Is anger only pre-reflexive, or is there a rationality to it?
Heat of the Moment
When upset, the space behind our ears burns. We lose sight, both physically and mentally. Physically, nothing in particular is in viewing focus as we passively ignore the picture our eyes give us. Perhaps later if we try to recall what we saw, only landscapes are visible. We are not thinking about how others are reacting to us as if we are temporarily insane. We are not considering how the world works and taking an active choice to be rational. Mentally, we have trouble thinking straight, mostly because we are not even trying. Emotions take the lead. Reactions are impulsive, which is faster than logic or even intuition. The boiling point doesn’t care how we are perceived by others, doesn’t care about the mess that the rational self will likely try to reconcile later when the steam blows off, doesn’t care to wait and listen for a self conscious conscience to reign in the fire blowing the top of the volcano. We have had enough. In this moment, we even feel vindicated for having stewed so long, kept this patient, waited for the last straw that broke the donkey’s back. We are livid. The emotions feel rational. If provoked by an innocent bystander, we might list off a myriad of arguments to try to justify our outrage. The quantity of the arguments alone should indicate our hypersensitivity in feeling the need to justify ourself. But regardless of whether those arguments are heard by the universe, we feel justified in our response because in emotional logic we are the main character in the plot. And main character energy can always make a hero of the protagonist.
When upset, we have a tendency to grant a generous amount of intent to the world, to fate, or to the other. Suddenly there is a villain, a plot, or a fate intentionally constructed to foil our protagonist plans of success or happiness. But usually it is either ourself, our imagination, our victimhood, or our own tendency for self destruction that authors this tragic story arc. We are our own best enemy. We make of ourself a victim of the world. A glance, a comment, a gesture plays back through our mind as if a referee is carefully judging a call that will affect the game. But it is not viewed objectively because the added bias of our emotions attributes a great deal of generosity to the universe—we see a plot against us. Suddenly everyone around us becomes other, out to deceive, out to gain, out to make themself the villain of our little dramas. We stub a toe, and the furniture is the beast; our idea is overshadowed by a coworker’s contribution to a meeting, and they are trying to get promoted over us; someone cuts in front of us in line, and the whole younger generation is lacking the guilt our parents raised us with to be superior. When we are upset, it is easy to imagine someone upset us on purpose so we can be the victim and receive sympathy. It is easy to universalize the wounds into diagnoses of global issues within the structure of society.