I have mentioned before that something like a conservation of mood seems to be embedded in the human personality. If we are anxious people, when a problem is resolved we just switch to something else to be anxious about. If we are effervescent, we retain that through hard times and if gloomy, sustain even when events go our way. “When the big ones are gone, the big ones remain,” a friend of mine says.
I will note as an aside that it is irritating when people claim that their naturally upbeat disposition is actually some spiritually leveraged position. They usually attribute this to some trick or cliché, implying that the same trick or cliché would work for you, too. But then, I’m an irritable person, and if it wasn’t them I’d just go find someone else to be irritated with.
I don’t mean to push this too far and call it an absolute. I once believed the story that lottery winners and those who had been physically disabled both reverted to their approximate baseline mood within two years, but it turns out to be only somewhat true. Circumstances are not irrelevant. Extra dollars above a comfortable minimum are reported to be unrelated to happiness, but they do matter below that level, and sudden losses mean most of all. No longer being beaten likely results in improved outlook, as does better health, more friends, better sleep, and other treasures.
Still, I think there is something to this idea of conservation. Older literature, including the Bible, refers to people in such ways, that they are timid or brave or anxious or loyal by nature. Some are light and bob up above the waves no matter how high, others seem to be waterlogged from birth and gasping for breath throughout life. Buoyancy and sinking are in fact the metaphorical words we use for moods. So – mood, anxiety, energy, anger – how about fear? Might some of us be naturally fearful and when one threat is removed, find another to be worried about? This occurs to me in the context of the election, and the number of people who stress that they are fearful of what Trump will do. I’m seeing a whole lot that might prove irritating or infuriating about a Trump presidency (there’s my irritability again), but the fear claims just don’t seem to have much behind them. There was a quote here, an insensitivity there. Someone over the mountain knew a guy who heard about a speech that Trump had made…
Can’t you understand the fear that POC feel about this? How am I going to explain this to my children? What do I say to my gay friends? Well, you could start by telling them that there’s no evidence that they are in any danger. Would that be a start?
Even his treating (his own) rude or even criminal acts lightly doesn’t explain people’s sense that this means that somehow all restrictions are going to be off, gropers and mean-speakers running wild. Society doesn't really act that way. If it did it would have started long ago, under the cultural influence of uh, other people.