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Anger & Us: Can We Escape the “Prison” of Hate? Alan Baker’s “Angry Prisoners” Analyzed

“Angry Prisoners” is finally released in China. I read this book by Alan Baker many years ago. At that time, I discovered that this huge book full of information had an indescribable and thought-provoking magic. The topics discussed in the book are experiences that every reader can relate to.

Everyone will have their own views and opinions on things, so everyone will also have different prejudices. Prejudice affects a person’s perception and attitude towards things. This negative attitude also often leads to dissatisfaction, hostility and even hatred. If hostility is triggered by some environmental trigger, anger will come.

Don’t underestimate anger because if not handled well, anger can lead to violence and aggressive behavior. The most ironic thing is that although everyone understands the consuming and destructive nature of anger and violence, we still unconsciously trap ourselves in endless anger, thus falling into an abyss from which we cannot extricate ourselves.

Alan Baker’s book analyzes anger and hatred from the perspective of cognitive science. He emphasized the destructive and destructive power of hatred to individuals, families, groups, countries and even the world. I remember when I first read this book, I found that in addition to a lot of scientific analysis, the author also used simple and easy-to-understand examples to explain the cognitive characteristics and thinking processes of anger from his cognitive therapy perspective.

Different discussions from time to time encourage readers to break out of the clichéd cognitive therapy framework and understand what hatred is all about from a multidimensional macro perspective. Looking back on those years, during the reading process, I had a feeling of enlightenment, which opened up many categories that I had never thought about before, and I unconsciously indulged in the surprise inspired by Alan Baker.

From a genetic perspective, human beings are fortunate to experience natural selection in Darwin’s theory of evolution, and are regarded as the highest organisms. The complexity and diversity of human emotions is the first of all.

Compared to other animals, human evolution has given us a complex and advanced brain. We are fortunate to have the communication abilities of language, words, thoughts, images, and symbols, which can create virtual scenes and images. These abilities are not found in other animals.

But we must not forget that there is still primitive animality in our blood. Everyone will protect themselves if necessary, even by resorting to force.

Animal nature also drives us to seek approval from our peers at all costs and to take root in society. In order to rationalize prejudice, hatred, anger and violence, many people will use slogans such as ideals, beliefs, homeland, revenge, etc. to express their hatred and behavior.

Language is a human faculty, but it can also be a curse. Words can deepen our prejudices, fuel our anger, and perpetuate our hatred. Words, books, and archives can pass hatred from generation to generation. This is actually the scariest thing.

So I had an epiphany: The roots of anger and hatred can actually be traced back to our language abilities, thinking, and learning. Everyone has their own prejudices and hatreds, and there are moments of anger. What we need to dig deeper into is why these destructive thoughts and behaviors can stick to our hearts for a long time, making us unable to extricate ourselves and become “prisoners of anger.”
The power of language can exceed our imagination.

Since childhood, many seemingly wise idioms and proverbs have begun to subtly sow the seeds of hatred in our minds. These seeds that we have been exposed to since childhood gradually took root and sprouted, firmly grasping our thoughts.

We grow up believing that these proverbs are true. The phrases “This hatred is irreconcilable”, “It is unworthy of a gentleman not to avenge a grudge, and it is a waste of human life not to avenge a grudge”, etc. are good examples. Cultural education passed down through language has accompanied our growth at all times and in all countries.

The West has “An eye for an eye” and we have “Tit for an eye”; the West has “Kill or be killed” and we have “Either you die or I die.”

The most terrifying thing is that “a gentleman’s revenge is never too late in ten years.” Behind every sonorous sentence is the black hand that locks us into a cage of hatred.

I once read a book called “The Evil of Acquiescence” written by N. Sanford. The author dissects the psychological processes behind killing and war. Disasters such as world wars and genocide are often caused by the decisions of those in power or individual leaders.

They use different propaganda techniques to create concepts of belief, race, and land to gain the support and recognition of the people.

The next step is to work from the top down to demonize and dehumanize the enemy and rationalize annihilation.

Eventually, the enemy’s life becomes an object in the crosshairs, and killing becomes a necessary means of self-defense and revenge.

In his book, Alan Baker also attempts to positively use unique human language, thoughts, and cognition to reduce anger and hatred.

Hatred and violence are basic animalistic traits, and what cognitive neuropsychology calls “bottom-up.” But if we can regulate and dominate our own cognition, we may be able to mobilize some highly intelligent thinking that other animals do not have to fight against hatred, and use a “top-down” approach to reverse prejudice and hatred.

There is an antidote to hatred. Friendship, care, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, agreement, tolerance, acceptance, common ground, universal love, and altruism can all dissolve hatred. When Alan Baker wrote this book, the Internet was just getting started.

He would never have imagined that today, more than 20 years later, scientific and technological progress would bring us an unrivaled power of communication: social media, information platforms, audio and video clips, digital technology, and even deep-seated illusions and artificial intelligence that are difficult to distinguish between true and false. Intelligence, ChatGPT, etc., have jointly created an information explosion and chaos that makes people confused. Nowadays, if you want to influence and control your thoughts, you can really do it at your fingertips without any effort.

If we can harness the power of language and use these information technologies, which are developing at an alarming rate, to “remove hatred,” “remove anger,” and “remove prejudice,” we will hopefully no longer become “prisoners of anger.”

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