RSalar

Discussion Without Bitterness.

52 posts in this topic

There is no case that I can think of where anger and a retaliatory attack is appropriate.

Adding "retaliatory attack" changes things. In the case of an undeserved attack, which would be unjust, a feeling of anger is proper. How one responds to that would be a different matter. I don't think getting into a "flame war" or some such is proper, though there may be some context that isn't coming to mind at the moment in which it would be. Usually, though, better to: end the conversation; report the offender to the board moderator; openly state for all readers the situation, what you find objectionable, and your reasons for ending the discussion; and so on.

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If emotions are an automatic response to one's values then it is perfectly fine to feel anger. I would say that you must know your values first, then you will know, or at least be able to question, why you feel that emotion.

So when someone tries to destroy my values by their statements I generally get mad. Can someone walk away at this point? Yes, but in certain situations this choice might not apply.

Lastly, I would say that I am not afraid of getting angry, because I know my values well enough to know why I am getting angry.

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I pulled out two sentences from your post. I hope taking them out of the larger post does not change what you were trying to say. But ...

Don't you think that "evasion" is a very serious moral failing?

Of course, but evasion has a specific meaning. See Betsy's post.

The big point not to be missed is that I wanted to distinguish three things: the appearance of anger, actual anger, and the reasons for that anger.

Especially online, the writings of others can be written in a tone that is different from what a reader assumes, so that the author may not have had any anger at all when he wrote, yet the reader mistakes what the author says. Misinterpretation occurs a lot.

Secondly, let me stress that the moral judgement should be based on the reasons for the anger, not the anger itself. There may be good reasons for that anger. A moral failure, such as evasion, may be the cause of the anger, but not necessarily. So it makes no sense to automatically condemn someone for anger while the reasons for that anger are unknown.

I think if people would take the time to ask themselves, "Why does this post, from a complete unknown person, anger me?" they would realize their own failure and the anger would go away.

In some cases, maybe. But I think psychology is a bit more complicated than that. It may not be obvious, for one thing, what the cause of one's anger is. It also may not be a failure of one's thinking, but entirely justified.

Let me ask you: is it ever proper to be angry, or is anger an emotion that one should never feel?

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I think the individual who gets angry over threatening posts (whether they are personal attacks or attacks on his ideas) is the one who loses the most. We should not be angered by individuals who lack rational justification for attacking us or our ideas. Anyone who acts that way is not worthy of being the source of our anger.

What would justify anger in a debate (whether online or face-to-face)?

In the rest of life, too, what would justify anger? No action by anyone?

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What would justify anger in a debate (whether online or face-to-face)?       

       

In the rest of life, too, what would justify anger? No action by anyone?       

       

I think all anger in a debate is caused by a lack of self-esteem. Even if you call me a vicious name, there is no reason for me to think that you are correct, and there is no reason why I would think your assessment of me is more accurate than my own. I know that I am not that vicious thing you called me, why would I place any importance at all on what you think about me?

When someone uses an ad hominem in a debate it reveals something about their character. I like to try to figure out why they need to try to hurt me. What is going on in their mind that causes them to strike at me? I don't take it personally. It is too bad the person is unable to think rationally because the debate was enjoyable, but I did my job, I stuck to the subject at hand. In a sense I have won the debate but it is not as satisfying as us coming to an agreement.

Note that we are specifically talking about "debating." If and when the debate ends and you (not you personally) threaten me with physical violence then I might feel a tinge of anger just before I kick your butt. I don't want my anger to prevent me from using the best skill I have at defending myself -- I'm like Kung Fu -- totally in control. I would allow just enough anger to produce adrenaline in order to maximize my fighting force.

Most anger does absolutely no good. Most of the time it restricts clear and rational thinking and actually harms your chances of fixing that which is causing you the anger. I think there is a big difference between feeling angry and being controlled by your anger. Let's face it, we all feel anger at times, but it helps to introspect in search of the real cause. Most of the time there is no good justifiable reason to be angry ... but there are times when there is (when you, your family, or friends are threatened by another person).

