But if our collective LIFEMORTS are being activated, what exactly do we do with all this rage?
If we don’t manage it, said Ms. Tawwab, who is the author of “Set Boundaries, Find Peace,” “it comes out as passive aggressiveness or temper tantrums.”
“We’re frustrated,” Ms. Tawwab said. “We’ve been in the house. We’re mad at our partner. Or we’re annoyed by this person who we really can’t express it to, like maybe a boss.” When our anger does emerge, “it’s very much displaced, and that’s why you see people having these moments with a flight attendant or a cashier. Do those people deserve that level of response based on the situation? Absolutely not.”
The pandemic is lingering, there’s a land war in Europe, the global economy seems to be teetering, and we’re all being algorithmically encouraged to stay outraged all the time. Plus, as Dr. Epstein points out, for everything extraordinary that we’ve been dealing with this year, “just regular life is filled with unpredictability and sickness and old age and death” — things we fear, that disturb us, that are out of our control and that leave us unsettled and angry. It’s no wonder that, this year, we lost it. The question is: Can we ever get it back?
The answer, it seems, is not to suppress our anger, or ignore it, or disdain it.
We need to make peace with our rage.
“Anger has a very bad rap as being this terrible feeling — like you should never feel it and it’s bad, and that’s not true,” Ms. Tawwab said. As an emotion, “it’s appropriate, just like the other feelings that we have.” Rather than suppressing it, she said, “it’s much more helpful to just say, ‘Well I’m really angry, I’m disappointed, I’m frustrated,’ so you can recognize it when it’s happening versus trying to push it down and then the top blows off.”
Our anger, after all, is trying to tell us something. “What we forget is that emotions are a signal — like the microwave telling you when your food is done,” said Prof. Laurie Santos, who teaches positive psychology at Yale and hosts the podcast “The Happiness Lab.” While anger can be self-destructive, she pointed out, it can also lead to positive changes in our mental well-being if it leads to action and a sense of agency.