In a previous life, when I had a small step-son, he asked his mother if she was “happy at him.” This prompted a grammar discussion that confused him because sometimes she was “mad at him” so why was “happy at him” wrong? It stuck with me as one of those out of the mouths of babes views of life.
It prompts a bit of thought about which emotions go with which propositions. We’re happy with, but mad at. On the other hand, we can be angry with or angry at someone, but only pleased with them.
We can also be happy, glad, angry, pleased, mad, or sad, about someone.
Or with/at/about something.
But mad at and angry at kinda stand alone. Ex-step-son identified an interesting difference in how our speech frames the world. I’ve pondered it ever since.
(I suppose a grammarian could give us chapter and verse. I’m just riffing here.)
At first I thought happiness is collective, whereas anger is singular.
But that’s not right. Shared outrage is a cottage industry these days, and the behavior of mobs shows how easily anger can be shared.
Obviously emotions are collective. They all can be shared.
Now I’m thinking (but not concluding) that happiness is inclusive, whereas anger is exclusive.
Happiness and joy tend to embrace something, to gather it. Anger has a target — anger pushes away. Hence we are mad at.
(Granted, it’s possible to be angry at oneself, which makes oneself the target.)
More food for thought: I wonder which is more contagious: laughter or anger? Are inclusive emotions easier to share than exclusive ones?
Are mobs a special case? Is “mob psychology” notably different from personal psychology? Or is it just generally true that emotions can be shared?
Under 400 words. Look at that, I can write a short post! 😀
It’s not exactly tweet-length, but it’s pretty short considering the source. By my standards, it essentially is a tweet.
(Bonus: I used an image that’s been in my “potential headers” folder for a long time. Intended for a post, but never used. It was too interesting to just delete, but I haven’t found an excuse to use it until now. One less bell to answer.)
Stay happy with, my friends!