Righteous Indignation

Posted on September 4, 2008. Filed under: Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

So, I’m writing this post for myself, basically, however, anyone who wants to read along is invited to do so! πŸ™‚ I’ve had a series of life happenings lately that have caused me to question lots of things about how I process information. The incidents are startlingly similar, which makes me think there may be a message: “Hey, you! There’s something to look at here!” I am looking, and this is what I see:

At the risk of losing interest in the whole thing, I’ll share just one example of what I’m talking about, although, keep in mind, that the others are similar. I’m a member of a non-profit organization. In fact, I do some work for them (one of my many little jobs), and I believe in their ideals. The group is in need of a new leader. That person must have a special set of qualifications, and it’s among the few paid positions this organization has. (I actually work for three such organizations; and although not all at the same time, all three have faced the above set of circumstances.) There are committees; processes; interviews; demonstrations; presentations; and at the end of all this a new “leader” is chosen. The usual sort of thing; all well and good, right? Except—there are people involved, all along the way. Every time I’ve been through one of these processes, it seems to cause great consternation among the participants.

Part of the issue is that many of us don’t like change. But, nevertheless, change there is! In my last go-’round with the organization, several members actually left the group because we’d hired the “wrong” person. We allowed ourselves to be bullied into a decision which was “wrong”. Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to hang around somewhere they were not happy, but, I’m suspicious of some of their reasons for leaving. And, I must admit, equally suspicious of my reasons for staying…

I wouldn’t leave a group unless I was unhappy there, but I do feel that I should give the new administration a chance, and not stalk off in a huff if I didn’t like something that “they” did. I believe (or fantasize) that I’m well-balanced, emotionally stable, and doing the “right” thing in supporting the organization! Those people are short-sighted judgmental imbeciles! I’m…doing the exact thing I’m accusing them of, and engaging one of my most stimulating emotions: Righteous Indignation! (Thus, the title of the post.)

I’m so very capable of getting myself all worked up about how “they” said this, or that, which “isn’t fair” (that’s always a good one), how my principles are noble, and I shall never surrender! As usual, it’s easier to see these traits in others than in myself, but in my belief system it’s always a clue to step back and have a look when my emotions get the better of me. I mean those last words quite literally. If I’m distressed because of how “they” are acting, the best part of me is not in evidence. However, when I’m engaged in cycle of Righteous Indignation I notice how stimulated I feel. I may be angry or upset, but WOW, there is a lot of energy coursing through me.

That high level of arousal is caused by the addictive chemicals released at such times, according to research neuropharmacologist Candace Pert. She and others have shown that we’re addicted to mental states like anxiety, or depression, or joy! This doesn’t mean they’re not “real” emotions, but does mean they’re, for the most part, physically rather than situationally generated. How else can we explain that an incident or event will elicit a reaction of anger or offense from one, and mild indifference from another? We’ll use a situation, or a person, to get our chemical “fix”, or, perhaps a little less ominously, a situation will engage the body/molecular memory of a similar situation in which we generated these chemicals for survival or protection. The body has a looooong memory of such things, and may torment us with unexpected emotional reactions all our lives without some intervention. (More on that, later). *

Pert says: “…we all make up stories to describe so-called reality when incoming information hits our higher brain. And of course, we all get to create our own version of what’s going on! But this is so important, this ability to either blame others or take responsibility for our actions, which are both decisions made at the level of the frontal cortex.” In a way, we’re products of our emotional and physical addictions. They shape our personalities.

For instance, there is anxiety. Until recently, this would come up for me when I did something like paying bills. It didn’t matter whether there was plenty of money in the bank, or not. My body had learned, through circumstances, that bill-paying is an anxiety-producing activity. I’m also pretty comfortable with feeling smug. I sometimes enjoy that one, even though it is ultimately not helpful. I felt smug when I stayed in the group out of principle when “they” didn’t; I feel a bit smug right now writing this post! πŸ˜‰

In fact, that “smugness” is the attitude I’ve become aware of when considering my recent life situations. It goes along with, and is the core of Righteous Indignation. In addition to feeling that way in my groups, I’ve written some post comments and emails from that smug perspective, and felt justified. But, is this attitude truly representative of my highest and best self? I don’t think so!

Emotions shape our personalities. On one level, our emotions are the only guidance systems we have; on another, we take them far too seriously: You tell me “I’m upset.” I may feel I must “do” something about that; i.e. your upsetness. If I’m the upset one, I may feel I need to do something about that, also. There really is only one thing to do, and that is to ask a question. The question I mean is not “Why are you upset?” —The “why” doesn’t really matter. The answer to “Why?” is a fairly useless bit of information, made up as it is of our emotional addictions.

