This chapter will help practitioners of all levels (except The Gifted, who don’t need the help, and the Weirdos, who are beyond it), develop social skills, cultivate relationships and identify contexts that support sustained, frequent, and disproportionate anger. Case Studies will illustrate each technique.
Human beings are social creatures. Other people help shape who we are and will become. Therefore, nurture relationships that will support the development of your self-righteous wrath.
Strangers: Just Enemies You Haven’t Met
When meeting someone new it is best to assume their worst intentions. This will not help you feel angry immediately, however it is a necessary building block in the developing a lifetime of rage.
Once you assume their worst motives, you’ll be prepared to take the most innocent remark as a personal affront and, you guessed it, make yourself the victim.
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK! The impact of assuming others’ worst intentions on the quality of ALL your relationships cannot be overstated!
CASE STUDY: EVE AND THE STRANGER
Eve got together with her childhood friends Lucy, Cyndi, and Joanne, at Joanne’s place. Eve had been busy lately and hadn’t been to the last few gatherings. She was looking forward to catching up over a quiet evening.
When she arrived, though, she was surprised to find someone new in Joanne’s living room. Every time Eve met a newcomer, or intruder as she liked to think of them, she assumed three things. She counted out all three to herself every time:
- Through remarkable perceptive skills, they had already assessed and determined Eve’s fundamental flaws and most embarrassing secrets,
- Decided Eve was a piece of trash,
- And planned to assassinate Eve’s character as soon as she left the room.
Eve instantly felt ready to misread and defensively react to anything this intruder said or did.
Lucy introduced the newcomer, her friend, June, to Eve.
June smiled and said, “Hello.”
Eve ignored the wave of insecurity and shame that washed over her and said to herself, “We just met and she’s already showing off her social skills. What a phony piece of crap. I’ve been at this party for thirty seconds and I already hate it. I shouldn’t have to put up with this superficial nonsense!”
Eve was proud of herself for approaching this new relationship with such a helpful mindset.
What You Can Learn from Eve
Eve put herself on the defensive with June before being introduced by assuming June didn’t respect her, knew her worst secrets, and would ruin her friendships if given the chance. This prepared Eve to interpret anything June did as hostile and antagonistic.
CAUTION! A dedicated pattern of assuming others’ worst intentions, specifically, that everyone else woke this morning with the sole purpose of destroying your life, is called paranoia. Despite the crossover in daily practices, paranoia is not the same as anger.
SIDE NOTE: Paranoia is beyond the scope of this book.
STAY TUNED for The Complete Guide to Misery, Volume X: The Universe Just Stopped Everything It Was Doing So It Could Ruin Your Day, or Paranoia for Beginners
Make Every Battle Matter
Treat every situation as the ultimate battle between good and evil.
Even it if doesn’t involve you personally.
For The Gifted, any situation where they sense a problem is an opportunity to rage. There is little emotional difference between confronting their best friend about betraying a confidence and reacting passionately to a years-old YouTube video that shows a stranger being vaguely rude to another stranger.
What matters is to put your sense of righteousness first, and everyone else’s needs second. This is not about responding proportionally. This is about enjoying outrage with intensity.
Novices, and some Intermediate students, get confused and place the quality of their relationships ahead of their self-righteousness. They don’t appreciate how many times they miss the chance to spice up their day with hostility.
The Gifted expect that everyone around you should be okay with hearing every detail of your indignation at any time, day or night, and in any situation, and assume that anyone who thinks differently is not only a(n) #!%##@, but an evil #!%##@.
CASE STUDY: ADAM HOSTS
Adam wanted a reason to clean his house, and he knew the only incentive that ever got him to clean was social pressure, so he invited a bunch of friends over for a party one Saturday.
The day of the party, Adam was nervous before everyone arrived but distracted himself from the worries by checking and double-checking his To-Do list. By the time the first guests arrived at one P.M., he had reviewed every item about three hundred times.
Adam welcomed his guests warmly, introduced newcomers to the rest of the group, and, with a little bit of grace and some patience, got everyone settled. In short time, the usual formalities gave way to animated stories and raucous laughter. The party was a success.
