Don Rosenberg – Enthusiasm and passion have been a hallmark of political action over all of history. Stating something strongly and with conviction gets attention and almost forces people to listen. But the last three years have seen political passion turn into an explosion of hatred and anger like never before. Why is this?
Psychologists say that anger arises when we have an unmet demand. Some angry reactions are reasonable, such as objecting to bad service at an expensive restaurant, or protesting against an injustice, but others are irrational, such as shooting a gun at someone who just cut you off in traffic.
We use emotions such as anger to help us survive in difficult situations. Scientists have found that all emotions cause neuro-chemical changes in the brain and hate and anger have a larger impact.
Jean Kim, M.D., a psychiatrist and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at George Washington University, writes, “Anger overrides all other moral and rational brakes in the brain because it originates from our primordial, original limbic system: the brain center of our most automatic emotions like fear and desire…. While anger feels good in the moment, it is in fact deeply illogical and destructive; it overrides all other moral and rational brakes in the brain.”
Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW writes, “The neurotransmitter chemicals known as catecholamines are released causing a blast of kinetic energy that can last a few minutes. In a counterintuitive way, feeling bad sometimes feels good. Like any addiction, anger can induce discharge of dopamine epinephrine and norepinephrine. The adrenalin rush contributes to a sense of strength and invulnerability… it creates a sense of aliveness.”
Constant anger and hatred can easily become an addiction
Excessive behaviors share many of the same characteristics as substance abuse and can easily become full-blown addictions — behaviors you can’t stop that lead to harmful consequences such as ruined relationships, loss of a job, or physical harm to yourself or others.
Liberals discussed the science behind an addiction to hate several years ago when talking about white supremacists and conservative talk shows turning normal people into hate-filled fanatics, but now it’s the liberals who are being transformed.
Dr. Kim explains,
“Science agrees that we can get fixated on our own anger; the actual mechanism of this addiction is fascinatingly complex….
“Any perceived threat — physical, metaphysical, ideological, or imagined — causes the amygdalae, the two almond-shaped bundles of neurons in the medial temporal lobe, to alert the brain to prepare for a fight (or flight). This signal causes the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, as well as the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, which kick-start our sympathetic nervous system, causing oxygen levels in the blood and glucose levels in the brain to rise. Our heart rate, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure go up — energizing us for a fight.
“This rush of neurochemicals has a transformative effect on our behavior. We might yell, clench our fists, or fume, signaling to everyone around us that we’re ready to blow up. At the same time, more subtle changes are happening. Notably, the mix disrupts our ability to think logically and makes a mess of our short-term memories. Noradrenaline and cortisol in particular suppress function in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain tasked with executive decision making.”
So, our brains get a rush from hateful rhetoric and actions, and as we become addicted, we crave more and more.
Hatred is contagious.
Humans are social animals, so it’s easiest to get this reinforcement simply by interacting with like-minded people. Negative emotions are stronger, while calmer emotions are negated until the burst of neurochemicals diminishes. This is why it’s extremely difficult to reason with someone who is enraged.
Hatred has been characterized as its own kind of virus, because emotions are shared easily within groups. This makes evolutionary sense; in order to survive, we need to be able to work together in social settings. In the age of the internet, social media and mass communications travel at light speed, therefore hatred does as well.
Researchers from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania cataloged the most recirculated New York Times articles and found the only feeling that outpaced anger was awe. “Anger is a high-arousal emotion, which drives people to take action,” says Jonah Berger, the marketing professor who conducted the study. “It makes you feel fired up, which makes you more likely to pass things on.”
Media, social media and other internet entities take advantage of these emotions to fuel their economic engines. How often do you see an outrageous headline only to click the link and end up at a website full of ads for male enhancement drugs or beauty creams?
This also explains why a fire or murder leads the news, while stories with a much greater impact aren’t even covered. “If it bleeds, it leads.” Their ultimate goal is to sell advertising.
Anger is dangerous
We’ve all heard the term “seeing red.” Crowds become angry and out of control. This is when rioting and beatings happen. People completely uninvolved with the issue at hand are assaulted or even killed, and stores and businesses that benefit the community are looted and burned to the ground.
But what we are discovering during current “protests” are agitators seeded into the crowds who fan the flames of anger and hatred. A different agitator will throw the first punch or break the first window, and the angry crowd follows.
This is why “incitement to riot” is a criminal offense.
Dr. Kim continues, “The rush behind anger can be triggered by underlying feelings of weakness or insecurity, a way to feel powerful in the moment… It also helps people feel briefly in control of things they typically have no control over.”
During the COVID 19 pandemic, people are scared and feel helpless to defend themselves against an unseen enemy. This has been a perfect opportunity for outside forces to stir up even more panic and direct anger and hatred toward the target of their choice, which happens to be the entire American society, including the police, our history, and our president.
The fear of having an angry mob being focused on you or your family is enough to get rational people to go along with the mob’s agenda. Like victims of the “Stockholm syndrome,” they often end up believing the agenda themselves. This has carried into the business world where corporate leaders become believers, or simply make tactical statements or fire outspoken employees to keep the mobs from attacking their stores or starting a boycott.
This is how basic psychology can be used to overthrow the government of an entire country. History is replete with examples, from the Boston Tea Party and the French Revolution, to the Arab Spring.
If we don’t quickly learn from history and how populations can be controlled through hate, and who is funding the agitators, we are likely to become the next victims.
SF Source American Thinker Jul 2020