THE BLOG
07/27/2016 12:32 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2017

The Anger Apocalypse

Our species is certainly angry. Just look at our history: wars and conflict over thousands of years. Surely that can't be innate, can it? Surely the time will come when humankind overcomes the epidemic of anger. Won't it?

But let's focus now on the last half century. For better or worse, it appears that our relationship with anger has changed since the fifties. In the fifties, it seemed like we kept more of a lid on our anger, or perhaps we channeled it only in certain directions that we felt were socially acceptable. Is that good or bad? You can make an argument either way. It's good in that people aren't abusing one another with reckless abandon. It's bad if people are forced to suppress their feelings. Ideally, people should be able to express their feelings in a civil manner. That would provide us with the best of both worlds: self-expression with social decorum.

Today, it seems everybody vents their anger at will, whenever and to whomever they please. It used to be that the news was the news. It was reported in an unbiased manner, certainly in contrast to today. Today, the news is largely a venting session. Righteous indignation is vogue. Liberals tear into conservatives and vice versa. Much of the news pits one party against another, allowing them to battle it out live on your big screen TV. It gets the ratings, so evidently people enjoy it.

Even in the arena of interpersonal relationships, venting seems to be popular. It is often considered to be speaking your truth or perhaps at least not biting your lip, like Edith Bunker did in the sitcom All in the Family. It begs the question: Is unleashed anger your truth or your personal issues?

College students have been in the news quite a bit lately, venting their anger toward anyone they disagree with. It seems many are quick to criticize the college students, but perhaps we need to ask ourselves where those students learned that behavior. It appears their parents and the public at large have modeled it well.

So how did this happen? Back in the fifties, Leave it to Beaver modeled the ideal home to which we all aspired. Then came the sixties. It seemed that is when the change happened. Now let's see, what else happened in the sixties? Oh right, the marijuana culture, Haight-Ashbury, sex, drugs, rock & roll, and civil unrest.

We could argue that the sixties brought about some good change: freedom of expression, civil rights, and liberation. On the other hand, it brought wanton unbridled anger, violent demonstrations, and verbal abuse. Social upheaval became mainstream. It seemed everybody was mad at everybody else. You had to watch your step or else...

Let's hope for better times. Wouldn't it be wonderful if people could share opposing viewpoints in a civil manner? Maybe we can learn to express our own inner turmoil, our personal issues, in a constructive and respectful manner. That does not seem to be happening in our homes, in our classrooms, in our universities, or even in our nation's capitals. Sadly, it's not even happening internationally between world leaders, resulting in wars with horrific consequences.

Where are the adults? It seems we need to find the inner adult within ourselves and live it in our homes and communities. Clearly it is a skill that must be cultivated. It must be learned. Though that was the ideal in the fifties, it gave way to the drug culture.

The way to turn this all around is on an individual level. Take it upon yourself to model a more civil behavior. That is not to say that we stifle what we feel. Rather, we must learn to express ourselves in a mature, civilized, and dignified manner. We would do well not to consider anger an expression of our truth. Rather, anger is likely an expression of inner turmoil and conflict surrounding what truth may lie deeper within us.

It seems to boil down to communication. How can we communicate what we are experiencing within ourselves eloquently? It requires humility, self-honesty, persistence, deep reflection, and understanding, to name just a few of the components.

Learning to navigate those waters properly would without question be a major step forward in human evolution. Possibly the next major step in human evolution. Unfortunately, the vast majority of what is available in the marketplace regarding such personal development is nonsense. As a result, most mature adults have rejected the entire arena. I have spent my life separating the wheat from the chaff. The simple truth is that humanity's understanding of the field needs to mature. I'm sure you would like a cookbook that actually works. It would be nice if we could put it in a box and tie it all up in a nice bow. But in all honesty, in the world today, that package doesn't exist. Certainly not on Amazon.com.