Then Adam overheard Fred and Lucy (Yes, the same Lucy from the last section. What can I say? She likes parties.) debating whether Billie Holiday or Sarah “Sassy” Vaughn was the most important female singer in jazz history. Adam couldn’t believe his ears. Adam had strong opinions about music and felt outrage rising up in him. “Lady Day and Sassy were incredible and each contributed a ton to the music, but everyone knows that Ella Fitzgerald was on another level,” he muttered to himself. “I mean, her intonation was flawless, even on those insane bebop scat solos.”
Before he could educate Lucy and Fred, Adam was interrupted by some guests wanting a tour of his record collection. During a break in the album tour, Adam overheard Lucy and Fred going at it again. Their conversation had moved on to trumpet players, and they’d narrowed their list of greatest players down to Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown.
Adam was apoplectic. He stood, frozen in place while absently staring at his phonograph player. “Uhhhmm, two words. Louis Armstrong. Also known as the person who consolidated so many types of music into what we now know as jazz. He didn’t invent swing, but his ‘punch and bounce’ changed music forever,” Adam said through gritted teeth, but the party was back in full swing and no one heard him.
Before he could dress down Lucy and Fred for their ignorance, Adam was interrupted again by guests who needed to locate some things in the kitchen. He took care of them, but was distracted. He couldn’t help thinking that Lucy and Fred were evil and that someone had to put a stop to their malfeasance.
And then Lucy and Fred went too far for Adam. They had transitioned to the list of greatest bass players. Adam had a special affinity for the double bass in jazz settings, and considered himself a bit of an expert. Lucy and Fred were still determining their finalists and threw around the names Rufus Reid, Lynn Seaton, John Clayton, Christian McBride, Marc Johnson, Eddie Gomez, Ron Carter, and…
“That’s it!” thundered Adam. “I’ve had it! Ray Brown was the greatest bass player! Period. Anyone that thinks differently either doesn’t appreciate music or is just trying to make trouble. Well, if you want trouble, here we go.”
The house was silent enough that Adam could only hear the clock ticking through the blood pounding in his ears.
“Ray Brown! Ray Brown! Ray Brown!” repeated Adam. Several of his guests sidled towards the front door and started looking nervously at each other. Adam didn’t notice as he was committed, heart and soul, to winning this battle. “And, by the way, Louis Armstrong practically invented the music. Never mind that he could hit a high ‘C’ three octaves above middle ‘C’ in the middle of a tough run! And Ella Fitzgerald is the undisputed greatest female singer of all time!”
A few guests made a quick excuse to leave, which set off an avalanche of motion towards the door and apologies for departing so early by the rest of the assembled group.
Moments later, sitting alone in his living room, Adam smiled. He was pleased that he won the debate.
What You Can Learn from Adam
Adam treated a difference in tastes as a moral battle that needed to be won at any cost. He didn’t let himself get distracted by anyone else’s point of view or needs and was willing to alienate all of his guests to make his point.
Not Getting to Know You
One of the best ways to build anger into your relationships is to cling to your expectations of what other people will bring to your life without ever bothering to really get to know their needs and limits.
You, like the rest of us, need supportive friends. The difficulty is that not everyone is supportive. Or as supportive as you’d prefer. Some people can’t or won’t bring themselves to engage with you on that level. Or they are so wrapped up in themselves that they aren’t able to actually listen, much less show support.
To guarantee anger becomes the central force in your next relationship, don’t get to know the other person. Instead, decide that because you need a supportive friend, whomever you befriend must magically become a supportive friend, whether or not they ever displayed the relevant skills or slightest interest in doing so.
CASE STUDY: EVE’S NEW FRENEMY
Eve was feeling annoyed and wanted to do some public self-pitying, so she called her new acquaintance June to get together for coffee. Latte in hand, Eve explained that she just had another round of drama with her latest boyfriend.
June responded to Eve’s tale of woe the same way she usually did. She made it about herself. “I remember this one time when that happened to me. I was …”
Eve was annoyed. It seemed like every time she started to talk about something important to her, June turned the conversation back to June.
