This is How Dumb Anger Is

Seneca wrote eloquently about how absurd the need to “get even” is. No one would think to return a bite to a dog or a kick to a mule, he writes, but when someone hurts us or pisses us off, that’s exactly what we do. We smile and laugh at this clever analogy. He’s right, we think, no one would bite a dog. 

Except anger actually does do stuff that dumb to us all the time—or worse! Who hasn’t thrown a television remote that wasn’t working or smacked a vending machine that took your money? Who hasn’t banged on their keyboard when it froze or kicked a child’s toy across the room after painfully stepping on it in the middle of the night? Who hasn’t shouted obscenities at their headphones when your hand gets caught in the cord and you accidentally rip them off your head while walking through an airport or getting into a car? Who hasn’t had to resist the urge to throw their smartphone in the ocean or their golf club into a lake when these objects refuse to do what you have directed them to?

If there weren’t plenty of reasons to be suspicious of anger already, the fact that it compels you to try to physically punish inanimate objects is a pretty good one. The fact that, in anger, we often break or damage our own property—essentially punishing ourselves to send a message to something that by definition cannot receive it—tells us everything we need to know about anger

Mainly, that it’s blinding, that it’s hard to control, and that it’s shamefully stupid. 

So avoid it as much as you can.

P.S. This was originally sent on October 15, 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism. 

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