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Let me ask you: is it ever proper to be angry, or is anger an emotion that one should never feel?

Yes there are times when anger is the appropriate emotion. See my answer to a similar question nearby.

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If I feel anger, it means I am evaluating something as unfair. It means I think somebody is acting unjustly.

To know if my emotion, anger, is justified, I have to introspect. I have to figure out exactly what or whom I'm angry at. I need to know: given that I've evaluated something as unfair, is it really unfair?

In the context of an online Objectivist discussion group, what kinds of actions by other people might result in me feeling anger? Here are a few examples I can think of:

1. Somebody using sarcasm or ridicule where a rational argument is called for. (Anger: because it isn't fair to the person against whom this sarcasm or ridicule is directed. My emotion of anger might also be mixed with some sadness: if I had expected better of the person who is using the sarcasm.)

2. Somebody asking a question when he has not first put forth any effort to answer it himself. (Anger: because it isn't fair to call on other people to do one's intellectual work.)

3. Somebody asserting something about Objectivism, when it turns out that this person doesn't understand Objectivism, and maybe hasn't even read very much material by Ayn Rand. (Anger: because Ayn Rand deserves more respect than that.)

4. Somebody is repeatedly asking the same question, even when given good explanations. (Anger: because this person expects other people to clear up his thinking, yet does not seem willing to take the time to think about a thoughtful explanation offered. He is not acting as a trader: instead, he is in effect demanding an explanation that answers any unfounded doubt he might have.)

Once I decide that my anger is justified, then I have to decide what, if anything, to do. Is the offending posting worth spending time responding to? If it is, then how should I respond? Or maybe the particular discussion is one that is no longer worth my participation, because I judge there to be no further value to be gained.

In any case, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to respond with ridicule or sarcasm. But why not? Suppose I'm really angry and I think somebody is being a jerk.

My short answer is that if a forum is established in which rational discussion is to be expected, then that's what it deserves from every participant. If one epxects to obtain values from other people, then he'd better have some to offer in trade.

There is a further point: sarcasm is a substitute for reasoned argument. It's a poor substitute, but if I use it, people will probably assume that I'm being sarcastic because in fact I don't have any argument to offer. So I'll end up undercutting the argument I was trying to make.

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3. Somebody asserting something about Objectivism, when it turns out that this person doesn't understand Objectivism, and maybe hasn't even read very much material by Ayn Rand.  (Anger: because Ayn Rand deserves more respect than that.) 

 

If the assertion is wrong it should easily be corrected. At least in this environment you get the chance to address the inaccurate assertion. If this same person makes the assertion out in public, to friends at a party, in a newspaper editorial, etc. you may not even be aware that these inaccuracies are being spread.

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1. Somebody using sarcasm or ridicule where a rational argument is called for.  (Anger: because it isn't fair to the person against whom this sarcasm or ridicule is directed.  My emotion of anger might also be mixed with some sadness: if I had expected better of the person who is using the sarcasm.)

We have to accept the reality of the situation: Not everyone is rational and in control of their emotions. Why let someone who lacks control of their emotion control yours?

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We have to accept the reality of the situation: Not everyone is rational and in control of their emotions. Why let someone who lacks control of their emotion control yours?

What do you mean by "accept the reality of the situation"?

Of course I realize that other people use sarcasm. Anger at such a person is appropriate. This does not mean one is letting other people "control" his emotions.

Feeling anger is appropriate when one sees an unjust situation. And in my posting to which you responded, I indicated why I would see the situation as unjust.

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I think all anger in a debate is caused by a lack of self-esteem.

Care to support that with anything? That is quite a blanket statement. This means that whatever a person does that I am in a debate with (context-dropping, definition switching, evasion, argument from intimidation-you name it) my reaction of anger shows a lack of self-esteem in me. Maybe it shows something else?

I am not saying that anger in a debate cannot be caused by a lack of self-esteem such as anger as a defense thrown out to disguise one's ineptitude, or lack of subject mastery, or lack of argumentation skill. Or even a lack of systematic thought.

Let's face it, we all feel anger at times, but it helps to introspect in search of the real cause.