Eve waited until June finished her story and tried again. She retold the story, but this time she really played up the drama, “… so he was just sitting there, again, not doing what I told him to do. I was screaming at him, you know, trying to be helpful and motivate him, when…”
June interrupted. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I remember when I was on vacation with my boyfriend and he was so self-absorbed. I’d tell him to do something, and…”
Eve was confused. Until this moment, she thought of June a good friend. She liked that June was mean to strangers and loved how she made demeaning comments to service providers. Sure, it seemed to Eve like every conversation ended up being about June, but she figured all friendships have their problems.
Eve really wanted that sympathy, so when June finally wrapped up her monologue, Eve revisited the drama with her boyfriend and amped it up for effect. “Like I was saying, he was just sitting there. And I swore that if he was gonna get it if he didn’t shape up. And he had the nerve to…”
June chimed in again. “Yeah, that’s tough. I’ve got so many problems I don’t know where to start. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve been thinking a lot about myself lately and the first problem is …”
Eve was furious at June’s selfishness. And she was thrilled to have a grudge she could treasure the rest of her life.
What You Can Learn from Eve
Eve stayed focused on her own needs without every bothering to learn if June could meet those needs. She expected June to be altruistic despite the mountains of evidence that June was very self-absorbed. And then held it against her for not being the person Eve, decided June should be.
Passive-Aggression, or How to Be Irresponsible
Boost your bitterness by neglecting to communicate your needs. Expect everyone to understand what’s in your heart without you having to make it clear.
And remember, everyone else except you failed their mind-reading exams. I know. I checked.
One of the joys of being passive-aggressive (PA) is that it’s a reliable way to make sure the people closest to you are a constant source of frustration and annoyance. Because no one else will know what you really want,
The biggest benefit of being passive-aggressive, though, is the feeling of superiority that comes from learning how to be furiously angry without ever acknowledging the anger.
Being PA is the best alternative for anyone who has any concerns about being angry. Some people were taught that anger is not good, or rude, and still have difficulty really embracing the joy of rage. For those people, the PA approach offers all the benefits of anger (e.g., feeling like a victim, self-righteousness, hours of seething) without having to take responsibility for acknowledging that you’re angry.
It’s like someone who can keep eating cake without ever feeling full.
So, at the moment when you should let the anger flow, just tell yourself: It’s rude to be angry. It’s not nice to be angry. And you are a nice person. Therefore.
You. Are. Not. Angry.
Instead tell yourself that you are not full of rage, but simply feeling superior.
Then allow that resentment and hostility to build until your fury seeps out.
The beauty of PA is the flexibility. You can make your message clear through mistakes, misunderstandings, under-the-breath complaints, eye rolls, monosyllabic grunts of consternation, and all the other indirect ways of telling someone you think they’re a #!%#!^@ piece of ^&*(@.
The most common form of PA communication on the market is the sigh.
Because this is such an effective way of dealing with people, you can be sure that your passive-aggressive tactics will elicit responses that make you feel even more superior. They might call you out on your tactics, or have the audacity to claim you are not sincere.
Then you have a whole other reason to consider yourself a step above. Another piece of ammunition in the silent war you’ll continue to wage. The cycle continues.
You’re in the anger business, baby, and business is booming.
You get to do all this damage to your relationships without ever having to take an ounce of responsibility. Because it was all just a misunderstanding, you say.
To be a competent passive-aggressive, you need two skills: what you say is different than how you feel, and what you do is different than what you say.
- For example, feel yourself angry at some task you’ve been assigned.
- Tell whoever assigned it that you will do it, on time and correctly. Overtly, make it appear that this is the most important task in your life.
- Get back to feeling bitter and resentful.
- Get deeply in touch with your anger, but tell yourself that you’re not angry. You just don’t see the point in the task. So you drag your feet, delay, make careless mistakes, or even deliberate ones.
So, to be a good passive-aggressive, you have to get good at living in two worlds: the one you’re actually feeling and the almost opposite one that you’re displaying to everyone else.
