The background news of politics each week seems to grow louder and louder, with every activity of the Trump administration creating hysteria, and denunciations, or comparisons to Nazis or other fascists.
In the last few weeks we have seen the immigration crisis at the border, which made seasoned news media compare Trump to Hitler directly, only to be replaced last week with hysteria over the replacement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been signaling a possible retirement for many months now (only the exact timing remained unknown).
Justice Kennedy, who made his mark as the swing vote in many of the court’s 5-4 votes, turned himself into the pivotal character on the bench in recent decades. And he chose to present his notice of resignation on the same day that the Supreme Court announced a 5-4 verdict protecting union members from coerced union fees that typically benefited Democrat politicians.
To understand this never-ending cycle of rage and hysteria it is helpful to know a little body chemistry. Rage feels good because it releases dopamine into the pleasure centers of the brain. This creates enjoyment and motivation to continue activities that will release more dopamine. Anger can quickly become an addiction by creating constant emotional rushes that release dopamine into the system.
Dopamine releases happen in all sorts of heightened states. This kind of social-emotional trajectory normally happens after presidential elections and wars and major terrorist attacks.
Everyone remembers how intense and charged up everything felt right after the tragic attacks of 9/11. TV news was on around-the-clock reporting on source material generally not for public consumption. And most everyone had laser-focused attention on those events.
But, this chemical cycle also explains why, when the issue resolves, people usually feel a period of deflation or disappointment as everything settles down and normal life routines are re-established. Initially, everything feels disappointingly mundane. Then, slowly, the rhythms of daily life re-establish themselves. And interest in regular events, close to home, become more meaningful again.
Now, contemplate for a moment the cycle of progressive rage and hysteria following upon President Trump’s election. Though the reaction was far more heightened than most of us had ever seen, there was an expectation on the right that it would settle down eventually. But the people in the Trump resistance movement had other ideas. So, now, every event that occurs in his term is met by rage that is dialed all the way up to 11 and this weekly rage cycle has now become necessary to allow people to feel, once again, that hyper-alert, dopamine-fueled, reward state.
The thing about a rage-dopamine addiction is that, like with other addictions, the body becomes used to the dose it is experiencing so that it craves greater and greater hits of outrage to create the dopamine releases that the addict is subconsciously seeking out.
That’s why the rage cycles are now unending. This year, the cycle is continuing even during the quiet summer months, when most people stop paying attention to politics.
Currently, there is always something exercising progressives, so that they see everything in the direst terms which necessitates their panic, anxiety and rage. This week, X occurred. “Just watch,” they say. This will be the final precipitating event that will set Trump’s dystopian rule on the track they have long foreseen and been trying to stop. Over and over.
So, in the aftermath of the tragic shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., last week, a number of journalists were actively trying to connect the shooter’s actions to Trump’s frequent attacks on the “fake” news media. Even after it became known the gunman had long harbored a grudge against the Capital Gazette, a few journalists still tried to pivot the blame towards Trump. Oddly enough, in doing so, they were making Trump’s point for him about fake news, a point they remained unconscious about. Yet, if they had succeeded, their blame shifting would have triggered another keyed up episode, proving to progressives that their direst predictions were accurate. And this would have allowed them another dopamine release.
It needs will to break these kinds of addictions. An active change in habits is necessary that allows different neural pathways to develop that rebalance the brain into healthier, calmer channels. Ultimately, this is the way to create a feeling of genuine happiness that can be built upon. For anyone looking to break the cycle, I suggest beginning with a meditation program.
Mara Schiffren, a Campus Watch Fellow, is a writer and Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach who lives in North Salem.