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Useful And Fantastic: Waste No Anger – Use It Profitably

".What can we do with all our anger?'' asks Val Yule.

Pick a social problem, and direct the energy of your anger in helping to solve it. That will keep you so busy you will never waste anger again. So much of human energy is wasted in anger, such as wasting fire on little bonfires, instead of using it for heat, to cook and to produce energy.

Look at all the anger fizzling away in Australia. Disasters lead to frustration; anger can be misdirected from that. All the rages that riddle the ether and the homes and the roadways could be looked on as a fund of human energy misdirected. Rage is a symptom. It cannot be cured in isolation. Domestic rage in my State, Victoria, reaches 22,000 reported cases per annum increasingly annually by 20%. Sports rage, queue rage, shopping rage, phone rage, road rage are escalating as people feel free to express their emotions without control and see manliness as throwing your weight around.

It is increasingly expensive to hire security staff to protect potential victims of rage. It is increasingly expensive to try to protect women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Women are also increasingly likely to perpetrate violence in the home.

It is not just frustrations that cause rage – adults and children copy the models of uncontrolled anger they see on TV, films and the football field.

When I visited homes as a community psychologist I was struck by how often adults could be heard quarrelling, through the thin walls of high-rise flats, using phrases uttered in that week's soapie, and how often teenagers copied cruel and violent behavior they saw in films.

People would not be 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, but rarely, until now. In the past it did not seem urgent as a means of life-preservation.

Research finds a distinction between people’s response to stimuli of violence – the ‘verbal types’ can respond 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. We could change the two worst public models for teaching rage responses.

First, the short TV trailers for shows being promoted are worse than the shows themselves. In trailers the rage and violence are shown out of context and reason. They are also seen by everyone, including children, not just those who choose to see the shows.

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. Angry faces help the players get more angry - a psychological ploy effective to prepare warriors for battle.

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 players how to put their vigor into skilful play without becoming violent and angry. Player-skill should include ability to avoid contact that can be construed as violent rage.

Advertisers know 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 to register other emotions and body language, and dramatists must realise they can show forms of drama other than angry human conflict; they can show people responding to frustration courteously, with ideas, not fists or guns.

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

A ‘real man’ can appear in lead dramatic roles as someone who controls himself, is courteous, and uses his brains rather than violence as his first response to frustration.
The same for ‘real women’. It is ironic that a few decades ago a focus of psychological research was whether children were influenced by seeing violence on television. The overall conclusion, that they were, both actively and as victims, was ignored. Today, evidence that adults are affected by violent models is all around us, a major factor promoting 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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