CASE STUDY: ADAM’S FANCY FRIDAY
Adam’s boss stood up to signal the end of this month’s staff meeting. “Okay, does anyone have any questions about the new dress policy? No? Just to be clear, you are all required to wear casual clothes in the office on Friday. We want to show what a modern, hip company we are, so one day a week we’re going to force people to look casual while trying to act professional. We call it ‘Casual Friday.’”
Adam didn’t ask a question or raise any objections, though he had plenty. He thought to himself, “This place is uptight and wearing jeans and stupid-looking shirts one day-a-week won’t change that. What an idiotic rule. No way I’m doing that.”
So, the following Friday, Adam arrived at the office in a tie over his sharpest button-down and fanciest pair of slacks. When his boss approached him at this desk and pointed out his inappropriate attire, Adam said, “Oh, sorry. I must have thought that started next week.”
As his boss walked away, Adam thought, “Do they really think that ‘Casual Friday’ is somehow going to change the culture here? I mean, seriously, since when does wearing something different once-a-week make a crap job tolerable? Who cares what we’re wearing? Does U.S. Steel get all insecure about their culture and start talking about changing outfits? No! How dumb would that be?”
The following Friday, Adam came to the office wearing a suit. When his boss approached him and scolded him for not being a team player, Adam said, “Yeah, I must have forgotten about the new policy. I’ll try to remember next week. Hey, at least I wasn’t wearing a cummerbund.”
As his boss walked away, Adam thought, “Seriously, how dumb would it be if U.S. Steel got all weird about employee retention and decided they needed to change their dress code? ‘Hey, we’re U.S. Steel, and we want to show the world that we have class, too! We’ve initiated a new dress policy down in the mines. No longer will our workers have to suffer through getting their blue jeans covered in soot. We’re adding a touch of class to our operations and with suits and ties. We’re calling the new dress code ‘Three-Piece Thursday!’”
Adam was pleased with his internal rant. The only thing left was to come up with an excuse for why he’d be wearing a tuxedo at work next Friday.
What You Can Learn from Adam
Adam kept his objections about the dress code to himself, deliberately disregarded others’ expectations and then feigned innocence.
To get the most out of your grievances, they should never be forgotten. Ever. Because you never want anyone to think that what you’re angry about didn’t happen exactly as horribly as you recall it. Again, take for granted that your memories are perfect video recordings that capture all the contextual nuance and relevant perspectives.
Once someone has wronged you, or done something you find mildly unpleasant, document the facts, including the date, time, and damages in granular detail.
Have the details available in writing at all times to use as proof if anyone ever questions how much of a victim you really are.
Keep the wound fresh.
Pick at the scab. Then deny (i.e., reject) the feelings of sadness and hurt (for instructions, see Chapter 1, Section 1: Forget Emotional Intelligence, Ignorance is Bliss).
With the magic of denial, you get to keep the energy from all those hurt feelings for as long as you need.
Then, the more publicly you chronicle your grievances and make yourself the victim, the more of your friends you get to keep.
And since you’re on Facebook anyway, go ahead and post the whole story so that everyone knows what a horrible #!%&* your adversary is.
See what a decent, thoughtful soul your anger will make you?
CAUTION! If you accept your circumstance and soften in any way, you risk losing motivation for your righteous wrath. If you take any responsibility, you risk losing fury.
CASE STUDY: ADAM DDRESSES A WRONG
Adam was feeling ambivalent about his last day at work. He was looking forward to his next job but knew he’d miss most of the people he was leaving. Except for Tracy.
Tracy was Adam’s cubemate beginning seven years ago when Adam first started with the firm. As the senior team member, Tracy was responsible for “onboarding” Adam. That meant introducing him to everyone, showing him around the building, notifying Adam of the dinner policy and showing him how to place his order. It was their busy season, and to incentivize employees to work more hours, the company paid for evening meals.
Tracy was busy on Adam’s first day, and so she forgot to mention the meal policy. So at dinner that evening, while everyone else ate, Adam sat alone, empty-handed and cursing Tracy under his breath.
Tracy tried to make a breezy apology when she realized her oversight, but her social skills were lacking, and by the time she was done, it sounded like she was blaming Adam for the whole thing.
“You see,” she said. “Since it is your responsibility to order your own meal, it was up to you to tell me that you didn’t know you had to order a meal so that I could remind you to remember to order it.”
