nuclear reactor, but this energy is not as simple as the overt enthusiasm that surges and leaves in moments. Understanding this energy within us can mean exploring a dark and explosive part of our mind, which most people struggle to acknowledge.
Our Dark, Raging, & Natural Spirit -
Though most of us would wish to believe that we’re good, kind, peaceful, loving, and harmless creatures, that’s not how our species rose to the top of our planet’s food chain, that’s not how we can truly be as it’s against our nature. We need to realize that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. That doesn’t mean we have to use this grim concept as an excuse to hurt others, as I’m definitely against it, and am indirectly getting at the opposite. Our rage, anger, hate, envy, sadness, pain, grief, sorrow, are all emotions seen as negative, but they are no different from happiness, love, kindness, joy, peace, and other emotions that are generally considered as positive. Before we continue, let’s hypothetically consider all these emotions as neither good nor bad, as emotions are figments of our imagination caused by our feelings and neurological impulses, which are not quantified with any units of measurement.
Then, if we place no morality on our emotions, they all just become the fuel that drives our spirit to do everything we do in our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. All our actions and choices are driven and instigated by our own emotions, no matter how smart we think we are. Humans at all points of our lives are emotionally driven irrational beings, and this fact has indirectly led to all the great and regrettable deeds of our species, all the constructive and the destructive work, all the sane and insane actions of people everywhere throughout history and even far into the future. We would naturally not like this fact as all our egos have a need to believe that we’re logical, smart, sentient, and make our own decisions in smart ways, but being aware of our emotional irrationality as a naturally existing biological feature can be the first step in taking control of our own selves, and yet it’ll be a constant struggle for everyone who’s bold enough to attempt it.
We hold the concepts of warfare and violence in a negative light, convincing ourselves that we’ll never do it and those who indulge in it to be inhuman. Yet, all of us always live and view everything from a competitive spirit, always feeling the burning need to be better than others, be it in the ego-measuring games of socializing, the conflicting nature of our egos with most people on any average day, or the vengeful lust to harm those we feel have harmed us in any way real or imaginary. Though these realities can appear to be uncomfortable, escaping it is pointless and more destructive than facing it head-on by gaming it to our advantage. Humans have fought with each other and with nature since time immemorial, and that’s what we’re still naturally wired to do, despite our technological advances which have given us a life of comfort, ease, pleasures, and safety that we haven’t had the time to adjust into through the natural and long process of evolution. Despite living in our chambers of safety, we’re always longing for conflict, throwing our aggression at any and all issues that catch our attention, like a cat jumping at a laser’s moving light.
This primal need to always have a reason to fight creates masses of easily enraged people who are always on the lookout for the next issue to justify their rage. Whatever reasons we give to validate our rage, no issue can be solved with anger and any emotion that moves us aimlessly, will make us(the nuclear-powered vehicle) crash and burn into someone or something, escalating the initial issue which started the outrage. This ends up causing purposeless destruction which doesn’t solve anything. If we can understand that our constantly aggressive fighting spirit is necessary for all the good in life, it can stop being a destructive entity and be productive. Just like the yin and yang, acceptance can come by realizing that peace cannot exist without anger, that love cannot exist without hate, and balance cannot exist without conflict. This is flowing into a wacky territory overloaded with the metaphorical, but it’s still practical as I’m explaining in the next(final) part of this article.
Channelizing Aggression Productively -
We live in a safe, advanced, and civilized world, and yet many people are regularly chasing quick fixes to attain a peaceful mind through ways like meditation, spirituality, religions, cults, therapy, medication, alcohol and drugs, and they always continue on this journey without realizing that suppressing or ending our aggression is not just harmful but also an unattainable solution. Not using our rage and every other emotion(nuclear fuel source) can make it burst out in random directions in a chaotic rampage. Being a person who knows people with addictions and having some personal experience with it, I’ve seen the damage that happens to people’s lives if they don’t have an outlet for their aggression. Rage and the urge to destroy can be addictive and regularly satisfying for people who quite literally have nothing better to do.
We humans need to intentionally choose our obsessions and use them as a target to strike at with our aggression and emotions of all kinds, and if not, the outrage will aimlessly strike at every petty thing randomly to entertain itself. Good, productive, and functional people always have something meaningful and constructive to obsess about which they’ve chosen with clear intentions. It can vary with each person, but the usual examples for constructive obsessions for people can be their professional work, their hobbies, their pet animal(or animals), their plants(gardening), their family, their physical training, their studies, their friends and social circles, or any grander pursuit that’s not found commonly enough to be relatable to everyone. We all know the destructive potential of our emotions(of all kinds), but this same fuel source can be a great battery for constructive work on scales that can surprise us if we keep on channelizing our aggression productively to construct rather than to destroy. This can seem easy for me to write, but in reality, it’s a herculean effort on a daily basis for any human being to not stray from our aim and keep on shooting our dark raging aggression for the better, whatever we intentionally define as better for our own lives.
(‘Training Outrage’ can seem like a better title for this article than ‘Taming Outrage’, but that just feels like the idea for another article which can take a more practical dive as this article is focuses heavily on the metaphorical to theoretically understand the concept.)
And . . .