Tuesday, June 18, 2024

From fear-driven anger to understanding: It takes effort.

Anger... Fear Under Pressure?


“Anger is fear under pressure. Behind every angry upset there is a fear... If you can discover the fear behind the anger and dismantle it in the light of awareness, the anger dissipates..." 
-- from A Daily Dose of Sanity: A Five-Minute Soul Recharge for Every Day of the Year by Alan Cohen 


In my book, Worth Sharing: Essays & Tools to Help Project Managers & Their Teams I shared Cohen's quote above. I then went on to observe that "... when fear gets a glimpse of itself it often begins blustering and posturing to hide its true nature. In an effort to maintain its dignity, fear morphs into quasi-ferocious anger. Like a chihuahua about to be sniffed by a Great Dane, fear barks and growls and desperately bares its teeth to ward off an imagined disaster. Never mind that the Great Dane was simply curious. It’s driven away before any kind of mutual understanding can be reached. And sadly, both end the encounter as ignorant of each other as they began it."

Now, nearly a decade later, I find we are facing yet more candidate-stoked (and media amplified!) anger and divisive rhetoric as we head into the 2024 election season. It's all about getting folks whipped into a fearful frenzy in order to drive them to the voting booths and to keep their eyeballs tuned in so the talking heads can narrate the brawl (... between ads, of course).

Is it meaningful political action?
Or fear-driven anger?

So here's my challenge. I urge us all to try to banish fear of the "other" and his/her positions. And I urge us all to keep these questions in mind as we enter this election season and try to answer them honestly: 

  • If my political "enemy" were my spouse or parent, how would I participate in the discussion with them? Would I be more respectful? ... more patient?  Would I probe with thoughtful questions so I could better understand where they are coming from? 
  • Am I taking the time to present my political views in ways that show that I've thought deeply about my positions? Am I giving personal (not heated, but heartfelt!) examples of how I've come to my political conclusions? 
  • Am I truly open to changing my opinion on something... anything... on which my "opponents" disagree with me? What's it going to take to change my mind?

Remember this: A sharply divided country is not in anyone's best interest, other than the handful of ranters who are stoking the division and profiting from it.  This John Stewart video illustrates: 

If we don't embrace the irrational fears these ranters espouse, then they can't leverage our fear and take away our power by "saving" us from the "other." If we choose to see the "others" as our potential collaborators in a series of compromises that we all (as collaborators) work to achieve, then we strip the "dividers" of their power. Then we, the people, take charge of our republic. 

It's simple. As Yoda said in Star Wars: "Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering." 

The bottom line: This election season, pay attention to anyone who wants you to fear. They may be trying to take us all down a dark path, indeed!