In Need Of…Anger Management

On Wednesday, I pulled up an entry I wrote in December 2012 about America’s mental fascination with guns and violence.

We haven’t a learned a thing about it. When I looked at the stats, a total of 31 people clicked on the blog to read the post.

Thirty-one. Five years since it was written.

Nevertheless, I’ll link this entry again, this time with some added observations below.

It has become unnerving to read the many narratives, the dismissal of narratives, and the over-emotional shaming that people have resorted to on social media about the latest incident in Florida. The listed reasons are plenty.

“It’s a parenting problem.”

“It’s mental illness”

“Gun control”

“Angry white male”

“The boys are not all right (this from the NYT op/ed piece)

I got news for all of you…it’s not one specific thing.

It’s everything.

Parenting, gun control, isolation, disconnection, bullying, labeling, and on and on.

All of the vitriol is a perfect storm. How we behave, think, and view others and the world around us is predicated on how we react.

We are a bunch of angry people, plain and simple. 

The common denominator to all of this is anger.

When I sift through all of the factors, it isn’t too hard to see.

Being angry about anything that sets us off.

Anger didn’t occur when the gunmen were able to get access to guns. It started in the classroom, in the home, the office, where ever.

It started with the kids. There are kids who are bullied, picked on, slighted, and ignored, because they are different

Adults, on a daily basis bully, harass, and demean other adults. At work, in the store, and on the streets. In the bar, at a concert, and in front of the kids. Kids pick up the traits of their parents. If a parent was a bully in school, it’s likely their children will be one. If a parent was picked on at school, their children is likely to emulate their parents, or become bully themselves.

It’s about control and a self-sense of power.

When adults and kids are made fun of, bullied, and rejected, the resentment grows to where there are two ways to resolve it: internalize it, drive themselves out of control, and give up…

…or lash out as a means of revenge. “I’ll show them. No one will laugh/harass/talk about me like that anymore.” The seeds of violence were already planted before the irreversible decision to walk into a hallway and open fire.

MSDFADO EC007
Michael Douglas, as William Foster, in “Falling Down” (1992). (Cineplex)

Anyone remember the movie “Falling Down” starring Michael Douglas? Douglas played William Foster, an unemployed defense worker, on his way to visit to his daughter’s birthday party at his ex-wife’s house. He encounters a series of events, trivial or provocative, that sets him off and he goes on a shooting spree. This is where the “white male anger” narrative got tossed around for the first time.

The “angry white male” narrative, though prevalent, has given way to people of all walks of life feeling like William Foster. The real narrative is that we are angry. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, lesbians, straight, man, woman, and child.

Everyone is angry as hell about everything.

Angry about a breakup, being fired, being laughed at, losing a game, facing discrimination. Angry over an election didn’t go their way, a tweet, an opinion…

Everyone’s pissed off about something.

Most of us don’t know how to handle our anger. Some of are not violent, but we go on social media to attack people as a way to unload our anger. The scary part, as sports talk show host Steve Czaban pointed out (48:10 mark), it’s smart educated people with good jobs and lives who turn into monsters behind a keyboard, going apeshit about anything that sets them off daily, small or big.

The “dark side” of social media is an expose of people who feel that they are losing control of the world around them and feel the need to say whatever they want, without filters. They forget that there are consequences with words and actions. It doesn’t matter if they are white or black.

These are the people who have lost all sense of reality. Demeaning those who are not as smart as they are (anti-intellectualism), labeling others for having opinions that are not aligned with theirs, and shaming people for small or egregious mistakes.

This stood out to me in that blog: “We can pass tougher laws, but making it harder to prevent the wrong people from having them isn’t going to stop them.” We can’t stop all wars, robberies, and murders , and we can’t stop all violence, unless we don’t look at how mentally screwed up we are in our actions and behavior.

The above tweet was at the heart of my counseling session this week. I overheard my therapist and the office manager talking about the past week’s events. I felt comfortable enough to tell my therapist my thoughts about all of this. I’ll get to this tweet later on.

Thank goodness I’m not telling this to an irrational emotional angry person who will fly off the handle without giving it an opinion a considerable thought.

In reviewing that 2012 blog, I brought up something that should be of concern: our mental fascination on using guns as a way to resolve our problems. Breakup with your girlfriend? Hunt her down with a gun. Lose your job? Shoot up the workplace. Get bullied and treated like a misfit? Gun down the jocks and the homecoming queen. Someone spill a drink on you at the bar? Walk out to you car, and come back “packing heat.”

How can we be a nation that want gun control, and yet when we go to the movies or watch television, we celebrate and glorify the bad guy who gets shot up or a machine gun takes out a fighter jet? Our need to have a weapon in our hands gives our ego and confidence a boost. 

Which leads me to repost a important scene from the comedy movie “Friday”. Craig (Ice Cube) tells his dad (John Witherspoon) that he is carrying a gun to protect his pal Smokey from being roughed up.  Craig’s dad shakes his head, and tells his son that there is another way to protect himself and to resolve a conflict.

We’re so quick to pick up a gun to resolve problems in this society. When was the last time you witnessed two people squaring up to settle something…with their hands?  “You win some and you lose some, but you live to see another day.”

The tweet above is very important to me. I have battled mental illness for a better part of 25 years. While I do think that there are individuals with mental illness who are likely to commit violent acts, there is a difference between “mental illness” and “mental health.” Mental illness is a condition that a person has that affects them. Mental health, in general, is how we mentally view things and act upon those feelings and actions.

America has a mental health problem with gun violence, and violence in general. We see it as the ONLY way to end a dispute, get revenge, and feel good about it.

All because we are angry about everything. People makes us angry, issues makes us angry, that damn remote control that doesn’t work propels us to hurl that against a wall.

A former colleague posted on Facebook that that he’s tired of being told to “calm” down about the latest school shootings. It took a lot of restraint from me not to reply back. Only because I do not want anyone to tell me that I need to show “anger” about something I can not control. I understand his anguish, but that is not how I deal with a sensitive topic like this one. I need time to process the information, look at it in a calm manner, and then offer a thought.

In which I did by typing this entry. Flesh out what I know to this point, read and understand it, and write my observations.

I don’t know everything. Neither do you.

I am in counseling because I have internalized being slighted, discriminated, and being verbally abused for most of my life. When I was younger, I was prone to losing my temper. Later on in my life, I kept all of that miserable crap to myself. I had no outlet to unload my anger.

I was too afraid that my anger could do harm to myself and others.

I had to find help. I made a choice, as an adult, to get help. Kids are not that lucky.

By hearing the stories my niece tells me about junior high today, I understand why students in today’s schools are stressed, disillusioned, and angry. Many resort to going online to find a community that accepts them for who they are when those in real life (IRL) rejects them. Then when those online starts to reject them, they are faced with “fight or flight”. Some will take their own lives (flight) to end the bullying. Other commit acts of violence against others (fight) to stop it.

The adults experienced those feelings as well. Who uses Facebook or Twitter more?  Adults. Who gets upset more easily? Adults? Who refuses to get help?  Yeah…you got it.

There is no middle ground.

That’s where we need to start at, whether anyone wants to or not.

The middle ground when it comes to understanding how to handle our anger and stop taking it out on others and on ourselves in a destructive manner.

Which is far too often these days.