What exactly does that mean? You are not saying that it is not possible for our initial emotional reaction to be about the actual situation at hand are you? That an angry reaction is always about something other than that with which we are currently dealing? That I am not actually angry at Mr X, because he has switched terms ten times, but because deep down I still feel as if my father never really loved me (fictional BTW)?

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Care to support that with anything? That is quite a blanket statement. This means that whatever a person does that I am in a debate with (context-dropping, definition switching, evasion, argument from intimidation-you name it) my reaction of anger shows a lack of self-esteem in me. Maybe it shows something else?   

 

I support it with the fact that you do not have to deal with that person. There are other sites to visit, books to read, people to meet, activities to participate in, etc. Why would you choose to get emotionally wrapped up in a discussion with an irrational internet poster? What if you discovered later that some computer geek made a program that was able to debate irrationally with the intended purpose of getting you mad. And all the time that you were getting all worked up and coming up with brilliant replies no one was even there to see your brilliance? It was just you and a computer -- let's say even the other posters were computer generated -- how would you feel about all the wasted time and emotional energy? Why would the time and energy be wasted if only a computer was responding to you?

Now consider why you were debating with this irrational internet poster in the first place. What was in it for you? What did you hope to gain from the exchange? Was your expectation consistent with reality? Did you need to prove to him that you were right? If so, why?

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Now consider why you were debating with this irrational internet poster in the first place. What was in it for you? What did you hope to gain from the exchange? Was your expectation consistent with reality? Did you need to prove to him that you were right? If so, why?
My question is: why do you assume that it was because of our 'need to prove' that we are right? When an alternative of two or more answers exists, why assume that the real answer is the one with the worst implications? It's hard for me to fathom that we're even talking about this. There are many good reasons to properly get angry at a person, or to continue talking to people who initially just don't seem to get it. Maybe the person is someone you care about, and you both get angry at them attacking your values (because their opinion is important to you, them being your friend), and you also wish to remain friends with the person (because of shared values). Besides, it sort of defeats the purpose to use a blanket generalization like an "irrational person". The chances of finding a truly profoundly irrational person are very small, even on the Internet. What you will find most of the time is people who misunderstand each other, and come from different circumstances and thus different contexts. There are many other explanations for anger being a proper emotion. What I haven't seen, however, are any explanations why anger is not a proper emotion. How can there even be such a thing as an improper emotion? That is intrincisism. Certain emotions can only be improper in certain contexts, while proper in all other contexts.

In general, by default, if it happens in your body or in your mind, it is by definition good, or at least neutral, and cannot be somehow automatically bad. It's your body, and your mind, which can and should be an integrated and healthy whole. Not some parts, but whole can be good, that is: everything in your body can be good and serve a good purpose.

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I think all anger in a debate is caused by a lack of self-esteem.

I have two questions. First, why do you think that all anger in debate is caused by lack of self-esteem? That is, what evidence do you have for this being a universal phenomenon without exception and regardless of context and circumstances? (Yes, you have been asked this question before but you provided no evidence that would justify such a broad induction; so, please consider this to be another opportunity to explain your statement.)

Second, does your thought apply as well to all other emotions that arise in debate? For example, disgust, elation, affection, dismay, admiration, fear, and love? If not, why?

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I have two questions. First, why do you think that all anger in debate is caused by lack of self-esteem? That is, what evidence do you have for this being a universal phenomenon without exception and regardless of context and circumstances? (Yes, you have been asked this question before but you provided no evidence that would justify such a broad induction; so, please consider this to be another opportunity to explain your statement.) 

 

Second, does your thought apply as well to all other emotions that arise in debate? For example, disgust, elation, affection, dismay, admiration, fear, and love? If not, why? 

 

Because I take your question seriously, I will attempt to take this one step at a time.

In regards to your first and second question, to which you also added an editorial, I would first like to address the editorial. You say that I have "provided no evidence that would justify such a broad induction." I take exception to this statement because the first sentence of my reply to Thoyd Loki's questions stated the following fact: "I support it with the fact that you do not have to deal with that person." I will now expand on the evidence provided.

