Ideas and imagination…unfettered.


Rage!

Rage!

Rage. So much rage. There is road rage, air rage, office rage, bike rage. One can rage against the machine, rage against the fates. One can be consumed with rage or be the target of rage. We feel rage over politics, war, violence, the environment, inhumane acts, money, economics, the 1%, There is so much rage it is outrageous. What do we do with all this rage?

At the end of the Sochi Olympic games—an event that outraged many in the LGBTQ community as well as outside it—I read a brief but powerful treatise on Facebook about someone’s feelings of rage over the games and the host country’s very public and very outrageous targeting and treatment of gay people. While probably only about 100 words long, the post was filled with rage, literally. The word rage, and variations of the word, were peppered profusely through the missive. The author felt rage for the situation, the injustice, and his own feelings of helplessness. That’s what coalesced the storm of emotions, the devastating combination of rage and helplessness.

Certainly, there is enough to be outraged about in our daily lives as we are exposed to more and more information on a minute-by-minute basis. Feeling outraged and overwhelmed isn’t a new phenomenon. As media has expanded its reach over the decades through various means and methods, we are are drinking at an ever growing font of information—and we are starting to drown in it. It may be a very serious case of TMI.

When there is no outlet it can create very serious emotional reactions…panic/anxiety, depression and rage.

00000065-001The popular belief by scientists, anthropologists and psychiatrists says that our technology has surpassed our emotional evolution. We create newer and faster ways to spread information, but our brain and our emotions—on a primal level—are struggling to process it all. With the advent of social media and ‘real time’ reportage, we can find ourselves having visceral reactions to situations we are not actually part of. We are thrust into a fight or flight state of being. With nowhere to express or act upon that very primal of all states, those high-pitched emotions can lead to very difficult outcomes.

There are several ways those emotions manifest themselves: panic and/or anxiety, depression, outrage and just rage. The physiological state of fight or flight is adrenaline being dumped into the blood which elevates the senses. Heart rate increases, muscles are engorged with blood in preparation for battle or escape. Breathing becomes quick and shallow. When there is no outlet for this physiological state, it can create very serious emotional reactions: the aforementioned panic/anxiety, depression and rage.

While in these states it is virtually impossible to respond clearly and cogently. These emotions create chaotic thinking and chaotic actions. While eventually they pass, repeated heightened emotional states such as these are detrimental to our mental and physical health. They can twist our perception of what is real threat and what is perceived threat. They can create cycles of anger and anxiety that can mushroom into real phobias. Not a good way to live. I know, because I have lived through spates of time where I dealt with serious anxiety-fuelled phobia. It is crippling.

There needs to be information intimacy that does not involve putting you in the driver’s seat for the fate of humanity all day, every day.

Anger-Rage-Photo-14Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of these social media outlets are incredible ways of passing a lot of information to a lot of people at blinding speed. But what is real and meaningful and what is just a barrage of clutter that causes emotional overflow? How do we mitigate or short circuit the rage, outrage and those feelings of helplessness before they take hold and recalibrate or thought processes and perceptions of reality? Here are a few ways I have been trying to manage my intake of information to healthier doses:

  1. Pull back from the information and try to examine it rationally and intellectually, curtailing as much of the emotion as possible.

  1. Examine what I can realistically do about a situation or situations that may be causing me to be swept up in anger or outrage. What is within the realm of my ability to enact constructively and what is out of my grasp?

  1. Limit my exposure to social media.

Number three is a doozie. I have spoken to several people recently who are intelligent, concerned, motivated—and totally overwhelmed by the tsunami of bad news, alarming events, and useless information on social media. Several of them have either greatly reduced their interaction with the most popular platforms or have abandoned them altogether. I have been following suit. Yes, I realize the irony that you are probably reading this because I posted it on social media, however, I am not spending hours on end watching my newsfeed. I get in, do what I need to do, then get out.

Getting out of the hyper-speed, hyper-reality of social media and landing back into three dimensional life in critical. It gives us a sense of balance and proportions as well as real connectedness, not the assumed connectedness and supposed relationships we share on social. Again, these are not necessarily all negative, but it’s good to keep in mind that many of these are not actually real. Imagine shouting news stories or memes at your friends in real life. You wouldn’t do it. There needs to be silence. There needs to be time to process. There needs to be information intimacy that does not involve putting you in the driver’s seat for the fate of humanity all day, every day.

Finally, it is important to remember that you really are not personally responsible for solving every issue that comes along. You are not responsible for commenting on every thread or validating everyone else’s anger, outrage, fear or insecurity. While it feels good to try to help when you see others in crisis, the weight of constantly putting yourself in the crosshairs of a tragedy that you have no real authority or control over can create feelings of guilt, depression, hopelessness and, as the author of the post that got me thinking about this piece wrote, unfettered and inexpressible rage.

Photo credit: Swift Benjamin

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AndyAndrew Vails writing career began in Halifax when he was but a child. In Grade 4, he wrote and produced his own series of comic books entitled “Freaky The Frog”, the on-going tale of a little misfit frog and his pals of the pond. Marvel Comics never came knocking but Andrew knew he loved to create and tell stories. Since then, Andrew has worked in advertising, PR and publicity; has interviewed politicians, rock stars and very interesting yet not-so-famous movers and shakers. He has published articles in a variety of local and national magazines and websites. Andrew is currently working on the project queer50.com.


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One Comment

  1. Amen to that.

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