The next day, Adam put in his meal order and acted like everything was okay. But he never forgave Tracy for the oversight.
He reminded himself of the infraction every day when they greeted each other.
And now, seven years later, Adam was leaving the office for the last time. His teammates, including Tracy, gathered around him to say their final good-byes. Adam shared heartfelt farewells with everyone else and saved Tracy for last.
He was glad to see that everyone was still nearby when he finally got to Tracy. Adam announced, “Tracy, you ruined my entire experience on this job with your callous disregard for everyone else’s well-being. Your customer service is appalling. You had better learn some manners and leadership skills so that the next person who has to sit next to you doesn’t starve their first night on the job.”
Adam was pleased with himself for making things right in his little corner of the world. Now everyone at work knew who Tracy really was and could treat her accordingly.
What You Can Learn from Adam
Adam carefully nurtured his resentment by reminding himself of Tracy’s misdeed every workday for seven years. And then he endeared himself to his former colleagues by assassinating Tracy’s character in front of the entire team.
A Bleeding Heart Argument Destroyed
Some readers might be thinking, “But what about the other person? Just because they did something you don’t like, or even hurtful to you, doesn’t mean they aren’t human beings. They still have feelings. If you unload on them like this, you’ll leave them feeling hurt, attacked, betrayed, angry, and resentful. That just perpetuates the cycle. Isn’t there some point when you just have to move on without doing further harm?”
To those readers: Whoa, there, Captain Compassion, we’re here to keep your anger and resentment alive in perpetuity.
Remember that you are the victim here. You know you can read your adversaries’ minds and know they tried to hurt you personally. Since they didn’t consider your feelings, you shouldn’t have to consider theirs (How’s that for a should?).
This is not about knowing that angry feelings are inevitable.
This is not about whether or not you choose to act like a decent human being who is aware of other human beings, for example, that they have feelings.
This is about you showing off your anger skills.
Your decision to respond to other people with some form of tantrum or passive-aggression will also send a message to everyone else in your circle that you stand up for what’s right and are not to be trifled with.
If that doesn’t endear you to them, what on earth would?
Tap into the Power of Martyrdom
Surround yourself with people who will reinforce your angriest habits.
Choose to be around people who will support your temper tantrums and passive-aggressive hostility. Spend time with those who will help you maximize your personal victimhood. And find friends who will nurture your wounded pride rather than, say, your joys and dreams.
Still not sure how to identify the right people? Here are some of the supportive statements you’ll want to listen for:
- “They obviously have a problem and can’t tolerate your strength.”
- “While you’re at it, you should drop that new friend of yours for calling you out on your tantrum last night. They just need to let you be yourself.”
- “I can’t believe they put you on a performance improvement plan just because you cursed at your VP in a room full of clients. They’re lucky to have you and your skills. You should quit that job and go somewhere you’ll be appreciated.”
CAUTION! Friends like these will place your wounded pride above almost everything in the world… except their own sense of victimhood and hurt feelings. But you probably already learned that the hard way.
CASE STUDY: EVE’S SUPPORT SYSTEM
Eve arrived at her monthly lunch date with Bobby and May.
“Hey Bobby. Eve and I just got here at the same time. Great minds?” questioned May, as they sat down. “How’s everyone doing?”
“I told that jerk he could either grow up or get the hell out,” answered Eve. “He’s a loser and is going to ruin my life.”
“Good for you,” said Bobby. “He’s not worth your time.”
“Is this your boyfriend? What did he do, exactly?” asked May.
“Why are you always taking his side?” thundered Eve. “But there’s no doubt this time. He absolutely left the toilet seat up yesterday. This is like, what, the third time in two years? I’ve had it with him.”
“Good for you,” said Bobby. “He’s not worth your time.”
“That seems a little harsh. Isn’t he a really good guy otherwise?” asked May, timidly.
“That’s your problem, May. You’ve got no backbone. That’s why people walk all over you,” sniped Eve.
May got defensive. “I don’t think people walk all over me. I mean, there are…”
“Are you still talking?” barked Eve.
