This chapter will help practitioners of all levels (Gifted and Weirdo disclaimers still apply) evolve patterns of anger that will fuel them for a lifetime. Case studies will illustrate each pattern.
Some psychological patterns lend themselves well to frequent, disproportionate, and sustained anger. Amplifying self-importance and obsessing about Us and Them differences are reliable sources of victimhood.
Inflate that Ego
Be smug often.
There a reason Pride made #1 on the Seven Deadly Sins’ billboard charts.
The more exaggerated your sense of self-importance (i.e., pride or ego), the angrier you’ll be that the world doesn’t appreciate how exceptional you are (yes, you are unique… just like everyone else), and the more consistently you’ll be frustrated and annoyed that others don’t meet your unique needs.
Hey, if you don’t convince yourself of your value, no one else can. If you want to get the most out of everyone around you, convince yourself you’re soooooo important that everyone should drop everything they’re doing all the time to ensure that you never have to endure a moment of not having everything you want the instant you want it.
Astute readers will notice this guidance is similar to the final translation of “Life should always be fair and right” in Chapter Two. The difference is one of foundation. Shoulds do not represent the broad, flexible foundation that an inflated ego does. Those who adopt a life of rigid shoulds are still at risk of not raging when life actually is fair and right. Egomaniacs take things much further by self-selecting themselves as special.
Entitlement, that sense of being above everyone else, is a wonderful source of frustration. Because, for some reason, the rest of the world might not be ready to acknowledge how important you really are. And the frustration from not being treated as uniquely special can easily shift into anger.
STAY TUNED for The Complete Guide to Misery, Volume MMXX: Entitlement – Because You Really Are That Special!
The more you inflate your ego, the weaker it gets. So if you build yourself up to be a big badass in your mind, then wherever you go, your weak, simpering ego is there, too. At least it’s available in case you need to Phone a Friend.
And that dysfunctional ego is a consistent pathway to anger.
Here’s how that sad, little ego does its business:
- The ego needs to feel good about itself. That’s what weak, simpering egos do. They need.
- You listen to that ego. To make that ego feel good about itself, you set yourself in conflict with someone. The details don’t matter as much as your commitment to proving that you’re above someone else.
- Then the ego does whatever it needs in order to feel superior. That might include putting down the other person, fantasizing about how much better you are than them, or inventing reasons that they’re horrible jackasses.
- Task completed, the ego celebrates: “Yeah, I’m the greatest! Look how much better I am than them. Internal high fives all around!”
- No matter how successful the ego was at impressing itself, soon afterwards (individual timing differences here) the ego needs to impress itself again.
- You listen to your weak, simpering pride and work yourself into a lather.
- Any disruption to the ego’s attempt to make itself feel superior will lead to an explosion of anger as the frail ego tries to protect itself.
Once you’re in the cycle, there’s no end in sight.
CASE STUDY: ADAM TRIES STAND-UP COMEDY
Adam shot his best round of golf that Saturday. He’d felt better and better about himself as the day progressed and, hole after hole, he couldn’t seem to miss the pin.
Adam gloated about his success all through lunch and made sure everyone in the clubhouse heard about it.
That night, he and the same friends arrived late to The Comedy Store, where they were planning to hear a good show. As they were being shown to their table, Adam couldn’t help but remind his buddies how much better he’d played than them that morning.
At the same moment, the emcee was called up, walked onstage, grabbed the microphone, and was just about to start the show when she heard Adam.
“Maybe you’ll catch me next week, fellas,” Adam said, with a smirk, to his friends. “But I doubt it.”
“Oh, sounds like someone is pretty full of himself,” said the emcee, and looked at Adam’s friends. “Is he always this fun to be around?”
Adam fought off a wave of embarrassment and snapped, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
The emcee shot back, “No, you just walked into a club full of people where a performance was happening and decided that was a good time to talk sh*t to your friends (gestures with big air quotes around “friends”) loud enough so that everyone on the block could hear you.”
Adam was blushing, and his face was so hot he thought it was on fire. “Just move on and get into your stupid material, would you?” he insisted.
“So now you’re so important you get to give me orders, too?” asked the emcee, and looked at Adam’s friends again. “This guy’s a real charmer, isn’t he?”
“At least I’ve got a real job,” Adam blustered, as he warded off the internal tidal wave of embarrassment. “What have you ever done? You think you’re so funny. You stand up there and talk a bunch of nonsense. Anyone could do that.”
“Anyone?” asked the comedienne, with ecstasy in her voice.
“Anyone,” said an obstinate Adam.
The comedienne looked around at the audience and said, “You heard it. Anyone can do this. What’s your name, sir?”
Adam quickly reviewed his name and decided it didn’t represent him well enough, so he improvised. “Mister Lucky.”
The comedienne howled with laughter before saying, “Mister Lucky! Is it just me, or is that the perviest thing anyone has ever called themselves? Is that what you call your Johnson when the two of you are sitting at home alone together? Alright, Mister Lucky, you said anyone can do this. C’mon up and show us how it’s done.”
