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Angry people sound like gloomy types.
We certainly don't usually think of them as
optimists, and yet beneath that gruff surface,
they truly are much to their cost.
Here is Fred. He is often furious. He's
been married to his wife Jane for 15
years. He's often told her not to
interrupt him when he's reading the
newspaper. She finds this prohibition
annoying for some very good reasons. So
tonight she's asked quite frankly
when he'll get around to cooking dinner.
Now fred is shouting because he is deep
inside so hopeful. Fred often loses
small household items. Today he has lost
his car keys.
He is furious. "Where the hell have they
gone!" He asks his family in fury. Fred is
shouting because he is deep inside so
Fred arrives at the airport.
His flight is delayed by four hours.
It's an outrage especially as he's one
of the airline's premium passengers. He
goes up to a young woman at the check-in
desk and tells her exactly what he thinks.
Fred is shouting because he is deep
Despite all the evidence Fred keeps
encountering, he stubbornly and
devotedly maintains a faith in a world
in which his partner understands him,
small household items don't go astray,
airline schedules are more than a
fiction. All his experience stretching
back many decades has not dampened the
intensity of his crazed hopes and every
time they're dashed, he screams. Fred will
never be able to remove the frustrations
of his life, but he could perhaps if
he were wise with the help of philosophy
learn to change what they mean to him. He
might learn to accept reality for the
sadder thing it truly is. He might take
on board a series of dark truths about
existence; that partners never understand
one another very well, that we're
constantly losing things that matter to
us, and that travel is filled with delays.
more broadly he might realize that life
is outside of the odd brief sunny patch
a sequence of disappointments,
misunderstandings, sorrows, griefs, and
eventually catastrophes. Fred could learn
to get a lot less angry if only he
learned to stamp on all his hopes more
effectively. Most of us are in many ways
a little bit like fred, but our agitation
isn't permanent or unbudgeable.
It's only the result of the sudden
defeat of our expectations. So in order
to grow reliably calmer, we need to get a
lot less optimistic about how life
might go. Pessimism is the cure for anger.