The question really is: “Would you like to no longer be upset?” That’s it! That’s all there is to it. Justification; adrenaline; none of it matters. What matters is how we want to feel. I have a dear friend who will periodically repeat to me a question he heard at a lecture, once: “Do you want to be “right” or do you want to feel good?” Generally when he says that to me it’s at a time I’m not very receptive to hearing it! (Grrrrrrr). 😐 But, in thinking about it when I’m in a calm state of mind, it becomes obvious. I want to feel good. (“But they said; she did…”) I want to feel good. (“ANYone would be upset if this happened to them!”) I want to feel good. (“We have to DO something about this!”) I want…

Yes, s/he-they-them did what they did, and the odd thing I’ve found, as have many others, is that when I get right with myself, the people I interact with tend to calm down, and let go of the qualities which were disturbing me to start with. Once I identified my “smuggish” tendencies (I was fairly dense, as I’d had lots of clues) I realized my “blogging block” of late, as well as my inability to move forward with my work were all tied in with my smuggish oscillations. I cannot make the statement, yet, that I’ve given up smuggishness, but now that I know what it is, I also know what to do with it. *

As my favorite (living) physicist, Fred Alan Wolf says: “There is no ‘there’ out there”. I extrapolate from this to say further that what we perceive as reality is, in fact, only perception. The entire universe “exists” inside our own minds. This is not just a philosophical abstraction, but a tangible—if elusive—quantum physical principle. Therefore it’s possible, once we realize it, to actually change the biochemistry of emotion right inside our own brains. I’m so looking forward to leaving the “smug bug” behind!

*for my favorite tool to let go of unwanted stored emotions, see this post.

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24 Responses to “Righteous Indignation”

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Great post, Muse. I have referenced C.Pert & F. Wolf quite often in my classes. Pranayama is a wonderful practice for balancing the hormones that cause negative emotional states, too. How lucky we are to have this knowledge and no longer be controlled by ignorance. Peace can be a breath away. Om shanti.

Oh, good gracious! I’m going to hell in a hand cart, aren’t I Muse?

I’ve read this twice now and each time I see myself in it. I’ll never win over my emotional responses or perceived thoughts.


Muse, erm – check your email. Nice post, by the way — I, like Bead, see a lot of myself in your quest for a lack of smuggishness in your life. Except… I can’t rid myself of it.

so i’m addicted to negative emotions?? 😯 i need to go to rehab! πŸ˜† i admit that when i’m upset, i need a period of time to feel angry. that’s why when people apologise to me immediately after an incident it doesn’t work. but if they did that a few days later i would be more rational than emotional in my response. and sometimes, even after i said i’m not angry about it anymore, let’s forget about it, i still am. but it goes away soon after that ‘cos it’s really petty to be sulky (i was a very sulky child).

as for creating our own realities, that’s what i worry about when i get upset. i wonder if am i looking at this in a totally skewed perspective which would justify my emotions, or is it really as i see it and therefore i AM justified? because fairness is a big value to me, though i realise it’s impossible to achieve total fairness. but to me, fairness in conflicts is admitting my mistakes if i made any – at least then i don’t owe people apologies and it’s not up to me on how the relationship would proceed, whether it will remain broken or repaired.

Thank you, yogini. Their work is outstanding, and has changed the way many people view the universe, and our biological entities’ interaction with it. And, indeed, Pranayama, the breath of life. Peace and all good things.

You are NOT, my beadie friend; or if you do, I’ll keep you company there! πŸ˜‰ You only asked one question, but I’ll happily give you my opinion on your second comment as well. πŸ˜› I don’t really see emotional responses as something to conquer. I think many of us are much, much too hard on ourselves as it is. Instead, we can gently release those thought patterns which no longer serve us, really! I’ve done it many times with energy psychology techniques, and I’m using them on my smuggie issue, too. That one is pretty deeply rooted, so I’m not reporting I’m smug-free today ( πŸ™‚ ), but I’m close! (Remember EFT, Bead?) πŸ˜‰

Ah, yes, leap, I’m aware of you lurking in the dark corners of my inbox. πŸ˜‰ Thank you! As for not being able to rid yourself of these things, there IS a way. (Actually there are quite a few; I just have my preferred ones.) If you’re interested, go ahead and click on the links above in my comment to BD (there’s science behind, this, honest!) If not, that’s way OK, too. πŸ™‚


I know, Muse. 😦
But I’m glad I’m not going to hell. Or if I do, at least I’ll have great company! πŸ™‚

I never thought of emotions of something you could be “addicted” to. I’ve always thought they exist for a reason, but I agree that they can be unhelpful at times.

Very interesting post, Muse – as always!

