How Being Outraged Can Boost Our Self Esteem

Throughout his book Considerations, author Colin Wright reflects on ideas that seem to align with stoicism and his book, which is a collection of essays on various daily topics, connects with many themes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.  A common idea between the two works is the thought of self awareness, self-control, and understanding that you do not understand everyone’s perspectives and thoughts.  When writing about our anger and the way we occasionally show our passion through outrage Wright states:

 

“On a personal level, outrage makes us feel superior.  By becoming indignant, we’re drawing a line in the sand and declaring ourselves to be on the right side of a given issue.  We’re saying, “How horrible this situation is, and how capable I am of declaring right and wrong, and passing judgment on those involved!””

 

Wright continues to explain that this type of outrage is nothing more than a self esteem boost for ourselves because it raises us along a slope of moral righteousness from which we are able to display and pronounce our superiority over those in the ‘wrong’ camp. Our ranting and explosive attitudes release energy and captivate the attention of others, giving us an additional boost by holding people’s attention.  As this continues, being right or wrong does not matter, and we simply become outraged on moral issues so that we can continue to gain an audience and flatter ourselves. The more people pay attention to an outraged individual, whether they agree with them or just want to see someone bellowing out their beliefs, the more that individual feels supported.

 

I think that both Aurelius and Wright would argue that it is better to turn ourselves inside and reflect on that which makes us irate before making a public display of our feelings. By better understanding whatever it is, we can better react to it, and perhaps understand other perspectives surrounding that which angered us. Aurelius would certainly argue that nothing should push an individual to the point of outrage, since it is likely outside our control and influence, and since the thing itself likely does not make us any worse off. Both Wright and Aurelius would understand that the best way to handle or change that which has angered us would be to use our anger in a moderate manner by taking positive steps to improve the world around us by changing that which we can control.  Anger is a normal human emotion and one that can motivate us and push us to action in many positive ways, but using anger to increase ones platform does not help us grow or improve society. When we use anger to place ourselves on the moral high ground, we divide our society and polarize the thoughts at hand.
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