I believe that you would agree that that is a true statement: If someone here offends you, you can simply turn off your computer and do something else. Or perhaps you would like to correspond with someone else. There is absolutely no reason why you would choose to continue to debate with a person who is intentionally trying to make you mad. The fact that he is intentionally trying to cause anger in you is reason enough to avoid him, and not take him seriously.

If, on the other hand, the person with whom you are debating is not intentionally trying to make you mad, but is causing you anger by his lack of intelligence or his lack of etiquette, you still have the option of doing something else. Internet posting/debating is hopefully not a huge part of your existence—you do have other interests … and life is good, so you move on to something that makes you happy.

We all know that there are people out there with whom we disagree, or dislike, or for whatever reason just can't tolerate. In the work environment we may have to deal with these disagreeable people, of maybe this "bad guy" is your brother-in-law and you see him at family functions ... in which case you have to figure out a way to "get through it." But here you have the choice to read a post or not, spend time at the computer or not, visit this site or not --- The simple fact of the matter (and the "evidence that would justify such a broad induction") is that you choose to be here, you choose to read the posts that are written by the person whom you are angered by, and moreover you choose to let yourselves get angered.

It makes sense to get angry when the government steals your money, or if you hear your President making a speech that you know will negatively impact the future of your country, or if a kidnapper takes your daughter, or if a reckless driver almost kills you, or if you are cheated during a poker game, or if a loved one becomes a liberal, but to let yourself get angry because an anonymous internet poster says something that you disagree with (or because he insults, belittles, or is somehow hurtful with his words) is a sign that you (meaning the person getting angry--not you personally) lack the self-esteem to see through it and recognize it for what it is.

What situation would prevent you from turning your computer off and doing something else? There is no reason why you have to stay. That is why this is a "universal phenomenon without exception and regardless of context and circumstances."

The person making the post is not the President of the United States. Metaphysically speaking--what the internet poster says will have no impact on your life. What more can I say? What other evidence do you require?

Now to your last two questions: "Does your thought apply as well to all other emotions that arise in debate? For example, disgust, elation, affection, dismay, admiration, fear, and love? If not, why?"

The essential distinguishing factor is whether the emotion is a positive one or a negative one. Negative emotions result from something hurtful happening--in the context of internet debates you can choose not to participate--you can avoid being hurt by understanding how the debate impacts your overall life. If the emotion is positive and you like it--the same choice exists: to participate or not. And, in the case of positive emotions, why not? In the case of negative ones, why?

It all comes down to the fact that you have a choice--you have volition--you are in control of which posts to take seriously and which ones to dismiss. The evidence rests in the facts of reality and the facts of reality are that you get to choose--choose whom to listen to and how seriously to take them.

Maybe you would provide an example of a post that you think represents the kind of post that should cause us to get angry?

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Edith Packer, some years back, had a very good lecture that was available on tape about the nature of emotions. Though it was based on Ayn Rand's theory of emotions I think she provided some interesting extrapolations/insights of her own. This is from memory from some years back, but she essentially presents the idea of a "universal evaluation" - that each emotional state can be conceptually linked to a particular evaluation that is universal, i.e. independent of culture. For anger, the evaluation is: an injustice has been done. That is the quality of the emotion - the quantity (magnitude) comes from the level of injustice involved.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, the tape is no longer available due to the falling out between Reisman/Packer and ARI.

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I support it with the fact that you do not have to deal with that person. There are other sites to visit, books to read, people to meet, activities to participate in, etc. Why would you choose to get emotionally wrapped up in a discussion with an irrational internet poster? What if you discovered later that some computer geek made a program that was able to debate irrationally with the intended purpose of getting you mad. And all the time that you were getting all worked up and coming up with brilliant replies no one was even there to see your brilliance? It was just you and a computer -- let's say even the other posters were computer generated -- how would you feel about all the wasted time and emotional energy? Why would the time and energy be wasted if only a computer was responding to you? 

Now consider why you were debating with this irrational internet poster in the first place. What was in it for you? What did you hope to gain from the exchange? Was your expectation consistent with reality? Did you need to prove to him that you were right? If so, why?

