February 10 2017
Sanity

Living in a State of Constant Outrage is Going to Kill Us

outrage Back in the fall, I wrote about how I worried that we were living in an age of outrage.  Oh how I look back on those halcyon days of October and think to myself, how is it possible that it could have gotten worse.  But amazingly, it did.  We have taken outrage to the level of an Olympic endurance sport.

Back in October, I was mostly concerned with people, especially the elderly, getting their outrage buttons pushed over things that really did not matter.  But now, I am personally in a daily state of outrage over a million and one things and they all seem to matter.  Because they just confound common sense and human compassion.

Consumer protections being rolled back.  Environmental protections being rolled back. Gun regulations allowing severely mentally ill people to purchase firearms.  Unqualified people running the government.  Sloppiness and poor grammar everywhere.  Jews getting omitted from Holocaust Remembrance Day!

I’ve talked about how we do ourselves an injustice by allowing outrage to become a cheap and quickly consumed commodity.  Because outrage is precious.  Like love, it is a limited resource.  Most of us, naturally, are not capable of loving everyone with the intensity that we love our own family.  Outrage is similar.  We cannot have outrage for everything.  Otherwise we would not be able to get through the day or accomplish anything at all.

The Atlantic just did a story about how people are so infected by outrage, they can’t get any work done.  This is true for me – both at work and on my blog.  Other stories offer tips for helping people disconnect from the outrage.  It’s an epidemic that we cannot escape from, but whose underlying cause we must not ignore.

We can only endure so much outrage.

Outrage is like the insulin that shoots through our body every time we eat sugar.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal at that jolting moment, but the cumulative effect leads to big problems.  Constant and severe outrage manifests itself as stress.  And when the body remains in a constant high state of alert, the physical and mental impacts are real.

Even worse, this deluge of outrage is so beyond the pale that we risk becoming numb to it all.  It’s too overwhelming.  Which leads to cynicism, despair and paralysis.  But we cannot become numb, or paralyzed.  We need to be able to understand what is happening in the world and respond appropriately.

We need to allocate our outrage where it is most needed.

As a nation, we are terrible at this.  Once upon a time, the news was a public service, telling us the information that we needed to know, however complicated or unexciting it may have been.  Today, the news is entertainment.  So instead of concentrating on the problems where humanity is literally laid bare, or where the threat to our health, safety, happiness and well-being actually exists, we are all tied up in hearing about what the president thought of SNL.

The press is trying to figure out how to operate in a world where so many stories are blowing up each day.  But they are still doing their best impression of a dog chasing a ball, not really able to figure out (or care) what merits more focus, or what should be ignored.  And it sucks because they are the ones who get to ask the questions.  So we are stuck reading about nonsensical tweets instead of, has anyone heard a plan for healthcare yet?  (And I’m sorry, why can’t they use quotations instead of showing it in tweet form?  It would blow everyone’s mind if we looked at illiterate tweets as actual quotes instead of as a screen grab.)

Time to edit your outrage diet.

There are traps for lazy minds everywhere.  Instead of taking for granted that every news story is equally important, thoughtful people need to start making some judgements, or we are going to collectively lose our minds.  This means that we need to look at things that are genuinely galling, gather our coldest dispassion and say “hmm, ok, that’s ludicrous” and move the frak on. Watch:

Hmm, ok, the President said that a store not carrying his daughter’s products was an attack on him, ok, that’s ludicrous.  But probably not going to bring down civilization as we know it.  Wait, what was that, Congress wants to kill the rule that limits overdraft fees and do away with the fiduciary rule that protects investors – what the freaking goddam hell is that about?!

We need to look away from the grotesque shiny bait and focus instead on those smaller, possibly less exciting headlines because that’s where all the news that will actually affect our life is quietly happening.

I have the easiest trick for figuring out what to pay attention to.

It’s not the president.  It’s Congress.  The president is a flash grenade throwing outrage factory.   But contrary to his recent spectacles, there is little he can do on his own.  Congress is the name of the game in this country.  It’s where all the action is.  Congress writes the laws.  Congress allocates the funds. Congress declares war. Congress bestows powers to the Executive.  And Congress is as quiet as a mouse right now, stealthily setting policies in motion that will appease large corporate donors while doing harm a lot of ordinary people and the environment.  Business as usual.

So let’s keep our eye on the ball.  Tune out every tweet and asinine quote from the president and listen very closely to what is happening in the halls of Congress.  Direct your actions there, if you are so inclined.

