2018-07-05 – One thing that extremists from both the right and left agree on is the view that anger is essential. That the expression of that anger leads to catharsis. That anger itself purges the injustice that kindled the anger. That anger is necessary to restore balance and tranquility.
The idea of anger as catharsis was once popular in psychological circles. And it made sense. People do bottle resentments up in unhealthy ways. Becoming aware of your feelings and talking about them is certainly an important step and should be encouraged. But that is really different from encouraging people to rant and rave just for “catharsis” sake.
The first time I read about this difference was in Anger: the Misunderstood Emotion, by Carol Tavris, published in 1989. Tavris did not attack the idea that we need to be aware of our anger. But what her research showed was awareness and expression was not enough. “Talking out an emotion doesn’t reduce it, it rehearses it.” It can make us chronically hostile and depressed, unless . . .
We do something effective to directly attack the problem that is making us angry.
And that’s the problem with politics today. Everyone is looking for catharsis. Too few are looking to do anything effective. They think that, if they yell at someone, the problem is solved. It isn’t. And it’s making us chronically hostile and depressed.
Even if your side “wins,” it’s only good for a moment. Because winning these days is little more than a primal scream. It’s like masturbating when what you are really looking for is a deep and loving relation. It feels good for a moment, but soon you discover that your lover is just your fist.
While it is true that your can repeat the process, over and over and over and over again, you never get any closer to your goal. And that can make your really, really angry.