Pain sucks. A lot of people (me included) live with some measure of physical pain, moment-to-moment, day-to-day, or occasionally. It doesn’t matter at all how common pain is; it still sucks to experience it, generally. Pain is largely unavoidable, even when it is treatable, manageable, or resolvable. We feel pain, because we feel, and some stuff hurts.

Outrage is a different sort of feeling, although it generally falls into the set of ‘feelings beside pain that also suck’. Outrage is that peculiar mix of anger, despair, frustration, annoyance – and pain – that we experience when confronted with something that ‘just isn’t right at all’ and nothing seems to be getting done about it. More or less. (Your results may vary) Outrage is the stuff movements and causes are made of. Outrage sells newspapers, and advertising spots. Outrage gets us to show up and take a stand. Outrage is painful, and floods us with a cascade of negative emotions, as well as increasing our level of arousal – readying us to fight, to take action. Outrage is motivating… but it’s probably not really ‘healthy’ to linger in that state. I know, for me, outrage builds over time to slowly become fused with an ancient feeling of ‘learned helplessness’ that eventually develops into a sense of futility. Despair and frustration become dominant in that experience, as the urge to take action generates no positive outcome (generally); often we are being stoked into a sense of outrage for marketing purposes. There is no intent to drive change at all; we’re being used.

Outrage, delightfully enough, is not unavoidable. It’s totally avoidable. Outrage, generally, is optional. Quite optional. This is a new thought for me, or at least I think so right now.

Where is your outrage getting you these days? If it is solving problems, and moving you through your difficulties, and finding you in an improved place with your fellow human being – and finding them in an improved place, themselves, you are having some success with outrage. If your outrage changes one thing – any one thing – for the better, truly, then your outrage is effective. I’ve got nothing but gratitude for people who can endure outrage long enough to drive positive change. I’m even impressed.

Outrage generally just upsets me, resulting in agitation, frustration, arousal and leading to my PTSD symptoms flaring up, and my disinhibiting TBI definitely gets in the way of managing outrage appropriately. Over time, outrage takes me over, colors my experience, and renders the world a seeming palette of horrors, and despair without end. It’s unpleasant. It’s also totally avoidable.

I changed how I consume media, day-to-day, and in general it alleviates my experience of chronic outrage. There is plenty in the world to be outraged about, and certainly there’s enough for every human being to take a strong stand on an important issue and change the world…but…there’s actually so much potentially ‘wrong’ in the world, it could certainly ruin any one person’s day entirely to embrace all of it as a personal cause. I still care. I am learning not to allow myself to be dragged into chronic outrage. It’s not easy. I often catch myself getting pulled back into an issue through a link shared by a friend; it matters to me a great deal what matters to my friends and loved ones, and before I quite know how, I’m caught up in measles at Disneyland, or gun safety concerns, or police brutality, or any number of feminist issues that are of direct and immediate concern to me personally, as a woman. It happens fast.

Good self-care sometimes means putting down the device. Scrolling past the news article. Refraining from commenting. Taking a few deep breaths and letting it go. Why does it matter so much to manage chronic outrage? Emotional experience is tied to our physical experience pretty directly; emotions are chemical. Pain is physical – and emotional. Chronic outrage seems (in my own experience) to correlate to an experience of pain feeling more intense, less endurable, and less responsive to treatment. Hmmmm… give up chronic outrage and hurt less, or… don’t. Yeah. That’s an easy one.

Relax. Have a coffee. Think about something pleasant for a moment. Enjoy this moment, right here; it's the only one quite like it.

Relax. Have a coffee. Think about something pleasant for a moment. Enjoy this moment, right here; it’s the only one quite like it.

Today is a good day to be aware of media manipulation. Today is a good day to enjoy each positive moment with at least as much attention, passion, and engagement as I might bring to any cause or concern. Today is a good day to let small stuff go, and to choose my battles. Today is a good day to change the world.