Mister Lucky stared at the emcee and stood up with fury in his eyes. The comedienne was unbothered. She clapped and said, “Here he is everyone. Welcome Mister Lucky to the stage!”
In that moment, he convinced himself that he was capable of performing stand-up comedy without any experience, preparation, or training. “I mean, I shot a great round of golf today,” he thought. “And I’m funnier than most of the comedians I’ve seen. Certainly funnier than this hack. I mean, I’m laughing to myself just remembering my Bargain Plastic Surgery quip in Chapter 3.”
Mister Lucky tried to walk to the microphone, and realized that he couldn’t feel his legs. He powered through, and ignored every screaming signal his body, inner child, and sense of self-preservation could muster. He finally got onstage and stared directly into the blinding spotlight. He winced. “So what’s the deal with Gatorade’s colors?!!?,” he heard himself scream. Then tried to recover. “Uh, I mean, since when do people drink liquid? Um… I mean liquid that’s blue.”
Mister Lucky blushed in the wake of the ensuing silence. In his head he’d imagined laughter at this opening quip. He was shocked. He wondered if the crowd hadn’t heard him. And he heard himself prepare to ask the crowd if the microphone was working.
Then he had a brief moment of insight. He realized that, despite what people say, no one dies onstage. Dying would be preferable, he thought, because then the performance would be over. A performer that bombs does not die onstage. That performer grieves onstage. And he, Lucky, had just experienced the shock phase of grief. And he was now headed into denial.
“These people just don’t get my humor,” Mister Lucky thought to himself.
“Water is blue,” offered an audience member helpfully.
Mister Lucky was mortified. He searched for a comeback but didn’t find one. “You know what I meant, stupid,” he barked defensively. “You know how Gatorade is bright blue. And neon. And that’s what makes that joke funny.” This was the bargaining phase. He chose to ignore the grief, the loss, that accompanied his humiliation. “You see, your problem is that you’re not as smart as me, so you don’t understand the intricacies of my humor, and…”
Mister Lucky hurdled past the oncoming wave of depression and moved straight into, you guessed it, the anger phase of grief. But the audience booed so long and loud that no one could hear his rant about how he was just a victim of cancel culture.
There would be no acceptance phase for Mister Lucky.
Key Takeaways from Adam
Mister Lucky, apologies… Adam used his golf score to make himself feel superior to his friends. He gloated about his score, bragged aloud in the clubhouse, and even kept it going as they were grabbing their seats at the show.
Adam continued boosting his ego when the emcee called him on his arrogance. He tried to dismiss her, as though he could decide who would comment on what in a comedy club, then to order her around, as a way of asserting dominance, and eventually to dismiss her as an emcee by saying anyone could do it.
Adam’s ever-defensive ego kept needing to inflate itself in the face of this continued pressure, so he gave himself an important sounding nickname, Mister Lucky. And reflexively convinced himself that he could do comedy rather than admit to himself he’d overstepped.
Finally, he got defensive when his opening joke didn’t land, blamed the audience for not laughing and made himself a victim of cancel culture. And through it all, he denied any feelings except rage.
Novice and Intermediate students, just remember to never back down, soften, apologize, or admit a mistake. Advanced students, continue to put your pride at stake and risk losing face by treating other people as though they are just on this earth to do your bidding.
Us and Them: We Are Us and They Are Them (aka Not Us)
For ease of reference, think of yourself and those who are like you, in whatever way you decide, as Us and We and everyone else, in other words, all the people who are not like you, in whatever way We are, as They and Them.
You are part of we, and we are us and they are them.
We are whatever We means to you.
They are whatever They means to you.
Non-satirical note: Given the lively discussion about pronouns these days, the author feels the need to clarify that this use of Us and Them is not in any way meant to disparage anyone whose preferred pronoun is “They”. If any reader insists on taking the author’s approach to this linguistic Scylla and Charybdis personally and making themselves the victim of this book, the author refers that reader to the entire book before this sentence.
Make an easy start by splitting people along traditional lines, such as gender, race, sexual preference, ethnicity, religion and politics.
This simplifies things with regard to knowing the Black and White hats.
Or Cowboys and Native Americans, if that’s more your thing.
The important thing is not to overthink it.
And once you identify them, seek out opportunities to vilify them and their horrid lifestyle choices, and get self-righteous about all the ways they have harmed your version of us.
Dichotomize to help dehumanize them and feel all warm-and-cuddly about us without too much fuss or bother.
To dichotomize is to see people as entirely one way or another. Good or Bad. Right or Wrong. Black or White. There are no subtleties or shades of gray.
Novice practitioners, and careless Intermediates, might be accustomed to thinking of other people as complex, largely unknowable, ethically dynamic entities with their own histories, unique experiences, and internal worlds.
And that two people can be simultaneously similar and different depending on the context.
Enough of all that.
Life is already too complicated.
Keep it simple.
Good is good and bad is bad. And never the twain shall meet.
We are right and good.
And They are dumb and stupid.
This logic writes itself.
Stay committed to your version(s) of Us and Them, get on Facebook, and social engineering will take care of the rest.