So, outside of being physically threatened or attacked, I have no right to my anger because I can just engage in fantasies that my "opponent" does not exist? I don't have to deal with

anybody I don't want to, but that is not the point.

I do not even know what your questions in your last paragraph are asking. Was my expectation consistent with reality? Am I supposed to know it before the reality happens? Am I expecting a rational discussion? Of course. Did I get it? Maybe not. But there is no inconsistency with reality plausible here.

I find your last question here to be quite troublesome. Are you suggesting some form of second-handedness here? What exactly do you mean by this question? Personally, (if this was a more personal form of argumentation) I'd find this offensive since it is a suggestion of logic as a social weapon and not as a means to truth. I care about what is right, not on who is.

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Edith Packer, some years back, had a very good lecture that was available on tape about the nature of emotions. Though it was based on Ayn Rand's theory of emotions I think she provided some interesting extrapolations/insights of her own. This is from memory from some years back, but she essentially presents the idea of a "universal evaluation" - that each emotional state can be conceptually linked to a particular evaluation that is universal, i.e. independent of culture. For anger, the evaluation is: an injustice has been done. That is the quality of the emotion - the quantity (magnitude) comes from the level of injustice involved. 

 

Unfortunately, as far as I know, the tape is no longer available due to the falling out between Reisman/Packer and ARI. 

 

The idea that "injustice" (in the context of posting ideas on the internet) has been brought up by several people. Would someone care to explain how and when an "injustice" can occur here? (I can think of only one--it has happened to me and I was not angered by it, because I accepted the fact the the person who perpetrated it is lacking something in his/her character.)

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RSalar, You have provided a long trail of points. I have tried to shorten the trail by copying the essential points, without losing the meaning. Here are my first comments. In some cases, I have added bold for emphasis.

You say that I have "provided no evidence that would justify such a broad induction." I take exception to this statement because the first sentence of my reply to Thoyd Loki's questions stated the following fact: "I support it with the fact that you do not have to deal with that person." [...]

This is where you lose me -- again. As I understand it, your argument is:

1. Each and every participant in an internet discussion/debate chooses whether or not to deal with any other participant who makes him angry.

2. ...

3. Therefore any participant who, angered by the behavior of another, continues to deal with the other has low self-esteem.

What I am missing, even after reading your "expansion," is the second premise(s).

[...] I will now expand on the evidence provided. 

 

I believe that you would agree that that is a true statement: If someone here offends you, you can simply turn off your computer and do something else. [...]

Yes.

There is absolutely no reason why you would choose to continue to debate with a person who is intentionally trying to make you mad.

Here again I would ask what is your evidence for making a universal statement (which I have put in bold, in part)? For example, what if I had a professional reason for persisting in the discussion/debate? Would you still say I have low self-esteem?

The fact that he is intentionally trying to cause anger in you is reason enough to avoid him, and not take him seriously.

Universally, regardless of the circumstances or context? For example, regardless of one's original intention for participating -- as with historians or psychologists collecting experience in dealing with certain types of people in debate circumstances?

[...] In the work environment we may have to deal with these disagreeable people [...]

Are you assuming this forum is not a work or other fundamentally important "environment," for all individuals involved? If so, what is the basis for your assumption?

But here you have the choice to read a post or not, spend time at the computer or not, visit this site or not --- The simple fact of the matter (and the "evidence that would justify such a broad induction") is that you choose to be here, you choose to read the posts that are written by the person whom you are angered by, [...]

So far, I agree to the point about choice -- but it is a non sequitur to claim that that provides evidence for the induction that low self-esteem is universally the cause of making that choice. Your conclusion does not follow from your premise.

[...] and moreover you choose to let yourselves get angered.

I assume that your switch to plural was inadvertent. In one sense, you are right: I do choose to "let" myself get angry. Anger, like any emotion, is automatic. I let it happen, in normal circumstances. I would not suppress it. Nor, I hope, would I repress it, which would be a form of mental illness. I let the emotion happen, note its existence, identify its cause, and decide what worth that signal -- if it is an accurate signal -- offers me as a guide to action. To automatically stop engaging in a situation that evokes anger would be to mimic a robot and deny the nature of the human mind.

