Anger and depression bring me, and I think most people, a certain degree of satisfaction. I don’t know what else to call it – it’s a topographically flat point on the emotional landscape – a place where I can just stay indefinitely without without much effort, a place where bodies come to rest. The only other similar emotional state that comes to mind is contentment; even boredom, which would seem to go along, is more of an agitated, unstable state. Of course, external events can knock me out of anger, depression, or contentment, so it may take some effort to remain in place whilst involved with the world, but when I’m in my own headspace, those three require no maintenance.

Whatever the cause for the first two of these emotional states (anger and depression), they usually come pre-packaged with some feeling of entitlement: I have the right to be angry because someone cut me off in traffic, or I have the right to be depressed because the rest of the world is uninterested in what is most dear to my heart. They also give me a certain expectation of attention – I might expect some apology or contrition from whomever made me angry or sad, or at least some sympathy from bystanders.

I think it’s that sense of entitlement that make it the hardest to move out of an angry or depressed state. Usually, once I’ve given myself a moment to think about it, I can see that the reasons for being there really aren’t good. The person who cut me off probably didn’t mean to, and don’t I remember just five minutes ago when I accidentally did the same thing to someone else? Beside that, what did it cost me? A tap on the breaks, a moment of being startled, and maybe an extra 3 seconds of my life (three seconds which I might otherwise have invested in watching a TV commercial or picking the lint from my belly button)? I know I really shouldn’t want to be angry, that it’s unhealthy and unproductive and unpleasant for others, but somehow that sense of entitlement – I have a right to my anger – means I have to take advantage of it. Who knows how long it might be again before some justifiable righteous indignation comes my way?

The sense of entitlement doesn’t quite capture the whole of it, though; there’s something about power in there, too. When someone else makes me angry or upset, somehow that emotional response is a power I have over them – in some small way it makes me the aggressor, the dominant over them.

Contentment, meanwhile, though it’s the state I know I should want, comes with no entitlement, no sympathy or attention, and is a null-state in terms of interpersonal hierarchy, and it is thus a state I seem to discard quite easily.