And if you are one of the good people who have faith that Congress and the president are going to enact policies that will improve the country and help the little guy, as opposed to Goldman Sachs and Exxon, I pray you are correct and I envy your sound sleep.

 

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  • Unfortunately, it’s not just Congress, it’s also my state’s General Assembly. BUT, I think I have some keys to dealing…
    1) No more talking politics with my beloved Republican family members. This is not where my outrage needs to be.
    2) Letters. I’m not a marcher, and I hate phone calls. BUt letters are a slow process, and I have to construct a cogent argument. I need to draw on the Intellectual, not emotional, argument, and finding common ground.
    3) Long term thinking. This is not a one month war, and we have to pick our battles. We aren’t going to make much progress this year, Congress is already bought and paid for. The key is do what the Tea Party did. Build a candidate base at all levels, especially the lower ones. Do you know how many offices Republicans ran unopposed?

    • You are spot on, Emily. It seems like these events have focused people on the critical importance of the local electoral process and the conversation that happens there. If that trend continues, we will all be better for it. I have never been to a town hall meeting in my life, and my Congressperson reflects my thinking, but I am inspired to go and show my support. I have never come close to contemplating such a thing before. Seems like a lot of people who have never attempted to be active in this are are learning about how important is to be vocal on the local level. A small silver lining to this debacle.

  • It wears me out. There are people doing the hard, honest work long before it was the outrage of the day, and they will continue the work long after everyone else moves on to the next outrage. Our think our culture lacks that long term commitment to a cause. Or looks down on those who have picked their thing and committed 10+ years to trying to move the needle in that one area. Because it might not be the outrage of the moment. It’s easy to confuse angry tweets with the actual work.

  • It’s astounding how much social media has magnified every aspect of our culture. It’s as though (insert hot-button social issue/politician name here) is the engine, and sm is the fuel, which propels the outrage.
    Personally, i have to hope that common sense will prevail over the extreme voices on both sides of the equation.

  • I ignore everything he says/tweets and look at what he does. Most times, 45’s only verbalizing what we already know – he already told us point blank what he was going to do that was harmful during the campaign. What’s now important is to make sure that the judiciary and legislative branches don’t get steamrollered by the executive or get support for supporting the outrageous and unconstitutional. It’s hard not to be distracted by the feelings because they’re attacking so many things that are part of being a nation of decent people, and moving on to directly hurt citizens, and damaging the separation of powers. But remembering that this is a long fight, as long time advocates and activists know, means not being submersed in the daily horror because our brains will actually adjust to accepting this as the new norm. I hate to believe that I could ever believe wholly unethical practices would become normal but I think it’s very true that our minds have to do that, or we’d go loopy.

    I hope more people remember that this work isn’t done in a weekend. People have been fighting for our rights for their entire lifetimes and you can’t survive that by being flaming out with the stress.

    • Yes, this is going a be a marathon, not a sprint and that means keeping our eye on the ball, focusing on the important things, being smart and not getting distracted and exhausted by nonsense. Admittedly, that is really hard when there are so many legitimately outrageous things happening. But agree with you. Thanks so much for commenting… -Linda

  • I do wonder what would happen to politics if politicians were only allowed to take money from the people that they represent.

    I’d love to see the influence of money pulled out of politics and removal of powerful lobbyist.

    Hopefully then we could actually see common sense laws passed that could unite the county instead of the mess we have now.

  • It’s so hard to strike the balance between filtering out the noise and staying informed enough to be engaged. Some days it seems easier to just avoid the news altogether but then we risk missing out on stuff we actually need to be aware of!

  • You know I’m with you on this. I’ve just recently started to compartmentalize and try to focus down to a few things so I don’t normalize these feelings of disbelief and disgust. It’s been difficult, but I think I’m starting to figure it out. I just hate that we even have to be here.

    Also, we have one Republican and one Democratic senator here in PA. The one with (R) by his name doesn’t listen to his constituents at all, and this isn’t the first time. He only won because he took his competition to new levels with campaign spending. Like crazy new levels. My congressional rep—pretty happy with him. But my opinions are pretty consistent with my district as a whole.

    We’ll hang on. We’ll get through it. I think while it’s crazy to think that all this insanity has happened in only a month, we need to be kind to ourselves and remind ourselves that we’ve only had a month to figure out how to handle it. We’ll get there. We just can’t let it go much further.

    • I almost wish I lived in a state where I could use my voice to sway one of these cowardly elected officials. In NY, our members of Congress are generally anti-Trump – the only difference being how strongly they are willing to stand up. I do think the one upside to the mass freak-out is that people who have never gotten involved before are getting involved. The country will be better for hearing some of those voices.

