Recently I read an article called “Isn’t it Outrageous,” by Tim Kreider of the New York Times. I don’t read the Times with any regularity, but occasionally something catches my attention. The article was about anger and how good it feels.
Here’s the quote that caught my attention:
“A couple of years ago, while meditating, I learned something kind of embarrassing: anger feels good. Although we may consciously experience it as upsetting, somatically it feels a lot like the first rush of an opiate — a tingling warmth on the insides of your elbows and wrists, in the back of your knees. “
This caught my attention because I can not relate to this at all. I don’t like being angry. There’s no rush for me. It’s more of an annoyance – something that I can’t wait to get away from. Sure it’s warm, but it’s more like heartburn warm than warm and cozy.
Anger is very un-controlling and wild. Maybe that’s what Mr. Kreider means when he talks about “the first rush of an opiate.” Maybe I can’t relate to that because drugs never appealed to me. I never understood the point. Plus the potential consequences always scared me. Addiction or death was never all that appealing to me.
But I’m guessing Mr. Kreider is not alone in this feeling. It got me thinking about other feelings that we have that supposedly feel good. Does envy feel good to people? I can’t imagine that it does – Envy is just seething and slowly killing both the person who feels it and the object of the feeling. How about other feelings that aren’t healthy that feel good. I don’t know. I’m having trouble getting the sense that I want to feel these things.
This also got me thinking about a common American condition – righteous indignation. That’s my label anyway. It’s the anger many people have towards their government, or any organization really. People are ticked off that the government does this or that. People are angry at something the President tweeted. People are upset at something their pastor said. People are pissed about their job. People are angry because the weather forecast isn’t perfect for their plans.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Kreider is right – there are many people who just enjoy being angry. They will find anything they can to be angry about something. It must be like a drug for these folks. Being angry goes hand in hand with having a victim mentality. It’s one thing to be an actual victim of something terrible. I have great sympathy for someone who has been victimized and will go out of my way to help that person. And frankly, someone who is victimized has a good reason to be angry. I get that.
But it’s quite something else for a person to have a victim mentality and be angry at everyone and everything just because they aren’t getting what they want, when they want it. That’s called being a toddler or an infant. Mature adults know that this isn’t how the world works.
Is anger addictive? Maybe. I don’t know and I’m not going to find out.
Does anger feel good? Apparently for some it does. I’ll never know.