Anger and sadness

I am getting lots of affirmation for my anger. I wrote, “Utter contempt for human life, for the rule of law, for the truth…” of the They, the amorphous Bad, or actually “The Johnson Government”. Utter contempt for human life? Really? They don’t ever admit the slightest misstep, and their mistakes have caused deaths, and their target of 100,000 tests a day has led to some deservedly ridiculed lying, but-

And that got a Guardian pick, a coveted pat on the head from the Guardian! Woo! And 122 upvotes. Two days later it seemed like bullshit posturing. My sarcasm- “London is a small, backward place, completely without expertise in caring for an autistic four year old”- got 191 upvotes. Lots of anger is being poured out at Cummings, who despises it, and may get off on it. I face many nebulous threats, though no concrete and immediate ones demanding fight or flight action. I read righteous NYT pieces on the efforts to steal the US Presidential election, and that is a real threat I can do nothing about. So, be aware of it, but don’t read all the NYT articles. And there is Covid, and the Covid Recession, and looming Brexit…

My anger seeks an outlet. Comments can make it seem Righteous, even effective, but it is just me and hundreds or thousands of others letting off steam. Yet when there seems nothing I can do about the many horrors, letting off steam is tempting.

I wish I had not watched Suburbicon. It is George Clooney directing a Coen Brothers script, but it is a mean little film, in which a man murders his wife to shack up with her sister, and in the ensuing Coen strangeness and coincidence six people die. Also when a Black family move in to a 1950s town, protests escalate to riots. Trying to see value in it, I could put too much weight on its last scene, when the sons of the Black couple and the murderer get out their baseball mitts and play catch. “Children can adjust to anything” or something, or even “Life goes on”. Then I see it is a script from the 1980s, a misfire from their early development. The murderer threatens to kill his eleven year old son just before dying from a misunderstanding.

Here, I am bewailing my unbearable dissatisfaction, a bit like Roger Scruton: “In our polluted passions, seeking pleasure and excitement rather than respect and love, we scorn the Redeemer’s suffering and surrender to the basest form of control.”

The answer is to acknowledge the Sadness, to dive into it, drink it and swim in it. It is only a threat if dammed up. Flowing smoothly it can douse the flames of anger. The energy of anger is necessary if something may be done, but anger without outlet becomes rage, hurting the rager. There is so little I can do.

Thursday I had my dialogue, which was unexpected, after Wednesday with Tina over skype. I wanted to speak from the inner voices, and welcome them. There’s the feminine self which I strongly value with words like Authentic Self, and one that, terrified, tries to suppress that self. I am aware of what may go wrong- speaking the thought I have had before rather than from where I am now, which would be falling short of what is possible, retreating into the familiar. All of it is good, and none of it is mad.

I feel nervousness. Then I am conscious of arrogance, and then of feeling sick. Anger at expectations. That thing about “where is it in your body”- well, feelings are in my limbic system, in my head. Others insist on this, and it does not work for me. Anger. But then, on Saturday it did.

I fear creating a soap-opera. If the only meaning I can find in my life is this untwisting, then I create more bizarre stories of that. But no. It feels real. Judgment: I am my own enabler, allowing myself to fritter my life.

I am arrogant and self-effacing. Having so little money humiliates me.

It feels like things are coming to the surface, real, discrete parts of me, seeming to have separate personalities, which have been long buried. Some seem in pairs- sadness against anger, the drive to achieve and a self-protecting No, and the femininity and the terror that suppresses that.

I crave reassurance. Does this make sense? Yes, she says. Some people give their configurations names, ages, or genders. Some place them in time. Dialogue will bring integration.

They might not talk to the opposite but might to a neutral arbiter, I say. I feel my character manifests in my actions whatever stories I tell about who I am. I fear I will not get the configurations sorted in time, I need to be more functional now. All the voices have value. I have not recognised their good will, always.

7 thoughts on “Anger and sadness

  1. I’ve been reading a lot about accepting emotions. We place a high moral premium on feeling the “right” emotions. But which ones really are right? How much effort is wasted trying to feel what you want to feel rather than what you really feel? Emotions change when they are ready to change. You feel angry when you feel angry, sad when you feel sad, and then it turns into something else.
    I know part of the point of this is deciding what to do with your feelings, especially on social media as a career writer. I don’t have any insight into that. But I do think part of the toxic emotional labor of social media is this artificial expectation that you express the “right” emotion, or that you pick an emotion that defines your platform. The Angry SJW. The Cuddly Guru. The Detached Snarker. Nobody is one emotion all the time.
    I can’t tell you which emotions to write about, or which bits of writing to feel good about after a while. But I do think you get to feel all the emotions you feel, whenever you feel them. It’s silly that we have a society where that has to be explicitly said sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am all three of those- guru, snarker, SJW. What I mean here, though, is getting caught up in the anger. There’s a lot to be angry about- in the US George Floyd, in the UK and US incompetence in dealing with Covid leading to vast death rates, and ours per capita is far higher than yours. But I think that anger expressed in a tweet, comment on an article, or facebook share, achieves nothing beyond stirring general anger; but it gets a response, of likes and upvotes, which make it feel like it achieves something. It gets positive attention.

      I feel anger and sadness are two sides of the same coin: anger about the things I can change, sadness about the things I cannot change. Synthetic rewards, where it feels like I achieve something because I get positive attention but don’t achieve anything really- is affecting the wisdom to know the difference, and getting me stuck.

      So I feel angry, I comment online, I achieve nothing but ingrain the anger; or I change my action rather than my emotion, to become more serene.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Added: I am not advocating quietism generally. Here is Francine Prose on the arrest of Omar Jimenez: We can’t stop paying attention and, more important, calling attention to the importance of the free press and to the horrors of racism. The mistake was always to think that it can’t happen here, because it can, it has and – unless we remain aware and vocal – it most certainly will again. But that is journalism, not social media.

          Where there is something I can do, I should do it; it’s just that commenting on social media isn’t doing something.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yeah, this is something I struggle with a lot. On the one hand, I think social media can become part of an important feedback loop; we tell journalists that the message was received (as well as politicians) and we affirm to each other that this anger is shared. In the same way that individuals need to acknowledge and accept their emotions, societies need to acknowledge and accept the emotional miasma that comes from shared experiences.

            But you’re right. There is a distinction between feeling something and doing something, and social media is blurring the lines between those two. I know so many people who feel like failures when they stop being angry about something, which is ridiculous when you think about it. Feeling permanently angry is unhealthy for you personally and, as you point out, not actually doing anything to help anybody else. Emotions change naturally, and that’s healthy.

            So how do we know the difference between a necessary expression of emotion and one that just becomes an toxic excuse for not doing anything? I don’t know. I’m still wrestling with that one.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I think seeing anger and sadness as two sides of the same coin may help. Ragetweeting does no good. Much of Mr Trump’s expression is cold, nasty, considered needling, but I think some of it, and most of its echoes, are that rage. Sadness may help produce something more productive, such as this: It falls on all of us… to work together to create a “new normal” in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.


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