“I am two thousand years old, and I’ve never had the time for the luxury of outrage,” the Doctor told his young companion Bill, whom, being shocked by his seemingly muted reaction to his inability to save a child, showed a self-righteous display of extreme indignation.*
Indeed, when one is not expected to “save the universe”, one may indulge in such a luxury. Or, perhaps, at times, prolonged outrage serves as an obstacle to look beyond and keeps us standing still. It consumes us, exhausts us and provides us with a false sense of action, as though we were “doing something”. All the while, it distracts us from saving the world”, internally and externally.
More often in my office, the “world” we are to save is our “interior” – our very own personal psychic “underworld”/inner world. In this case, outrage prevents us from looking within to perceive the reality of our internal world.
A patient of mine is an “expert” of outrage.
It is his first reaction to anything or anyone “offensive”. Perhaps nothing wrong with the initial reaction. However, for him, the reaction has a “long life”.
For years, he voiced his self perceived “incompetence” in his field to anyone who would listen. Further more, he “confessed” that he had no desire to use his time off work to research work related matters and further his knowledge in the field. One day, he “lamented” more of his job insecurities to one of his more outspoken friends. Unexpectedly his friend said that since he had been “coasting” at work, perhaps “insecurity” was to be expected. He was, predictably, outraged.
As gently and clearly as I could, I pointed out that he was the one who described himself as “not particularly passionate” towards his work and would rather spend time honing his skills in playing the violin, enjoying all types of performing arts and participating in cooking shows….
True to his “inclinations”, he was outraged towards me as I was “taking the side” of his friend. His outrage lasted more than a month until another “major offense” was perceived as a “distraction”.
One day when I was particularly “hopeful”, perhaps when a momentary “psychosis” got the better of me, I directed my patient to the Doctor Who episode.
Triumphantly, my patient pointed out, “Ten minutes after the Doctor made the statement of ‘no time for the luxury of outrage’, he hit the offensive guy. Can’t believe anything he says.”
I murmured something in the spirit of “just because he couldn’t always behave the way he aspired to doesn’t devalue the statement.” But of course, my words fell on deaf ears.
A sad stagnating day for my patient.
A “normal” day for the external world.
Unfortunately for the above, an extraordinarily victorious day for outrage.
*Doctor Who, Season 10, Episode 3, Thin Ice
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