rage

Rage and Addiction

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.

Rage

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.

Addiction

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.

simpson

True Freedom

Last week I introduced my favorite Greek philosopher, Epictetus. The passage I read today from The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness seemed perfectly suited for our current world. Note that the writing I am going to mention was originally written 1600 years before the founding of the United States of America. Epictetus was neither a liberal or a conservative, nor had any view on American politics, because there was no America.

“Understand what freedom really is and how it is achieved.”

Epictetus invites us to look at the truth of freedom. I looked up the definitions of freedom and thought it was interesting that most of the definitions, including the Cambridge Dictionary, defined freedom as “the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to without being controlled or limited.” I think many of our Don’t Tread on Me neighbors have latched on to this definition. But Epictetus does not agree with that meaning.

“Freedom isn’t the right or ability to do whatever you please.”

I am sure that doesn’t make a lot of people happy, but to me it is an important point of freedom. Freedom is not a three-year-old throwing a tantrum because she wants candy for dinner or the driver who cuts me off because of his right to drive fast and dangerously. Freedom is not Bart Simpson do-what-you-feel, but a state of acceptance and responsibility focused on more than our selves. Epictetus invites us to see freedom based on knowledge and deep understanding.

Simpsons

“Freedom comes from understanding the limits of our own power and the natural limits set in place by divine providence.”

Epictetus’ view of freedom is based on a realistic view of ourselves and acceptance of our limited power. As a society we have agreed that, at least in most of the world, we drive the right side of the road. If we want to be part of society, we are limited in where we drive. Our external power is limited. Our internal power is unlimited.

The true core of freedom is in the mind, not in our actions. As Epictetus said,

“By accepting life’s limits and inevitabilities and working with them rather than fighting them, we become free.”

By accepting the truth of life, society’s rules, and the way things truly work, we find freedom. Freedom is a state of mind, not a state of action. We find freedom in acceptance, not defiance. We lose freedom when we fight against reality. Much of the anger and fear that people feel these days is because they are fighting against “life’s limits and inevitabilities.”

“If, on the other hand, we succumb to our passing desires for things that aren’t in our control, freedom is lost.”

I want the freedom of perfectly sunny days, each and every day. The truth is there are hurricanes. I can not control the weather. I can not stop an advancing storm. That does not mean I don’t have freedom. It just means if I want to experience freedom, I need to stop being Don Quixote fighting battles I can never win. This goes back to the serenity prayer – knowing those things I need to accept and those I can change, and having the wisdom to discern between the two.

How do you view freedom? Is freedom the action to do just as you please, without thought of those around you? Is freedom the serenity which comes from accepting reality? Is freedom a state of mind or a state of action? What responsibility do you have for your neighbors when your view of freedom infringes upon their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?