It makes sense to get angry when the government steals your money [...] but to let yourself get angry because an anonymous internet poster says something that you disagree with (or because he insults, belittles, or is somehow hurtful with his words) is a sign that you (meaning the person getting angry--not you personally) lack the self-esteem to see through it and recognize it for what it is.

First, you are merely making the same leap from the (true) assertion that everyone has a choice about participating to the illogical conclusion that lack of self-esteem is universally the cause of continuing to deal with the other person. Once again, non sequitur.

Second, your overall argument is fallacious because it is ultimately begging the question. You have assumed the very thing you set out to prove. You still have not shown a universal causal connection between low self-esteem and continuing to engage in discussion/debate with a person who makes one angry -- always, everywhere, and at all times, regardless of context (which includes purpose) or circumstances.

What situation would prevent you from turning your computer off and doing something else? There is no reason why you have to stay. That is why this is a "universal phenomenon without exception and regardless of context and circumstances."

No one here has said any participant "has to stay." The issue is why would someone want to stay. Your claim, that only low self-esteem would explain staying, remains unproven, as a universal statement.

The person making the post is not the President of the United States. Metaphysically speaking--what the internet poster says will have no impact on your life. What more can I say? What other evidence do you require?

Other evidence? You have provided no evidence that every individual who persists in debating or discussing an issue with another participant who makes him angry lacks self-esteem.

What I am beginning to wonder is, are you attempting to deduce reality? That might explain your puzzling leap from premise 1 to a conclusion that doesn't follow logically. I need to observe and think more about that possibility.

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What I am beginning to wonder is, are you attempting to deduce reality? That might explain your puzzling leap from premise 1 to a conclusion that doesn't follow logically. I need to observe and think more about that possibility.

There is at least one point that needs clarification. I am assuming that the person who is experiencing the anger does not enjoy being angry. If a person enjoys being angry then of course he would stay and duke it out with the person who is using sarcasm, and other insulting and/or degrading words. So if this makes the universal statement inaccurate I hereby correct my statement accordingly. It seems a little odd, however, that someone who wants to be angry (for whatever reason—for professional reasons or achieve another value) would be able to experience the anger they are seeking. I would think that they would be happy that they are getting angry—and that is difficult for me to comprehend—but if that potentiality makes my universal statement incorrect I hereby amend it to accommodate that scenario.

So, except for the people who want to be angry, we are left with the people who do not want to be angry—let’s assume we are talking about them. Further I want to make it clear that this anger I am referring to is directed at the other poster and not at myself. It makes perfect sense that I should be angry with myself for subjecting myself to a situation that makes me angry. Now let me see if I can walk us through a scenario:

Let’s say I am the guy who comes to this, or some other site, to learn about a subject that is important to me. Let’s assume that was a good decision for the sake of this discussion and there is in fact the potential to learn from the other participants. So I make a post that states a position that I think is valid. Someone replies to my post in an insulting way. He says my view is stupid, he implies that I shouldn’t be here until I understand more, he tells me to go read XYZ book, and he insults me with sarcasm. What emotion should I experience if I am rational and have a high regard for myself? Before we are able to answer that question we need to answer a more fundamental question: What should I think about these remarks? Or perhaps even more fundamental: Should I think about his remarks?