“I guess I don’t have a backbone,” announced May, in a defeated voice. “If only I could be more like you, Eve. I’m so lucky to have you in my life.”
“Good for you,” said Bobby. “Maybe one day you can be like Eve.”
Eve said aloud, to no one, “Hey, how long do we have to sit here before someone takes our order?” And, as she marched away from the table, “I’m going to go yell at the staff.”
“Good for you,” said Bobby after her. “Someone has to stand up to these socialists. Or is it fascists? Whichever it is, someone has to stand up to them.”
Eve felt emboldened to be as mean-spirited as she needed to be in order to make her point and was very, very happy to have such supportive friends.
What You Can Learn from Eve
Surround yourself with people who will encourage your angriest self and tell yourself that you appreciate their support.
It’s tough to overstate the importance of context.
Like genetics and your body’s signals, feelings and emotions are context-dependent. Therefore, practitioners should seek contexts that support the sustained, disproportionate anger they’re building.
Some contexts are designed to generate animosity:
- Political rallies.
- Driving on Southern California, DC, or Atlanta freeways.
- Social media and its dystopian algorithms.
- Protests, especially of the cartoon South Park.
- People who show up uninvited at your front door with some form of scripture in their recently-washed hands.
- Time with in-laws.
- And so many more…
One of the difficulties of learning any new skill is to figure out how to use it most effectively in each context. Learning to be angrier is no different.
For example, being by yourself at home requires somewhat different application of your skills than being at work, on a road trip with friends, or serving as a corner coach for your grandmother’s first boxing match.
Any situation that will encourage you to stuff the moment full of your victimhood and then push your buttons is optimal.
That way you won’t have to work so hard to generate all that wrath on your own.
Because at the end of the day it’s really about getting the best out of yourself.
Memorize the following mantras. Each is intended to summarize a relationship or situation in a way conducive to the maximum production of anger in that context. Once you get the gist, you can create your own based on all the #!%!#^!# in your life.
At Home: Families Are the Enemies You Didn’t Choose
- Significant Other(s): How is your bad marriage NOT their fault?
- Kids: Just small versions of you who appreciate being judged and shamed.
- Siblings: They all got more attention than you.
- Parents: Blame away.
- Anyone Else: Probably just there to take advantage of your childhood fears and weaknesses.
At Work: Make Them Regret They Hired You
- The Lobby: An Opportunity to Make a Bad Impression
- Doing Your Work: But Only If You Feel Like It
- The Water Cooler: A Great Time to Judge Colleagues
- Meetings: All About Your Grievances
- Getting Feedback: But It Wasn’t Your Fault
On the Town: Remember to Assume Worst Intentions
- Eating Out: A Complete Stranger, Who Probably Had a Bad Day, Is Preparing Your Food… Let That Sink in and Try to Enjoy the Meal (Author’s Note: This Mantra still isn’t as snappy as I’d like, and more than a little on the distrustful side, so feel free to modify to something catchier and less paranoid).
- Dating: How to Be Bitterly Disappointed, One Meeting at a Time
- Out with Friends: Alienate Your Allies
- Meetups: Mind-read for Maximum Success
- Holidays: Add Rage to Make the Most of Large Gatherings
Some of you might be wondering about the place of religion in the production of anger and are asking yourself, “Does religion play a role? After all, religion is about fundamental beliefs. Someone has to be the one who’s got it totally right. And totally wrong.”
No, religion does not matter. What matters is your total commitment to the correctness of your position and the utter disregard for the humanity of anyone with a different worldview.
It is not enough to disagree. You must be righteously attached to your position and equally clear about the other’s vileness. Sprinkle in all the lousy things they have done to you and soak in a bubble bath of victimhood. See Chapter Six for more on the endless joys of a lifelong commitment to Us and Them.
Focus on your victimhood by forgiving them (an indirect way of saying they’re wrong, because they need forgiving (from you, of course) which is another way of saying you’re the victim) and never, never look for a pathway to compassion, peace and understanding from your team’s side.
See previous answer and change the words “religion” to politics and “forgiving” to publicly shaming.
Thanks for reading! Chapter 6 coming soon!