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Useful And Fantastic: Waste No Anger

Val Yule suggests that if we must be angry we should direct our anger towards towards demanding solutions to social problems.

Pick a social problem, and direct the energy of your anger in helping to solve it. That will keep you so busy with your anger that you will never waste it again.

At present so much of human energy is wasted in anger. Like wasting fire on little bonfires, instead of using it to heat us and cook food and produce energy.

Look at all the anger fizzling away in Australia – just wasted.

When there are disasters, there is frustration, and anger can be misdirected from that.

When people say something you disagree with, online or in the paper, instead of thinking through why you disagree and what other information you have, you can expend your anger is clever repartee.

Freud tended to think of human emotions as a plumbing system, and anger bottled up might explode, so you had to let it out.
It is much better to turn it to good account.

All the rages that riddle the ether and the homes and the roadways could be looked on as a fund of human energy misdirected.

Road rage is a symptom and cannot be cured in isolation.

Domestic rage with violence in my State,Victoria, reaches 22,000 reported cases per annum increasingly annually by 20%. Sports rage, queue rage, shopping rage, phone rage - are all escalating today as people feel free to express their emotions and unable to control them, and for manliness to be seen as throwing your weight around. It is increasingly expensive to hire security staff to protect potential victims of rage - nurses, doctors, teachers, clerks, social workers and lawyers. It is increasingly expensive to try to protect women and children who are victims of domestic violence; women too are also increasingly likely to perpetrate violence in the home.

It is not just frustrations that cause rage - it is the models we are being given about how to respond to frustration. Men, boys, women and girls are copying the models of uncontrolled anger that they see on TV, in films and on the football field. When I worked as a community psychologist visiting homes, I was struck by how often through the thin walls of high-rise flats, adults could be heard quarrelling using the phrases that had been in that week's soapie, and how often teenagers copied cruel and violent behavior that they saw in films.

All the more reason to consider the training that is given by television violence to people coming from a background of violence and macho interpretations of masculinity.

People claim they ‘would not be in the slightest bit surprised if this if-it’s-in-front-yell-at-it state of mind had been around since the invention of the wheel.’ It has been, but it has been rare until now. Until recently only the largest truck-drivers bawled, and it was not ‘an unfortunate part of any driver’s day’. In the past it would not have been thought ‘risible’ and ‘surreal’ apologise for bad driving, but it did not seem urgent then as a means of life-preservation.

Research finds a distinction between people’s response to stimuli of violence - the ‘verbal types’ can respond to it in their imagination and change their ways through verbal intervention and counseling; the ‘action’ types act out what catches their imagination, and need models they can see and copy.

It is not just frustrations that are causing the rage - it is the models we are being given about how to respond to frustration.

We could change the two worst public models for teaching rage responses.

First are the short TV trailers for shows that are promoted. They are worse than the shows themselves because in trailers the rage and violence are shown out of context and reason - they model destructive and angry responses to anything. They are also seen by everyone, including children and immigrants - whereas people can choose whether or not to see the shows.

The second is rage in football games. This makes good theatre for spectators, but it would also make good theatre if skilful play was the focus instead. Even angry faces help the players to be more angry - a psychological ploy effective to prepare warriors for battle, by Viking berserkers and Maoris.

It is said that well-adjusted people can go home from a violent game feeling catharsis - but others less peacefully trained copy the role-models.

Coaches and club leaders need to train their players how to put their vigor into skilful play without being violent and angry as well. A definition of player-skill should include ability to avoid contact that can be construed as violent rage.

Commercial advertisers know that we learn from television. But we learn more than just what to buy. Our television culture can change. For example, the definition of acting. A disturbing trend is for young actors to imagine that being angry and rude is acting. NADA and other institutions can train actors who can register other emotions and body language, and dramatists need to realise that they can show other forms of drama than angry human conflict - they can show people responding to frustration courteously, and with ideas not fists or guns.

Ask now to have more television that shows how to handle anger, and the pleasure that comes from courtesy - including in Reality TV.

Men and women should never be shown hitting each other.

Even ballet should not include what looks like sexual harassment and violence in its increasingly graceless and over-energetic acrobatics.

A ‘real man’ can more often appear in lead dramatic roles - as someone who can control himself, who can be courteous to others, and can use his brains rather than violence as his first response to frustration. And the same for ‘real women’.

It is ironic that a few decades ago an enormous focus of psychological research was to find out whether children were influenced by seeing violence on television. The overall conclusions that they were influenced, both actively and as victims, was ignored. Today the evidence that adults are affected by violent models and the long-term effects, is all around us, as one major factor among many others that promote violence in the world. It is time the West offered the world more solutions and intelligent role models, rather than belligerence being what a man does


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