As I was prepping this post, reflecting on the recent show with Artemisio Romero y Carver, I got curious. Curious about anger and outrage, because of something Arte said, “… the outrage is only natural.”
“Is it?” I asked myself. I know lots of times these days I can feel anger, even righteous outrage, simmering just below the surface of my conscious awareness. Doesn’t take much for it to start steaming up and making a mess.
Sometimes that mess is that I’m walking through my day not feeling as comfortable as I like. Other times, it can boil up and out into impatience with the projects that need finishing, or that too-long social distance-dictated line outside in the heat at the grocery store, or the people I love.
Anger is such a misunderstood emotion (outrage being sort-of magnified anger). Most of us weren’t taught how to appropriately respond to or communicate emotions. In part, because we’re not taught to actually feel our feelings unless they’re socially acceptable. (Who decided that one?!)
Part of the problem is that not everyone agrees that anger is an “acceptable” emotion.
Every emotion is “acceptable”. It’s what we do with, how we act in response to how we’re feeling that matters.
The more we acknowledge our emotions, the higher our emotional intelligence IQ. What does that do for us?
A higher emotional IQ (or EQ, same thing) allows us to more easily search for solutions to problems large and small, among many other benefits.
According to Paula Durlofsky, Ph.D.,
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in an effective and positive way. A high EQ helps individuals to communicate better, reduce their anxiety and stress, defuse conflicts, improve relationships, empathize with others, and effectively overcome life’s challenges.
Michelle Obama did just that this week on her podcast. She outed herself as dealing with ” … a heaviness, … some form of low-grade depression.”
That’s beautiful modeling of emotional intelligence. She’s aware when she’s feeling low. She names it. She’s not afraid to sit with it. And wowzer, she’s talking about it knowing that millions of people will hear about it.
- Strength in vulnerability.
- Resilience in the opening to that vulnerability.
- And deep courage and healing in sharing it.
Let’s get back to anger.
There’s “good” anger. That internal jolt of electric “Whaaat?!!” that sometimes stops us in our tracks? Maybe an essential psychological boundary has just been messed with.
Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, got it right when he said that “ … [anger] can be a good emotion if you use it to correct injustices and/or protect yourself or others”.
Then there’s toxic anger, the kind that can be harmful to both the one who carries it, as well as the targets of that kind of destructive rage.
As for me, and my own sometimes simmering anger? I feel it when it’s up for me. I name it. And I use all the mindfulness and emotional intelligence strategies I’ve learned over the years — the same ones I teach my clients — to balance the emotional overwhelm of living with an activated nervous system.
Yes, there are times when our outrage is only natural, even helpful. Check this out, from Scientific American.
We do know that anger, specifically, is a key factor in reducing discrimination—research has demonstrated that anger about discrimination specifically drives reductions in bias against minorities. To the degree that reduced discrimination produces more positive intergroup social behavior, this might be more evidence in favor of how anger can produce positive outcomes (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-outrage-be-a-good-thing/).
Arte, in his political, climate, and racial justice work, seems to be channeling “good” anger and healthy moral outrage into doing work out in the world that’s making a difference.
Anger isn’t bad. Depression isn’t bad. Our emotions can be messengers. We can use their energies to better understand ourselves, the world around us, what we need, and what we will no longer tolerate.
If you’d rather watch the two of us recording the show, it’s down below.
In this episode, Arte shares facts and feelings about racial justice. It’s a wide-ranging convo, including collective trauma, white guilt, and why it’s necessary to challenge the status quo.
Toward the end of the 2nd half, Arte gives one of the most heartfelt and heart-full descriptions of happiness in chaotic times that Melanie’s ever heard.
Want to watch us record the show? Here it is!