  • Over a year ago, Mrs. G and I cut the cord. So no Fox, MSNBC, and CNN. We also turned off talk radio. All we listen to when we’re in our car are finance-related podcasts and sports radio. That’s it. And life is a lot less stressful. I highly recommend doing a political detox. I have very little faith in government. To improve my life, I look to the man in the mirror. Looking to D.C. or your state capitol is a fool’s errand. Good luck, Linda. As a recovering political junkie, I know it’s hard.

    • Thanks Mr. G. I am trying to cut back. I have to stay informed – I am invested in making my voice heard, but no question that knowing every sordid detail doesn’t help anyone… just gives you a nervous breakdown.

  • “Even worse, this deluge of outrage is so beyond the pale that we risk becoming numb to it all. It’s too overwhelming. Which leads to cynicism, despair and paralysis. But we cannot become numb, or paralyzed. We need to be able to understand what is happening in the world and respond appropriately.”

    This is something that I keep puzzling over. It’s a very tough line to walk these days. It does seem like at the moment more people are starting to direct their attention towards Congress with all of these town hall meetings getting rowdy, but I’m curious to see if that attention will last.

    • I agree. It is troubling to say the least. I don’t agree with people who say, just tune it all out, stop reading the news. That is not the answer. And I can’t help but get annoyed at ludicrous things. Focusing on the big key issues is hard when we are being machine-gun spray fired with a million malignant absurdities. All we can do is keep trying.

    1. Matt @ Optimize Your Life 11:37am 24 February - 2017 - Reply

      “Even worse, this deluge of outrage is so beyond the pale that we risk becoming numb to it all. It’s too overwhelming. Which leads to cynicism, despair and paralysis. But we cannot become numb, or paralyzed. We need to be able to understand what is happening in the world and respond appropriately.”

      This is something that I keep puzzling over. It’s a very tough line to walk these days. It does seem like at the moment more people are starting to direct their attention towards Congress with all of these town hall meetings getting rowdy, but I’m curious to see if that attention will last.

      • Brooklyn Bread 11:55am 24 February - 2017 - Reply

        I agree. It is troubling to say the least. I don’t agree with people who say, just tune it all out, stop reading the news. That is not the answer. And I can’t help but get annoyed at ludicrous things. Focusing on the big key issues is hard when we are being machine-gun spray fired with a million malignant absurdities. All we can do is keep trying.

    2. Mr. Groovy 07:40pm 20 February - 2017 - Reply

      Over a year ago, Mrs. G and I cut the cord. So no Fox, MSNBC, and CNN. We also turned off talk radio. All we listen to when we’re in our car are finance-related podcasts and sports radio. That’s it. And life is a lot less stressful. I highly recommend doing a political detox. I have very little faith in government. To improve my life, I look to the man in the mirror. Looking to D.C. or your state capitol is a fool’s errand. Good luck, Linda. As a recovering political junkie, I know it’s hard.

      • Brooklyn Bread 04:05pm 21 February - 2017 - Reply

        Thanks Mr. G. I am trying to cut back. I have to stay informed – I am invested in making my voice heard, but no question that knowing every sordid detail doesn’t help anyone… just gives you a nervous breakdown.

    3. Femme Frugality 01:21am 18 February - 2017 - Reply

      You know I’m with you on this. I’ve just recently started to compartmentalize and try to focus down to a few things so I don’t normalize these feelings of disbelief and disgust. It’s been difficult, but I think I’m starting to figure it out. I just hate that we even have to be here.

      Also, we have one Republican and one Democratic senator here in PA. The one with (R) by his name doesn’t listen to his constituents at all, and this isn’t the first time. He only won because he took his competition to new levels with campaign spending. Like crazy new levels. My congressional rep—pretty happy with him. But my opinions are pretty consistent with my district as a whole.

      We’ll hang on. We’ll get through it. I think while it’s crazy to think that all this insanity has happened in only a month, we need to be kind to ourselves and remind ourselves that we’ve only had a month to figure out how to handle it. We’ll get there. We just can’t let it go much further.

      • Brooklyn Bread 09:10am 18 February - 2017 - Reply

        I almost wish I lived in a state where I could use my voice to sway one of these cowardly elected officials. In NY, our members of Congress are generally anti-Trump – the only difference being how strongly they are willing to stand up. I do think the one upside to the mass freak-out is that people who have never gotten involved before are getting involved. The country will be better for hearing some of those voices.