I want to thank you for the ‘Vote for Will Rhodes’ vid – wonderful gift, thanks!!! πŸ˜€

Never thought of it that way :0

This reminds me of that movie “What the Bleep Do We Know?”

Muse – you are awesome. I must give this topic/concept MUCH more attention. Thank you, C

First time reader here; great topic. It looks like you’ve got it all goin’ on; the emotions and the detached awareness of same. I’m no expert but I would say follow that awareness and see where it leads.
Isn’t it wonderful though, being a victim? We get to be better than others, sometimes even better than life and God herself! It gives us the authority to judge and find wanting. But all this judging depends on standards and values that we believe in. Recently I’ve been asking myself where do my standards come from and why do I believe them. In other words how do I measure the concepts of right and wrong? And if they are just concepts how can they possibly represent reality! I am finding very rich materiel there.
As for reducing our emotions and the addictive need to experience them to chemicals, we may need to look at the sequence of cause and effect. Do the emotions elicit the chemicals or vice versa. Perhaps the answer is moot in the context of each individual story. For instance you may call it an addiction while I might say that each story has an emotional inertia that will necessarily keep presenting new situations to ensure a continuance of the story’s emotional trajectory.
Anyhoo, just rambling; again it may be that detachment and observing is the key here be it a matter of addiction, emotional inertia or a fore-ordained destiny. Oh, one more thing; I like to ask myself, would I rather be right or have peace? Same difference I guess.
Peace to all.

I grok that, grrrl! Great post, ME. If you haven’t read them yet, you might find these two books interesting:

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

A User’s Guide to the Brain by John J. Ratey

Always a delightful trip through the pathways of your mind whenever I stop by.

I wrote something recently about how we are the creators of the very emotions we let control us. Grappling with that and finally pinning it down unleashes all kinds of light. ;-:


Ronnie Ann

Hi sulz. I think time to sulk, or be angry, can be a good thing as long as we don’t let it go on too long. (Hmmm, sulz; sulk—only one letter different! I don’t see you as sulky, though!) πŸ˜‰ What you say about fairness is interesting. I’m thinking about that now, since you mentioned it, because I don’t, usually. I mostly consider whether some response or situation is aligned with my values, and I figure fairness will take care of itself. Or…not? Got some more thinking to do on this. As for mistakes and/or owed apologies, that’s a whole other topic too. I can’t reconcile to owing people emotional states…OK, another post. Now you’ve got me going! πŸ™‚

kaylee: comment #1: πŸ˜€ back atcha! #2, it’s always interesting to consider new ideas, but of course you will make up your own mind!

BD, Some people think hell is where you go to review your life—which could be valuable if uncomfortable–but not where you’ll stay. So, if that’s true, maybe we’ll be in the same “class” for a while, and then learn from our life issues, and go on to do some good? πŸ™‚

B0bby, some eastern religious beliefs include subsuming the “ego” which they see as the “cause” of unhelpful emotions. I’m not quite there. I think emotions are great; and a wonderful guides. It’s just when we’re doing something by rote or habit, rather than desire or sense that I question their origins. Thanks!

Thank you Will—as always! And you’re welcome. If anyone wants to join my write-in campaign for Will for President, see the video here. (He didn’t link to it himself, which proves his modesty, even more reason to vote for him!)

You are quite welcome, C. And I’m glad to contribute to your thoughts! I did see the movie you mentioned, and in fact, that was where I was introduced to Pert’s work. I became interested, and looked into it more. πŸ™‚

Thank you so much for visiting, Eric, and for your wonderful comment! Yes victimhood can be quite comfy at times, even in its awfulness. πŸ˜‰ What you say about right and wrong being concepts, is right on according to the being that is me! And wow, cause and effect; chemicals and inertia; what splendid extrapolations! You make a strong case for bewaring words. We think we share meanings and concepts, yet, when we think about it we really don’t, in fact. Thank you for the peace wishes. You leave me, then, asking whether I’d rather have peace or rather feel good…if I had to choose… πŸ˜› Do you have a blog? I’d love to read more of your writing. Thanks again for dropping by. πŸ™‚

Hey, Ronnie Ann! Haha, you put the grrr in grrrl! πŸ˜€ I have read the Emotional Intelligence one, but not the Brain Guide; sounds like it’s right up my street, thanks! I wanna read what you wrote! Is it on your “newer” blog? I’m going to check! Goodness, we create them and then allow them to control us…no wonder it’s such a challenge. Peace to you, my friend. It’s always, always wonderful to see you. πŸ˜€

No, I don’t have blog. It’s flattering that you think I might. My last comment may have been poorly stated. It’s not a choice between happiness and peace but rather between being right and happiness/peace.
I came across an interview with the Dalai Lama years ago in which he was asked what was the goal of a Buddhist? His Holiness replied “To be happy”. The interviewer then asked if that wasn’t a frivolous objective for a religion. The Dalai Lama, to my recollection, said words to the effect that on the contrary, one who is happy does not beat their spouse, abuse or kill someone because of the color of their skin, kick their pet, etc.. Happiness (peace) should be the goal of all religions!
I was thinking about the idea of one’s emotional history having an inertia/momentum and the physical corollary of all movement being relative, and I wondered “Relative to what”? The answer that came to mind was Stillness. Don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else but it’s given me something to contemplate. Peace to all.

