Its not infrequent that I get a call from a potential new client citing they need anger management counseling. Its also not infrequent that in the middle of counseling a dating or married couple that one of them professes that the other has anger management issues and needs to come in on their own. Anger problems have always fascinated me for a number of reasons. What are the causes? Triggers? Speed and pattern? These are just a few of the questions of which we don’t truly have any definitive scientific answers.
There’s no doubt that there is a small subset of people who are genetically predisposed to having a very short fuse. With these individuals, a simple personal history can show that the individual has had “anger issues” as far back as he or she can remember, literally. A therapist, spouse, or friend could have a quick conversation with one of the individual’s parents’ and quickly ascertain that the person was like this as a very small child. Even more weight is given to the genetic component when there was an absence of anger and violence by the parents during childhood.
The second group of people with “anger issues” are those who grew up in a household or other environment where anger and violence was both present and prevalent. The individual learned through experience that this type of expression of emotion and behavior was acceptable, at least on some level.
The third group, which is the subject here, is the group that doesn’t have either the genetic or childhood history that would theoretically lead one to be an angry adult. This is the group that I really enjoy working with in my private practice. Its also the group that I believe will cause a dramatic rise in crime rates over the next 4 years and its based largely on the current political landscape. There are a number of reason why I’m making this bold claim. Let me say it again, I think by the year 2020 we will see a dramatic rise in white collar crime, gun violence, and domestic cases (not necessarily household violence like husband and wife, but just domestic cases in general).
Scenario #1: Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in November
The Republican party has spent the last 8 years doing everything they possibly could do to bring down President Obama. This is not a political statement, but a statement of fact. They have made this public claim multiple times over his 8 years in office. As soon as he won re-election in 2012, they automatically assumed that Hillary Clinton would be running in 2016 and have made it, again, their public mission to do anything possible to defeat her.
In their mission to punish the Democrats and the nation for President Obama’s election and re-election, the Republicans have brought congress to a complete and total halt. This is not necessarily finger pointing as it’s a well established fact that congressional accomplishments over the last 8 years have been nearly nil. Literally, an all-time low. The Democrats have also failed to provide any substance or fight to the congressional floors, but have chosen to sit idly by and point their fingers at the Republicans rather than make any serious attempts to fix the problems in Washington.
As a result of this do-nothing Congress, our nation has taken multiple steps backwards in nearly every significant area. People are mad. People are angry. In walks Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and other notable Republicans. They are hell bent on defeating Hillary Clinton.
So what happens when she wins? Well basically more of the same. The Republicans are angrier than ever. Not only are they enraged at the voters, but the dissention within the ranks will be not only palpable, but probably on full display for the world to see. In their anger, dissention, and possibly crumbling of the party, they’ll forget that their jobs are to fix this country. We will undoubtedly see more of what we’ve seen for the last 8 years. Angry Republicans and do-nothing Democrats. Both, unwilling and unable to get anything substantive done. Who then feels the brunt of this? The American People. How will they express their displeasure? With Anger.
Scenario #2: Ted Cruz somehow defeats both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
For those that don’t follow politics, Ted Cruz is more or less hated by the overwhelming majority of the Senate (I’ll assume that means the House as well). During his years in the Senate, its widely known that no one has wanted to work with him. He is generally characterized as an extremely difficult person to get along with and work with. If this is the case, why would this suddenly stop if he’s elected president? It’s possible, but not likely. Republicans will be happy because Hillary Clinton is not in office, but other than that, what’s the gain? They (both parties) still can’t or won’t work with him. Once again, no progress.
Scenario #3: The Donald becomes President Trump
As a psychologist, not a political pundit, I see this as worse case scenario. The Republicans absolutely despise him and are doing everything in their power to defeat him with anyone. ANYONE. The Democrats abhor him. Psychologically speaking, the damage that he will do to the American psyche is tremendous. First, lets look at some Trumpisms:
“We’re going to make some very, very good deals.”
“We’re going to knock the hell out of them.”
“My plan is to erase the lines around the states. That’s my plan.”
“We’re going to win. We are going to start winning again.”
“We’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.”
“They hate us.”
“We’re going to do it a lot.”
“We’re going to make the best deals with the best people.”
These are just a select few from dozens and dozens of answers he’s given when asked for specifics. Its very clear that Mr. Trump doesn’t have a plan. What he does know is that American’s love winning. We love winning the Super Bowl, Olympics, golf, tennis, everything (ask him about his club championships). What he’s failing to provide people is a specific plan on HOW he plans on “winning.” What’s he doing is nothing more than a football “rah rah” speech. He’s setting grand expectations with no playbook. He’s saying we’re going to win the Super Bowl, but he has no coaches, no playbook, and no plan.
What he does know, however, is that Americans are very angry for the reasons cited above. He, without remorse and doubt, is playing right into the anger that Americans have over our do-nothing Congress for the last 8 years. He has riots at his rallies, he taunts people, he calls names, and frequently acts more like a 5-year-old than a presidential candidate. Its one thing for many Americans to say or think “yeah but this is what we are all thinking and he’s just saying it out loud.” I disagree. He’s stirring up trouble, setting expectations, and treating this race like its ratings season for The Apprentice. The rest of the world is seeing him as impetuous, impulsive, childish, ill-tempered, and dangerous. Would you work with someone like that?
Now back to my bold prediction for 2020 and the crime rate and group number 3. Whether its an individual sitting in my office or the one who is being pointed out by his wife or her husband, one of the primary sources of anger is unmet expectations. Unmet expectations can also lead to disappointment, laughter, mockery, sadness, and a host of other emotions, but anger is one of the more dangerous ones.
In this case, unmet expectations will be met with anger because they are starting with anger. Americans are angry with President Obama. We are extremely angry with congress. The Republicans are angry with Clinton, Obama, and the Democrats while the Democrats are angry with the Republicans. And as this ugly cauldron bubbles we have a presidential race that is bringing the anger to a slow rolling boil. Republicans have set expectations that they’ll defeat Hillary Clinton and undo all of the “unconstitutional executive orders” on Day 1. Donald Trump, who isn’t playing by any rules, is riling up anger seemingly with every other word both from his supporters and his antagonists. He’s declaring victory at every turn both now and in the future.
People are expecting big things and as the Trumpism goes “very, very big things”. What will happen when these expectations go unmet? People will get angrier and angrier. Fingers will get pointed. Democrats will blame Republicans. Republicans will blame Trump or Cruz (some may even find a way to blame Rubio or Romney for not doing a better job in their campaigns). Americans will blame both the President and Congress. We’ll also suffer. Whether its our economy, foreign policy/wars, healthcare, immigration, trade, etc., our anger will be magnified even more than what it is now. We’ll be let down, disappointed, hurting, and angry. As a result, as any social scientist will tell you, crime rates will rise. More people, more anger, more issuestp be angry at, more access to weapons….more crime. You saw it here first.