On any particular day, if you search for trending news topics, you will likely discover site hacking, terrorism, political attacks of Republicans and Democrats, Brexit-related anger, and bizarre stories about road rage and senseless killings. On the surface, these expressions of anger appear to be situation-specific, and we could each justify why any anger has relevance. But anger appears to be on the rise in epidemic proportions. And if we do not examine this anger more constructively, we will lose the opportunity to change our brains and the world itself.
When digital distraction depletes your focused brain: In this age of digital distraction, focusing has become even more challenging. And when you focus too much, your prefrontal cortex is depleted.
In one study, people were asked to focus on a video and another group was asked to view the video as normal. Then, they were given a moral dilemma that they had to respond to. The group that focused cared much less, The group that watched the video as normal, demonstrated greater caring.
When you focus too much, you care less about the plight of others, and have to conserve your energy to care about yourself only. In fact, glucose reversed this effect in the study, indicating that what may seem like an intrinsic predisposition not to care, is simply situation-related.
Solution: Break up your day into focused and unfocused periods. Allowing your brain to recharge will help you to connect with your ability to care.
When uncertainty distorts your thinking: There is unprecedented economic volatility and uncertainty in the world. Uncertainty poses a huge threat as it makes us feel that the sky is falling down—it literally biases the brain in this way. In one study, 75% of people in the uncertain condition mispredicted when bad things were going to happen. They were unnecessarily pessimistic.
It makes sense that reactive anger has increased in the context of heightened volatility and uncertainty, even though this uncertainty distorts what is actually happening.
Solution: Manage uncertainty by taking time out to remind yourself that it means that something is “unknown” rather than implying that something bad is going to happen. Use self-talk to remind yourself that uncertainty distorts the brain.
When your brain’s defenses prevent you from seeing your anger accurately: When we are angry, we will often displace this anger onto the nearest person or situation. Since we cannot retaliate where we need to, we may displace this aggression onto other circumstances.
e.g. In extreme circumstances, domestic abuse (which has been increasing in the US) or road rage (which has been increasing in the UK and North America) may be the result.
Solution: Manage your displaced aggression by taking time out to understand how you can more constructively address your anger, and also, where you may more constructively address your anger as well.
When your exhausted and burned out brain is distorted: Burnout on the job is on the rise. Anger may be a sign of burnout too. It is often associated with stress and may affect one’s professionalism as well. Social stress, emotional exhaustion and anger are all associated with the brain’s unfocus circuit going awry.
Thus, your anger may simply be about your exhaustion and social stress, and by correcting this, you may restore more order to your brain.
Solution: Take time out to identify one social stressor. Start with low hanging fruit, and make a plan to reduce this stress where possible. One way to start is to build an unfocus period into your day. Self-talk in the second person (e.g. When facing a challenge, calling yourself by name and saying “You can crush this”) can help you decrease this stress.
Conclusion: The ways we choose to express our anger may not be as meaningful as we think they are. And choosing specific targets may simply be a displacement of existential threats that we face. Often unconscious and not recognizable at all, a personal fear of death or fear of disintegration of a social group to which one belongs lies at the root of our anger. In a sense, anger is often an attempt to preserve our sense of belonging and “fit” in the world.
Consider the fact that no political change has ever removed anger forever. It seems to keep on coming back. While we undoubtedly have our personal and political preferences, taking time out to unfocus—to identify brain paralysis, distortions defenses and exhaustion—may provide a way for us to change our brains, and then, to change the world we live in.
To read more about how we can use unfocus to intelligently rewire our brains, check out “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Potential of the Unfocused Mind” (Ballantine Books, 2017)
If i wanted to be a con man like the religious/scientific community acts today, i would be very successful since MAN can be easily manipulated with the right tools, social engineering using fraudulent science today is an excellent example of that, i mean who can argue with a scientists right?
Psychologically vulnerable, at the global level. As a legitimate military target earth itself is a sitting duck.
An expert-general strategy is typically employed prior to the collapse of any civilization, thus if all they do is screw me around, they really do end up getting what they deserve.
Rendering assistance to the human race is now a criminal act.
Srini Pillay, M.D., is the author of the book: Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School.