Recently, I explored the relationship insights I found through a talk called Why you will marry the wrong person. The talk brought up two other concepts, seemingly distant from romantic relationships, but very top of mind for me right now – rage and addiction.
Have you seen people losing their shit lately? Have you been losing it too? As positive as I try to be, I have to admit that I have been a bit judgmental, angry, and dare I say, rageful lately. I like to think that it is not normal for me. I like to think of myself as a mench, a helper fully accepting of others. Truth is, I am at my core pretty judgmental which can morph into anger and rage. In his talk, Alain de Botton explains how rage is linked to optimism.
It is easy to own my being an optimist. I have always seen the world as it could be. I see individuals as the best people they can become. I know at my heart things could be better; we could have heaven on earth. And I have a lot of rage. Alain de Botton explains that optimism drives rage. When we have expectations, hope, and desire for how things ideally can be, we can become angry that things are not positively different now. We can be rageful because things are not how we would hope them to be. Can you relate?
What can we do with the rage we feel? Alain recommends turning rage into grief. Which I took to meaning turning anger to acceptance. Accepting things as they are, not as we hope they will be. Accepting the truth that we as a society are not ready to become our ideal. Accepting that we may have some more bumping times before things improve.
Acceptance does not mean we give up hope or stop moving toward change. Acceptance does mean that we release our expectations that things will be different. Grieving through acceptance, releasing the optimistic expectations that things should be different right now is a positive step toward progress. Instead of fighting the reality of today and becoming angered by it, grieving that we are where we are and truly accepting it, is the pathway to real change and progress.
This transition from rage to acceptance can be seen in the serenity prayer. Accepting – and maybe grieving for – the things we can not change. Seeing things realistically and changing the things we can. And the all-important wisdom to know the difference. If you feel rage, it is probably something that needs to be accepted and grieved. Acting with rage on the things we can not change, even if it is for the benefit of most, only brings more rage and contention. Releasing unrealistic rose-colored glass optimism regarding the things we do not have the influence to change, paves the way to peace.
On a wholly other topic, Alain discussed how he did not like defining addictions by the substance people are addicted to. To him, the “what” is not as important as the “why.” The “what” may be drugs, alcohol, sex, Candy Crush, shopping, or a myriad of other benign or harmful obsessions. Although some of these we are physiologically addicted to, we turn to them all because of the “why.” The “why” of addiction is that we can not be alone in our thoughts and therefore we find patterns of behavior that keep us from this self-knowledge.
It is hard to be completely open and vulnerable with ourselves. It takes a strong person to boldly look at our beliefs, assumptions, expectations, and biases. It takes some guts to look at our own good, bad, and ugly. Most of us will not do it, which is why we turn to something outside of ourselves to release the disquiet we feel. When we have the courage to do a self-inventory and learn to have new thoughts and behaviors, our need to look for peace through addictive external means diminishes.
I hope that you found some nugget of support through reading about rage, optimism, addiction, and self-knowledge. Share your discoveries with us here.