Opinion: Measured rage


Why is it that certain things seem to disproportionately upset us? Little annoying matters, like getting the wrong order at the drive-thru or that person driving the car in front of us who stops without warning before entering a roundabout, seem to have the magic power to ruin our morning, day, or even week.  What evil force is it, possessed by the surly cashier, to draw us into their hostility? 

Maybe we are just being empathetic. If others were showing signs of fear, would we suddenly be afraid? If they were laughing, would we find ourselves doing the same? If so, is it such a surprise that we’d likewise reflect the unfriendliness of others? Still, many infractions delivering the most egregious irritation are blithely inert. The perpetrator has no idea that they are disturbing us or, sigh, even that we exist. It might be exactly that final element, that they are indifferent to our presence, which brings the most acute retribution from us. How can they fail to acknowledge us? We are good people. We have had a tough day. Who do they think they are? We’ve waited our turn. We’ve followed the rules! They are terrible people!

In a swelling torrent, indignation transforms into rage. It follows that our sense of self is too quickly transferred to others. As such, the slightest transgression elicits incongruent wrath. Is it possible, just possible, that we are simply turning an inconvenience into a problem? The moment required to comply with the officious TSA airport gorilla is inconsequential to the hours spent once they put us on the do-not-fly list. The tiresomeness of stopping behind the school bus pales to the shame of hitting a child while we are self-absorbed with our own tribulations. Isn’t life complicated enough without turning molehills into mountains? 

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