CAUTION! Many promising practitioners have been derailed by an obsessive commitment to Us and Them, to the exclusion of other learning. Their dedication led to a separate category of misery, namely genocide.
SIDE NOTE: Genocide is beyond the scope of this book and series.
Some readers are thinking, “Dude, seriously, a genocide joke?”
Non-satirical response: I warned you on page that this was going to get a lot worse. No, genocide is not funny. But you gotta acknowledge that its practitioners are dedicated as hell to Us and Them. And they are never short on Pride.
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK! Earnest practitioners have already realized that by combining various strategies, they can develop entirely new ways to amplify dysfunction in the world.
Have you noticed what happens when you mix Rigid Expectations (Chapter Two) into an Us and Them cocktail? They blend smoothly.
Combine your black and white thinking with your inflexible shoulds and soon you’ll hear yourself saying:
“They should be more like us.”
And launch yourself into a lifetime of whatever “ism” you choose.
SIDE NOTE: “Isms” are beyond the scope of this book.
STAY TUNED for The Complete Guide to Misery, Volume XL: Isms – Because You’re Not Sexist or Racist if You Think You’re Not!
CASE STUDY: ADAM AND EVE MEET
Adam and Eve, strangers to one another, arrived at the Tired of Watching Netflix Meetup within minutes of each other. Each told themselves before arriving that they hoped to find someone with whom to connect, but were really on a private mission to find reasons to be furious with someone. Anyone would do.
They ended up standing next to one another at the bar, waiting to order a drink, where they watched a waiter drop a tray of glasses.
“Idiot” they said in unison. And immediately looked at one another.
Adam (incredulous): “Can you believe how stupid that guy was?”
Eve (completely serious): “Yes, I can. He’s a jackass.”
Adam (blushing): “Hi, I’m Adam.”
Eve (now smiling): “Hello, I’m Eve.”
They both felt some chemistry at work and pursued the conversation. They talked for hours about the bosses they’ve told off and how annoying their friends and family could be.
They each realized that this relationship could be something when they agreed that whoever is responsible for sending out those telemarketing calls about their car’s extended warranty deserves whatever they get.
They decided that moment to go back to Eve’s place.
When they arrived, Adam asked to use the bathroom.
“Sure,” Eve said. “Down the hall on the right.”
Adam did what he needed to do in the lavatory and grabbed for the toilet paper.
He was horrified.
It was installed so that, to get a square of Charmin, the user had to roll the paper towards the wall and tear off a piece from the backside rather than pulling the roll forwards from the wall and removing the square from the room-facing side.
Adam thought, “I can’t be with someone who puts in their toilet paper this way. It would be a betrayal of everything me and my family, our people, have stood for. Toilet paper has to roll forward. End of story.”
Before leaving the bathroom, Adam removed the toilet paper and installed it to his liking. And gave it a couple spins for good measure.
He left the bathroom and marched back towards the entryway, past the living room where Eve was sitting on a couch and smiling. She looked puzzled after noticing Ken’s glare and jumped up when she saw him stop and cross his arms.
“I couldn’t help but notice your toilet paper rolls backwards,” Adam said with more than a little irritation.
“Backwards?” Eve asked. And because Eve was so Gifted, her question somehow sounded resentful and threatening.
“Yesssss,” Adam said with undisguised snarkiness. “Back. Wards.”
They both came to the same insight in that moment.
“Oh,” they said together, “you’re one of them.”
“What do you mean, I’m one of them. You’re one of them,” said Eve. “You’re one of those obsessive lunatics who says the toilet paper has to roll away from the wall. Do you have any idea the crap people like me have had to put up with because of people like you? People like you use our bathrooms and assume it’s okay to switch directions and, next thing we know, our cats are clawing at the roll and toilet paper is spilling out all over the place. All thanks to your stupidity. We call you people, ‘the cat-enablers.’”
“No, you’re one of them,” Adam said with extra emphasis. “You’re one of those sociopaths who wants the toilet paper to disappear back behind the roll and come out the bottom. Do you have any idea what my people have endured because of all of you? Every time one of you comes to stay for the weekend, you swap directions on the sly so that people like me practically break our wrists the next time we try to get a square of paper. Your kind has quietly sent more people to the Urgent Care than any other group out there. We call you people, ‘The silent wrist-breakers.’ I wouldn’t ever spend the night here.”
“Like you’d get the chance,” Eve quipped.
Adam stormed out of Eve’s place and within two weeks, each had started a political movement in opposition to those who roll the toilet paper the wrong way and spent the rest of their lives focused defeating Them.
Key Takeaways from Eve and Adam
Eve and Adam both entered the event looking for a reason to be furious.
When they discovered a difference between them, Adam and Eve both responded to the other as deficient, not just different. They both refused to consider the other person as a fully-functioning human being. Instead, each turned the other into a Them.
Eve and Adam both created an experience they could use to rage, and defend their point of view about what a horrible bunch of #!%@!% they are, for the rest of their lives.
Thanks for reading! The dramatic conclusion is coming soon!