Negative emotions like sadness, anger, and fear tend to come as a package. Personality psychologists call this package “Neuroticism.” There’s a spectrum, of course. At the high end of Neuroticism, we have people like Seinfeld’s George Costanza, who finds misery and outrage wherever he turns. At the low end, we have people like Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer, who discovers amusement and excitement around every corner.
Having a Neurotic personality is not fun, and Neurotics rarely let us forget it. This doesn’t imply, however, that they’re victims. By acting on their sadness, anger, and fear, Neurotics routinely make the people around them sadder, angrier, and more fearful. Parallel claims hold for non-Neurotics. They rarely complain, but that doesn’t imply they’re not victims.If your Neuroticism is high or even average, you probably aren’t even aware that you’re imposing on others.
How exactly does society victimize the non-Neurotic? Look at the news – or, in an election year, politics. It’s a parade of stories crafted to make every onlooker feel sadness, anger, and fear. It’s a pan-ideological problem: Left and right disagree on many things, but both tribes of activists want you to get upset about something every day. Take a look at the stories your friends shared on Facebook today. How many aren’t a thinly-veiled demand for negative affect?