What Do You Do with the Mad?

July 9, 2018

In 1969, Fred Rogers—of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—testified in front of the U.S. Senate with the goal of convincing them to give public television the entirety of its promised $20 million funding. Mr. Rogers was visibly nervous, but his unmistakable soft-spoken cadence was steady and his words moving. His whole speech was goosebumps-inducing, but one facet, in particular, struck me right in the gut. “Feelings are mentionable and manageable,” he said. In order to control our emotions, we need to be able to express them, name them. Once something has been named, it doesn’t hold power over us anymore. He was trying to teach children that, and as adults, it’s still relevant. Maybe more so.

Because it feels like we are all angry. But it’s the oppressive feeling of fear that is most worrisome. Fear is a powerful driving force, and it doesn’t leave room for empathy or logic. We’re scared of change, of one another, of the route we’re headed as a country. It seems as though we’re too far gone, and each side of the political spectrum is furiously jabbing fingers of blame at the other.

Mr. Rogers closes his speech with the lyrics of his song, “What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?”

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.

How refreshing to be reminded that we don’t have to continue down a certain path just because we started it. We can stop—and even better, change—any time we wish.