We know that the only way to understand the truth is to think … so let’s think about it. Did the poster who insulted me have good cause to insult me? If not, then the poster is at fault. If he did have good cause, then I was wrong to state my position. So if I experience anger, what am I angry about? If the poster was correct and justified in making his insulting remarks then I must be angry with myself for thinking the way I do (this is not the anger I was referring to in my original post). If the poster was at fault and had no cause to insult me, then I must understand why he made his insulting remarks. Why would an unknown Internet poster insult another unknown Internet poster without a good reason? I am not a psychologist but I know this: If this guy had no good reason to insult me, but he did anyway, he is not someone who I am going to hold in high regard. I know rational intelligent people find no pleasure in insulting people—in fact they try not to. So this guy must not be very intelligent, must not be rational, and moreover he seems to be a jerk (to use a highly technical term). What emotional response should I, a rational person with high self-esteem, feel when an unknown, irrational Internet jerk attempts to insult me? Perhaps I would find it humorous, maybe interesting, but why would I get angry? Angry at what? The fact that there are jerks out there? I already knew that. I also knew that I am a good person and I know I made a valid point. Who is this guy who insulted me? I have no way of knowing; maybe he is normally a decent guy but is having a bad day. Maybe he is always this way; maybe he insults everyone. I just don’t know what I am supposed to be angry about. Maybe you should argue the other side. Explain to me why it is appropriate to be angry with this guy.

Maybe you can help me out here but I am unable to come up with any other scenarios. Either the insulter was justified or he wasn’t. If he was, then I need to improve; if he wasn’t then he needs to. I just don’t see anything to be angry about. The only cause of anger that fits is that I have low self-esteem: I am not sure about myself, I think the guy must be right because I feel stupid and inadequate I project my feelings of frustration and anger at the jerk poster guy.

I personally can’t be angry about the fact that jerk poster guys exist—that would be like being angry that gravity exists. Jerk poster guys are a reality and we need to learn how to deal with them. Getting angry with them solves nothing. We can work on fixing them or we can get rid of them.

Finally let me address the very valid point you raised by asking: “Are you assuming this forum is not a work or other fundamentally important "environment," for all individuals involved? If so, what is the basis for your assumption?”

No, I am not assuming that. For those people who choose to be here as part of their profession and/or for those who chose to be here for other “fundamentally important” reasons, I would say that it is even more important for them to take a big picture view. The best way for me to explain this is to give you an example. I’ll use golf because it is a game that I have some experience with. I am not a professional golfer, but I have played in some “important” matches where my performance mattered. The match comes down to a 2-foot putt (a no brainer—a sure thing—a slam dunk) that I need to make to win the match for my team. I tap it in and I am a hero, I miss it and I am a bum. I miss it! Boy do I feel bad. The most awful feeling you can imagine has come over me. I feel about 2 inches tall as I sulk off the green.

I asked a professional golfer about this. I asked him how they feel when they miss a putt like that. He said they have been taught by there coaches, sports psychologists, and trainers to look at the big picture: it is a learning experience. How else will you learn how to handle pressure? You have to get yourself into these situations and experience them. It’s great that you missed that putt. Now you know that the world does not end. Know you know that there will be another match tomorrow; even after you miss a simple putt. Next time you will be able to handle the pressure a little better.

So for those people who chose to be here for professional or other fundamentally important reasons, they should be able to look beyond this one situation of a jerky Internet poster and realize that they are part of the business and they “really do not have to be taken very seriously.” (I am thinking of Dagny’s first words to Galt.)

Oh … what does it mean to “deduce reality?” Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

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Anger As An Opportunity

As a snowboard instructor, I deal with two emotions on a regular basis. These emotions are fear and anger. Since the present discussion is on anger, I would like to focus on anger. When one of my students expresses anger, it is usually out of frustration because he can not accomplish one of the tasks that I have given him. When this occurs, I see it as an opportunity. An angry person represents a problem to be solved and a chance to learn something new.

When I have an angry student, I have to find out quick what the cause of that anger is. Depending on the situation, the individual could injure himself or someone in the group. The majority of the time the student's anger is caused by the student's frustration to not complete a task successfully. Most of the time the cause of the student's failure is my teaching style clashing with the student's learning style. I have to figure out a better way to present the material or the class will be a failure for that individual.

I have been instructing for four years now and have developed a reputation for taking on the most difficult students and creating a successful learning experience. I do not view anger as an expression of low self-esteem. In fact, when I have successfully taken an angry student and taught him the needed skills to snowboard, my self-esteem and the student's self-esteem has increased to a higher level.

