But when our collective LIFEMORTS activate, what exactly do we do with all that anger?
If we don’t make it, said Ms. Tawwab, author of “Set Boundaries, Find Peace,” “comes out as passive aggressiveness or outbursts of anger.”
“We’re frustrated,” Mrs. said Tawwab. “We were in the house. We are mad at our partner. Or we get angry at that person who we really can’t express it to, like a boss might.” When our anger comes up, “it’s very repressed, and that’s why you see people having those moments with a flight attendant or a cashier. Do these people deserve this reaction because of the situation? Absolutely not.”
The pandemic is ongoing, there is a land war in Europe, the global economy appears to be teetering, and we are all algorithmically encouraged to stay outraged at all times. Also, as Dr. Epstein points out that for everything extraordinary we’ve explored this year, “normal life is full of unpredictability and sickness and old age and death” — things we fear, things that bother us, things that are beyond our control and so on leave us unsettled and angry. No wonder we lost it this year. The question is: can we ever get it back?
The answer doesn’t seem to be to suppress or ignore or despise our anger.
We must make peace with our anger.
“Anger gets a very bad rap as that horrible feeling — like you should never feel it and it’s bad, and that’s not true,” Ms. Tawwab said. As an emotion, “it is appropriate, just like the other feelings we have”. Rather than squelch it, she said, “It’s a lot more helpful to just say, ‘Well, I’m really angry, I’m disappointed, I’m frustrated,’ so you can spot it when it’s happening, rather than trying to to suppress and then the tip blows away.”
Our anger eventually tries to tell us something. “What we forget is that emotions are a signal — like the microwave that tells you when your food is ready,” said Prof. Laurie Santos, who teaches positive psychology at Yale and hosts The Happiness Lab podcast. While anger can be self-destructive, she stressed, it can also lead to positive changes in our mental well-being when it leads to action and a sense of agency.