Emotions And Feelings (Cont.15)

12. When you feel wronged (can cause anger, contempt, disgust, dehumanisation, hate, self-righteousness)

    a) anger is felt when the desired outcome is blocked or there is violation of the way things should be; you feel that something must be done to resolve the problem; you believe that someone or something else is to blame for an unfair or unjust situation; can vary in intensity from mild irritation to annoyance to fury and rage; chronic anger has implications for brain health, ie produces psychiatric problems; your propensity for an anger and aggression is partly inherited

"...narratives of anger unfold into stories of betrayal, fear, grief, injustice, shame, vulnerability and other emotions..."
Brené Brown, 2021

Anger is thought to be a secondary or indicator emotion that masks or hides others that are out of reach of your language, or more difficult to explain, ie

"...We live in a world where it's much easier to say 'I am so pissed off' than "I feel so betrayed and hurt'..."
Brené Brown, 2021

Some of the feelings that might be behind the anger are loneliness, rejection, fear, anxiety, frustration, confusion, grief, hurt, sadness, isolation, guilt, shame, jealousy, outrage at injustice, helplessness, overwhelming stress, humiliation, embarrassment, depression, etc.

They are explained in the diagram below:


(source: https://m.facebook.com/WholeHeartedSchoolCounseling1/photos/a.2076686472643023/2589200764724922/?type=3&source=57)

Another way to look at anger


(source: Brené Brown, 2021)

Sometimes anger can be the most compassionate response to experiencing or witnessing injustice. As a result, it can be a powerful catalyst for change that doesn't need to be explained or justified.

"...anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalising anger will take away our joy and spirit..."
Brené Brown, 2021

When people are saying 'why so hostile?', 'I am sensing so much anger', 'don't take it personally', etc. They are all saying 'you are making me feel uncomfortable and I wish you would shut-up'. However, externalising anger can make you less effective in creating change and forging the right connections; the energy from anger needs to be transformed into something more productive.

Some additional points about anger

        i) it often masks other emotions that are more difficult to name and/or own

        ii) it is a very effective emotional indicator, ie need to check things out

        iii) it can be a catalysts to spark the change but it is not the change

    b) contempt is the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another; it is treating others with disrespect and mocking them with sarcasm and condescension; it may involve using hostile humour, name-calling, mimicking, body language (eyes-rolling, sneering, etc); it is poisonous as it conveys disgust and superiority, ie moral, ethical or characterological; it is saying 'I am better than you and you are less than me' and you are not worthy of my time or energy; it results in distancing, ignoring and/or excluding the 'contemptible' person; it is different from criticism as it intends to insult and psychologically abuse others by words and body language, eg they are stupid, disgusting, incompetent, etc; being on the receiving end of contempt can be painful as it is shaming and belittling; creates feelings of low esteem, inadequacy and shame.

The recent political polarisation in the USA has created motive attribution asymmetry, ie where the Democrats and Republicans each thinks they are driven by benevolence and the other is evil and motivated by hatred; thus the other is an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise. There is contempt for each other based on a toxic brew of anger and disgust.

Contempt is 1 of the 4 negative communication patterns that can predict divorce (the other 3 are criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling). Sometimes called the 4 horsemen (see diagram below for details of strategies)

The Four Horsemen & Their Antidotes (Worksheet) | Therapist Aid
(source: https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/four-horsemen)


(source: Brené Brown, 2021  

     c) disgust is a physical repulsion (sight, touch, sound, taste and/or smell) and a feeling of aversion to something offensive, revolting and/or toxic; it has a range of intensities from mild dislike and aversion to repugnancy, revolution and intense loathing; it is an emotion that was developed to protect you from actual toxins and poisons, ie to protect the body from ingestion of contaminants; yet now used as a feeling in interpersonal contexts to protect us from unseemly behaviour and contamination of the mind, soul, etc; it is an emotion that can be weaponised against people; once viewed with disgust, this judgement seems to be permanent

"...the actions of disgust can rapidly lead to dehumanising others, and marginalising individuals or groups of people..."
Maria Micell et al as quoted by Brené Brown, 2021

NB "...The disrespect involved in disgust implies the human dignity is perceived as alienable......moral disgust is even more dangerous because of its dehumanising implications..."
Maria Micell et al as quoted by Brené Brown, 2021

    d) dehumanisation is a process that starts with creating an 'enemy image' (including language) and you become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, tenets of your faith, etc; it is a response to conflicting motives, ie wanting to harm a group of people goes against your natural instinct as a social animal; there is a dangerous relationship between disgust and dehumanisation (see disgust above); worse than being marginalised and/or regarded as 'others'; once dehumanised, violence and cruelty becomes easier to rationalise, justify, etc

"...the psychological process demonising the enemy making them less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment......As we take sides, lose trust, and get angry and angrier, we not only solidify an idea of our enemy, but also start to lose our ability to listen, communicate, and practice even a modicum of empathy..."
Brené Brown, 2021

Once you start seeing others as 'morally inferior' and even dangerous, the situation starts to be framed in 'good versus evil', resulting in your position becoming more rigid. This can lead to moral exclusion where groups are targeted based on their identity (gender, ideology, skin colour, ethnicity, religion, age, etc) as less than human, ie are no longer in the scope of those who are protected by your moral code, eg the Nazis described the Jews as rats (disease-carrying rodents), Indigenous people are often described as savages, etc

     e) hate is a combination of various negative emotions including repulsion, disgust, anger, fear and contempt; it motivates people for destructive action; you show hatred towards individuals or groups that you believe are intentionally malicious and unlikely to change; you terrorise others for who they are, not for what they have done; you don't necessarily need to know these people personally; all you need to know is that they don't align your beliefs; this lack of direct contact can actually strengthen hate, ie people are harder to hate close-up, and easier to hate from a distance.

Common enemy intimacy, ie you are connected to people who share the same view of point that you and your group regard as the common enemy; this strategy is used by cynical leaders capitalising on people's insecurities to build their own power (including followers).

"...the goal of hate is not merely to hurt, but ultimately eliminate or destroy the target, either mentally (humiliating, treasuring feelings of revenge), socially (excluding, ignoring), or physically (killing, torturing), which may be accompanied by the goal to let the wrongdoer suffer..."
Brené Brown, 2021

To counteract hate, use any mechanism to help people understand others' points of view, such as love, critical thinking, wisdom, engagement with members of target group, etc; it is harder to hate people you understand      

    f) self-righteousness comes from the conviction that one's own beliefs and behaviour are the most correct; you see things as black and white; tend to be close-minded, inflexible, intolerant of ambiguity, and less likely to consider others' options; moral outrage is self-enhancing

"...the self-righteous scream judgements against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets..."
John Mark Green as quoted by
Brené Brown, 2021

It is different from righteousness, ie where you are reacting to a true injustice and are trying to do the right thing.  Being self-righteous means you feel morally superior to others and are trying to convince yourselves and others that you are doing the right thing; This is linked with terminal uniqueness, ie when you think you are different from everyone else and that you are the exception.

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