Hi museditions!

Garsh. I feel the same about you. The name of the post I mentioned is “Zen and the Art of Being a Receptionist (and Other Under-Appreciated Jobs)”. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

Peace out and in!

Ronnie Ann

What a great post. You just made me perform a thorough self analysis, hahaha. It’s amazing how uncomfortable it is when you actually admit having some “not so good” quality attributes to your personality. Well in my case I feel powerful in my smugness, it’s what keeps me standing in arguments and any other battle. Smugness is like that wall that protects my confidence, as it doesn’t allow any room for the intake of negative criticism in any situation.

That self righteousness keeps me feeling in control and bold. The only negative thing about it is that it brings that “I’m always right” attitude which doesn’t help much when you’re within a group or team. So that’s where self-control comes in, with all one’s attitude attributes we need to learn to use them at the appropriate times as they’re there for a reason. For example, if you’re a very kind hearted person but with a monster deep down inside, there will be situations when you’ll have to unleash that monster for things to go in order as people tend to take advantage when you’re too sweet to them.

I have a “smug bug” myself, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to let it go yet. I guess I’m extremely addicted to it, Lol! πŸ˜‰

You got me with this one, Phew! I really enjoyed this post Muse.

Eric, well, if you ever do decide to start one, please let me know. Thanks for saying that about peace and/or happiness, I know, really. They’re similar, but somewhat different manifestations of the that “connected” feeling. Did the Dalai Lama really say that? I can imagine it. He’s a character. I’ve seen him interviewed, and he inevitably chuckles through the whole thing. I like the idea of happiness as a high spiritual value! You’ve given me a couple more things to contemplate, also: “emotional history” (hadn’t thought of it in those terms), and “relative to stillness”. Thank you so much! {wonders if Eric can be nudged to start a philosophy blog} πŸ˜‰

What a great title, Ronnie Ann! I shall indeed read it. I love that the job hunters out there have YOU with your unique perspective. I drop by from time to time, and your thoughts are practical; very helpful, yet encourage people to reach higher and honor themselves and the process. Shalom.

Oh, my, thanks, Tazzy! So, a fellow smug bug! I know, this was getting to me a bit. I knew there was something going on that didn’t feel quite right. It felt a bit like driving a car that starts to make a funny noise, and then perhaps the steering wheel pulls to the right some. I’m not probably driving my best, because I’m concerned about the problem and how serious it may be, but I haven’t been able to track down what’s causing it. It doesn’t mean that the car’s “bad”, or that I am (haha), but it sure feels better to get it fixed! As for always being right…well we are, aren’t we? πŸ˜‰ (Oh-oh, there’s another one!) If we can find a way to always be right, but allow everyone in the group to always be right as well, we’d be on to something. Take care and please know how much I appreciate your “inner monster”. πŸ™‚

damn girl—Fred Alan Wolf and Candace Pert…two of my favs! Wow! I saw Candace last year in Minneapolis at a small greek church and at I think I also saw her at The Science and Consciousness conference in New Mexico. I love Fred–Dr. Quantum!The Dr. Quantum Cd set is fantastic. I listen to it over and over.

Really seeing? Way cool. She was in Tucson, too. The Doc gets around. I’ll have to get that Quantum CD set. I have two of his books, but sometimes it’s good to get the info. through other senses. My other favorite is Bruce Lipton, I’ve seen him, and heard him interviewed; awesome material. πŸ™‚

I listen to him and Margaret Laird seminars going back to the 50’s at work with my headphones on. Very powerful stuff to keep in your head. I think his cd is called Dr. Quantum’s Guide to the Universe or something like that.

Oh and I get the Margaret Laird and Betty Albee cd’s from The Institute of Metaphyscial Science. All tapes are now available on Cd’s –http://www.scientificmetaphysics.org/display_content.jsp?top=423&mid=425

Thank you, my seeing friend. I’m on it. I’ve seen the Institute links on your blog; perhaps it’s time for me to jump in. I shall investigate! πŸ™‚

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