Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet a sinner hugs them tight. Sirach 27:30
Is the world filling up with angry people or am I just watching too much TV and looking at too many Internet sites?
After looking around (on the Internet, of course), my hunch seems to be right on target. The people at the Mayo Clinic have a name for it — Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
Intermittent explosive disorder, according to the clinic’s website, involves repeated episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which one reacts grossly out of proportion to the situation.
The situation could include: road rage, domestic abuse, joining ISIS or other hate-filled organizations, mass or random shootings, bullying, torture, name calling, racist graffiti, hateful blogs, throwing and breaking objects or various other temper tantrums.
People with intermittent explosive disorder, the website said, may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury, loss of reputation, property damage or even death.
So, what’s going on? Where did all this anger and impatience come from? Why are so many people walking around with such short fuses? Is it the simmering wars, the shaky economy or merely unfocused fear? Are people working harder and feeling they are getting nowhere? Is it the result of too much bad news coming in from a 24-hour news cycle?
Daily expressions of anger could be symptoms of the anxious times we live in. Perhaps people are living in a constant state of tension and fear about the world, frustrated and angry because they don’t know what they can do to change things. These feelings have to go somewhere, so people are venting their anger in more and more inappropriate ways.
Based in fear, “anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats caused by external and internal events,” according to therapists.com.
The website goes on to point to traffic jams, a neighbor’s loud stereo, a barking dog or even a screaming child as examples of external triggers.
Alternately, the website illustrates internal triggers, such as brooding about personal problems or the recalling of memories of traumatic, unfair or enraging events.
“Research has also found that family background plays a role. Typically, people who are easily angered come from families that are disruptive, chaotic and unskilled at emotional communications,” according to therapists.com.
If we do not learn to cool down and refuse to act out of anger, we can create bigger problems for ourselves.
Marcus Aurelius, second-century Roman emperor and philosopher, wrote, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
Simple road rage can turn into multiple highway deaths. Flashing a gun can lead to being out-shot by the one at whom you point it. Domestic abuse can lead to family destruction, prison time or even death.
Getting beyond our anger is ultimately a gift we give ourselves. Because anger is so often a misplaced response to fear and frustration, we need to train ourselves to stop, step back, look and listen before acting because, as Mark Twain said, “anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog: FatherKnott.com.
Fr. J. Ronald Knott