    4. Chris @ Keep Thrifty 05:35pm 14 February - 2017 - Reply

      It’s so hard to strike the balance between filtering out the noise and staying informed enough to be engaged. Some days it seems easier to just avoid the news altogether but then we risk missing out on stuff we actually need to be aware of!

      • Brooklyn Bread 05:42pm 14 February - 2017 - Reply

        It is a daily challenge. I can’t look away, no matter how hard I try!

    5. Mustard Seed Money 09:54pm 12 February - 2017 - Reply

      I do wonder what would happen to politics if politicians were only allowed to take money from the people that they represent.

      I’d love to see the influence of money pulled out of politics and removal of powerful lobbyist.

      Hopefully then we could actually see common sense laws passed that could unite the county instead of the mess we have now.

      • Brooklyn Bread 11:19am 14 February - 2017 - Reply

        Well that would be a the dream of dreams. I don’t understand why people do not want this – even politicians.

    6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life 04:47pm 12 February - 2017 - Reply

      I ignore everything he says/tweets and look at what he does. Most times, 45’s only verbalizing what we already know – he already told us point blank what he was going to do that was harmful during the campaign. What’s now important is to make sure that the judiciary and legislative branches don’t get steamrollered by the executive or get support for supporting the outrageous and unconstitutional. It’s hard not to be distracted by the feelings because they’re attacking so many things that are part of being a nation of decent people, and moving on to directly hurt citizens, and damaging the separation of powers. But remembering that this is a long fight, as long time advocates and activists know, means not being submersed in the daily horror because our brains will actually adjust to accepting this as the new norm. I hate to believe that I could ever believe wholly unethical practices would become normal but I think it’s very true that our minds have to do that, or we’d go loopy.

      I hope more people remember that this work isn’t done in a weekend. People have been fighting for our rights for their entire lifetimes and you can’t survive that by being flaming out with the stress.

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:42pm 12 February - 2017 - Reply

        Yes, this is going a be a marathon, not a sprint and that means keeping our eye on the ball, focusing on the important things, being smart and not getting distracted and exhausted by nonsense. Admittedly, that is really hard when there are so many legitimately outrageous things happening. But agree with you. Thanks so much for commenting… -Linda

    7. Mystery Money Man 10:55pm 11 February - 2017 - Reply

      It’s astounding how much social media has magnified every aspect of our culture. It’s as though (insert hot-button social issue/politician name here) is the engine, and sm is the fuel, which propels the outrage.
      Personally, i have to hope that common sense will prevail over the extreme voices on both sides of the equation.

      • Brooklyn Bread 02:37pm 12 February - 2017 - Reply

        It’s exhausting. But I think the real problem is that we really have a hard time focusing on the most important things.

    8. Ms. Montana 01:58pm 11 February - 2017 - Reply

      It wears me out. There are people doing the hard, honest work long before it was the outrage of the day, and they will continue the work long after everyone else moves on to the next outrage. Our think our culture lacks that long term commitment to a cause. Or looks down on those who have picked their thing and committed 10+ years to trying to move the needle in that one area. Because it might not be the outrage of the moment. It’s easy to confuse angry tweets with the actual work.

      • Brooklyn Bread 02:06pm 11 February - 2017 - Reply

        I do agree, Ms. Montana. I hope that at least some of the people who are channeling all this frustrated passion can turn it into something positive and helpful.

    9. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe 01:29pm 11 February - 2017 - Reply

      Unfortunately, it’s not just Congress, it’s also my state’s General Assembly. BUT, I think I have some keys to dealing…
      1) No more talking politics with my beloved Republican family members. This is not where my outrage needs to be.
      2) Letters. I’m not a marcher, and I hate phone calls. BUt letters are a slow process, and I have to construct a cogent argument. I need to draw on the Intellectual, not emotional, argument, and finding common ground.
      3) Long term thinking. This is not a one month war, and we have to pick our battles. We aren’t going to make much progress this year, Congress is already bought and paid for. The key is do what the Tea Party did. Build a candidate base at all levels, especially the lower ones. Do you know how many offices Republicans ran unopposed?

      • Brooklyn Bread 02:11pm 11 February - 2017 - Reply

        You are spot on, Emily. It seems like these events have focused people on the critical importance of the local electoral process and the conversation that happens there. If that trend continues, we will all be better for it. I have never been to a town hall meeting in my life, and my Congressperson reflects my thinking, but I am inspired to go and show my support. I have never come close to contemplating such a thing before. Seems like a lot of people who have never attempted to be active in this are are learning about how important is to be vocal on the local level. A small silver lining to this debacle.

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