Brits today will fly into a rage at the slightest inconvenience because the comforts of modern life have raised our expectations to the level of irrational toddlers, a psychologist has claimed.
Whereas people’s energies were once focused on keeping a roof over their head and food on their plate, most 21st century Westerners have no concerns about their basic needs.
Our comfortable lifestyles may have spoiled us and boosted our expectations to the point where anything short of perfect causes us to act like petulant children, Dr Sandi Mann said.
Consciously challenging ourselves by questioning whether things that make our blood boil are actually threatening our survival could help “rein the anger in” and take a more relaxed attitude, she claimed.
In an opinion article in July’s issue of Reader’s Digest Dr Mann, a senior lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire’s school of psychology, wrote that anger was once key to our survival but has now become targeted at trivial annoyances.
Humans evolved to become angry in certain situations because the emotion motivates us to want things. For example, hunger makes us angry by raising our serotonin levels, prompting us to look for food.
Anger also played an important role in helping early humans live together in social groups, by warning individuals when their behaviour was upsetting others.
“The red mist of rage helped our ancestors survive,” Dr Mann claimed. “If they’d been too laid-back about others stealing their food or predators trying to kill them, they wouldn’t have taken sufficient preventive action. But nowadays, Britons rarely experience real body-weakening poverty or genuine life-threatening injustice or mortal danger.”
Because anger is still “hard-wired” into our brain without a real purpose it can “misfire,” leading us to rage about inconsequential events.
This could lead to violent overreactions, such as road rage incidents, or make us furious about trivial details such as whether a restaurant meal is warm enough or how much company bosses are paid.
Recent surveys have found that 90 per cent of people become worked up by call centres, while 50 per cent become so cross with their computers that they physically attack them.
Certain circumstances could even fuel our anger by raising unrealistic expectations, such as supermarkets which claim they will open a new till if people are queuing, only to dash these hopes when they cannot be met, Dr Mann suggested.
“Now all our basic needs are met and our expectations have risen,” Dr Mann said. “It could be argued that we’re spoilt: like toddlers, we expect everything to be perfect, and when it isn’t we stamp our feet.”
She suggested that anger can be overcome by “challenging [its] appropriateness with a simple question: is this incident threatening our survival? If not, we should perhaps rein the anger in”.
Aurthur: Nick Collins, Telegraph