I am certain, that if I applied these skills and principals while debating an angry individual in a forum, a similar outcome would occur. The only issue that would need to be considered is how much time and energy would I want to devote to that issue. Dealing with fear and anger can be one of the most rewarding, self-esteem enhancing activities I can think of.

One final point, I can not think of any instance where I or my students want to be anrgry or fearful. These emotions are the natural result of the situation at hand. How I deal with these situations can be very stressful and my skills as an instructor will be tested. Overcoming these difficulties adds to the rewards of success.

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The idea that "injustice" (in the context of posting ideas on the internet) has been brought up by several people. Would someone care to explain how and when an "injustice" can occur here? (I can think of only one--it has happened to me and I was not angered by it, because I accepted the fact the the person who perpetrated it is lacking something in his/her character.)

A person with a flawed character can still harm you and good people and ideas you value. That is unjust.

If someone is unjust to me in a public debate, I can handle it and usually show up my opponent for what he really is so I don't get mad. It's a whole 'nother story when someone publicly attacks a friend or a hero of mine who isn't there to defend himself. That's when I get angry.

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If someone is unjust to me in a public debate, I can handle it and usually show up my opponent for what he really is so I don't get mad. It's a whole 'nother story when someone publicly attacks a friend or a hero of mine who isn't there to defend himself.  That's when I get angry.

Me too.

I also find that I get angry out of frustration. I may be trying to learn something and try over and over but just don't get it... and then finally I do. Until that last moment, I find that it is easy to get frustrated and can on rare occasions unintentionally lash out at other people, not for anything they've done, but just that I'm frustrated and someone else is interrupting my focus. (And I do feel bad when it happens and apologize profusely!)

I also get angry when I read a newspaper editorial, or hear some politician speak, and hear some really trite, false, and irrational rationalization used to attack a positive value, from Ayn Rand to Microsoft to oil companies to stem cell research. Sometimes there's no defense presented; other times the attacked party defends itself weakly; and other times they just cave in like cowards. Very rarely is there a proper defense presented.

I hate feeling that in the short term there's nothing I can do about it. These attitudes are out there in the world and I'm doing what I can, one mind at a time, to change them. But it is a hard, long, slow, and difficult effort.

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I am certain, that if I applied these skills and principals while debating an angry individual in a forum, a similar outcome would occur.

That sounds like a good skill to have for dealing with people. And note that this DOES NOT mean that the emotion of anger is bad or wrong or immoral. What matters is WHY the emotion came up and what one does about it.

A number of people who are new to Objectivism mistakenly train themselves to repress their emotions, thinking that there is something wrong with expressing wishes or feelings. Instead of chastising oneself for feeling an emotion that one thinks one shouldn't, one ought to seek to understand the sources of those emotions and change those. Emotions are effects, not causes, and seeking to directly control or stop them leads only to repression and the suppression of one's enjoyment of life.

As Objectivists, the joy of living is the highest goal of ethics. It's a shame that a misunderstanding of the role of emotions can lead to the subversion of one's happiness while explicitly seeking to embrace it. This is why I get concerned when I hear claims that only people of low self-esteem get angry in a context like this forum. That view implies that if one feels angry, one must have low self-esteem; therefore, in order to not have low self-esteem, I can't let myself get angry. That doesn't lead to repression; it IS repression.

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It's a whole 'nother story when someone publicly attacks a friend or a hero of mine who isn't there to defend himself.  That's when I get angry.

I also react the same way. A particular instance that I deal with on a regular basis is what I call, 'Looking Good at the Expense of Others e-mail.' I receive these at work and they generally take the following form.

At shift change, I discovered the following problem. (Insert problem here.)

My conclusion is that Operator X did not follow procedure or made a mistake.

I get angry with these e-mails because Operator X can not defend himself and no solution to the problem is offered. There is usually a tone of bitterness to the e-mails. The author of the e-mail makes no effort to correct the discovered problem but wants to be recognized for the discovery.

When I get angry at these e-mails I do the following.

1. Identify the problem's root cause.

2. Offer a proper solution to fix the problem.

3. Defend the operator if the accusation is unwarranted.

This skill has been recognized by my boss and I get excellent performance reviews as a result.

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