I mentioned last week how much I love the scene in The Goop on the Girl where Brennan leads the team in going to the victim’s funeral on Christmas. And I do. But when I re-watched the episode this year, what really struck me was the story of Owen, the angry radio pirate.
The dominant emotion on the internet is most often anger. I’m used to that, as everyone is who spends any time on social networks. But a while back, I had a conversation with a couple of Bones fans that interested me more due to what they were saying about anger than the actual topic of their rage (in this case about the show’s move to Friday.)
In the conversation, several things were made quite clear. The first was that I had absolutely no right to question their anger, or to try to talk them down from it. They’re entitled to how they feel, after all.
This is undeniably, indisputably correct. I don’t have that right. But what struck me was that underlying the ‘I’m entitled to my anger’ idea was the belief that the non-expression of it would be psychologically unhealthy, would damage them.
There are a number of myths about mental health so entrenched in Western thought that it’s easier to convince someone that grass is pink than to change their mind and this is one of them.
The truth is that expression of wrath isn’t automatically a good thing. It doesn’t always help, and isn’t always healthy.
I’m not advocating dishonesty in our personal relationships, by the way. Being truthful with our loved ones is important (though even there, how the anger is expressed is critical in determining whether the relationship benefits from the exchange or not.)
But venting? Raging about whatever-it-is with everyone who might see or hear it? Not only is it not necessary for mental health, it can be harmful. Why? Because it quite often does nothing more than lead to more anger. (Ever seen that happen, where someone is on a rant, and instead of getting it out of their system and calming down, they get more even more angry?)
Another thing that makes a difference is whether expressing anger can actually change anything. I’m not talking about what we might call righteous anger, where sharing our wrath about something – injustice, for example – can bring about change. (Even bearing in mind that some of the biggest changes have come about in response to peaceable protests.)
No, I’m talking about those things where, no matter how much we holler and stamp our feet, nothing changes, because it’s a situation out of our control. I can scream and swear and make rude gestures at the driver who cut me off, but chances are very good that the only thing I’m going to accomplish is ruining my morning while he goes on his merry way, tormenting someone else.
This is true of a lot of rants I see online. Dude, seriously, if you’re so enraged over the shenanigans in Washington that all you’ve done for days is rage about it on Twitter…call your elected officials and complain. Do what you can about it, and then let it go.
The same goes for fandoms, by the way. A number of Bones fans spent the summer coming positively unhinged over the move to Friday. We’re talking incoherent with rage, and, unlike what the myth says should have happened, that they’d get it out of their system and move on, they were just as angry in October as they were in May. More so, in some cases. And what happened? Nothing. They wasted their summer with rage, and the show still moved to Friday. (Where it’s done fabulously. Whoo-hoo!)
The last thing that struck me in that conversation was their complete confidence that no one else would ever be affected by their venting, but if they somehow were…that was not their problem. They want an audience for their displays of temper (otherwise, what’s the point?) but the idea of being responsible for the effects of their words on others was completely foreign to them.
To live an honest, authentic life, sometimes we have to express anger toward another person. Sometimes, we even wind up hurting people, who may or may not deserve it. But that’s not the same thing as living our lives callously, refusing to even consider what it means for there to be a human being on the other end of our words.
In the S5 Christmas episode of Bones, an innocent man is kidnapped, strapped to a bomb and forced to rob a bank. But the bomb goes off unexpectedly because the robbers have unknowingly set it to be triggered by the same frequency being used by Owen, a radio pirate.
We hear enough of Owen’s broadcast to know he’s angry about social and political issues, and, not unlike people ranting everywhere, he takes refuge in his right to be angry:
Owen: “Hey, I was Army, man. Just like you. I served my country.”
Booth: “You don’t even remember what this country stands for.”
Owen: “Maybe it’s you who forgot.”
Owen: “Freedom of speech. I have the right to be heard.”
Booth: “Legally, yeah. Maybe you should think about saying something worth hearing.”
But by the end of the episode, he’s in a different place with his anger, as he shares in his final broadcast:
“A man died this week. By all accounts, he was a good man. Loved his mother, worked hard, shouldered his responsibilities. He was a man that any one of us would be proud to call “friend.”
I killed him. With this microphone. I killed him by going on these airwaves and sharing my rage with you. Spreading my rage.
Now, you can say that it wasn’t my fault, that it was a coincidence. I thought about that. Thought about it a lot. But the fact is if it weren’t for me, he might still be alive. I’m so sorry for that.
Now, my religious beliefs tell me that Christ did not die in vain. That He died to redeem us all.
I intend to show that this good, simple man also did not die in vain, that he redeemed one angry, shouting man.
So these are the last words I will ever broadcast. And I hope they’re the words you remember best.
Peace on Earth.”
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me. – (from Let There Be Peace on Earth)