“Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if
you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to.
Then, on the way out, slam the door.” – Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts
First, I just absolutely love that quote. There’s a certain kind of humor that also has a sort of faux inspirational quality to it, and that style of humor tickles my funny bone enormously.
But it also represents what I feel is a helpful – and underutilized – emotional state. I call it “generic indignation,” and for me it’s often the motivating energy I need.
What’s this all about? Well, to begin with you have to understand that I’m very, very nice to people. I like people! And I think that most people are trying really hard and aren’t really the source of any accidental misery they deliver to you. The perfect example is when you see an irate customer screaming at some poor cashier because the price of butter went up by twenty cents or something. Look, even if that cashier somehow were solely responsible for the price of butter, they didn’t increase it just to mess with you, specifically. So screaming at them makes you an awful person, if you do it.
Most people, even the screamers, actually realize that most of the time. So why do they do it? Because the rage against slights, the righteous indignation, it feels good. It’s energizing. It’s exhilarating! It fills you with a clarity of purpose and the fuel for the fire of its birthing crucible. Its a wonderful feeling and actually quite helpful, except most people completely squander it by aiming it at some poor innocent soul and being a huge jerk about it, and then letting it burn out that way.
Here’s what I do instead:
First, I never let actual people bother me like that. Like I said earlier, they’re not your enemies. They’re not trying to disrupt you. No conspiracy exists just to make Johnny’s life challenging. So I’m never aiming any real ire at people who exist.
Instead, I invent a fictional “They.” A totally ludicrous and equally nebulous group of adversaries that do everything from throw sharp rocks under my bare feet at the beach to controlling the weather to ruin my camping weekends. “They” infect me with the flu specifically to hinder my project and “they” sabotaged my kitchen sink so it would leak.
But let me tell you something – I’ll show them! They think they can stop ME? Johnny Rocia? Not on your life, pal! I’ll get the last laugh, even if I have to fix a kitchen sink with the flu and go camping in the pouring rain to do it.
That’s right – just because there’s no one to actually absorb the ire doesn’t mean I can’t summon it up. I can put a determined scowl on my face and go work out just to spite “them,” even when nothing else in the world would motivate me.
It’s fun. All the enjoyment of sneering, spitting fury without any of the guilt associated with actually being a jerk to someone, nor any of the regret of foolishness for blaming someone blameless for your problems. The fact that the “them” I summon are so ludicrous means I never come close to accidentally blaming an actual person or group. I might as well be mad at leprechauns. But I get to be mad all the same!
Try it out. The next time some random life event gets in your way and you wish there were someone to blame – blame “them!” And then show them what you’re made of! Prove they can’t stop you! Give ’em hell!
And then, slam the door!