Provoking People Means Hurting People

I’ve been working the 12 Steps hard. I’ve made lists of everybody, everything, and every idea that I resent and worked through the sheet, listing out the reasons I resent, how the person/place/idea negatively impacts my life, what role I played, and then forgetting about the other person/place/idea, I surrender all my resentment to God and ascribe other people’s bad behavior to their own spiritual sickness, just as I am filled with spiritual sickness. By doing this work, I’ve been able to let go of almost all of my conscious resentment. Yet I keep feeling road rage flaring up.

The streets of Pico-Robertson are often too narrow for cars to pass comfortably, so often one car will pull over so the other can get by. I get sick of always being the car that pulls over, so I’ve started asserting myself more on the roads. I don’t like it when people take advantage of me. It arouses an anger in me that goes back to childhood when I was little and bigger people took advantage of me. I remember when I was a kid and I’d fall and scrape my knee and my dad would immediately announce to people, “He’s ok! He’s fine!” I couldn’t even own my own reality. I couldn’t even say myself how I was feeling. My father would announce it by fiat. My feelings didn’t count.

So my road rage taps into my helpless rage as a child and my refusal to allow myself to be victimized again.

I’m not exactly sure how my road rage connects to my perpetual desire to provoke people but I do know that they are two primal ways that I feel and express rage.

If I was in a happier place, I wouldn’t feel as much desire to offend people. I don’t think that comics whose act revolves around offending people are basically happy.

A lot of my teachers have wondered why am I so driven to offend people. What do I get out of it? I get a charge out of it, an addictive high. I feel the center of attention.

Provoking people, driving them into a tizzy, is essentially a form of hurting others. I feel good when I lash out at others. It’s not that I want to stick it to them before they stick it to me.

What goes through my head is that many people are stupid and when I provoke them, I out their stupidity and do a public service. It’s my father’s attitude — that the outside world is the enemy to be debunked.

What do we get out of exposing other people as idiots? A feeling of superiority and grandiosity. It feeds our narcissism. We reveal other people as small, inculcating helpless rage in them, and by comparison, we are amused and feel important. The more innocuous our sentiment and the greater the conflagration it sets off, the better. If you’re obviously trolling, that’s not as much of a high as doing it with the appearance of innocence.

Just writing about this excites me. I feel grand, even though I know it has many negative consequences for me and others. I know these practices of mine are not enhancing the quality of my relationships with others. I’m bringing negativity into my life and into the lives of others. I’m causing them misery and for some reason, this brings me joy.

Why can’t I bring others joy? Well, I have so much joy that I want to bring to one person in specific.

I’ve been through agony, I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of the rhetorician’s barbs, yet I feel driven to dish out this agony to others. And it makes me happy, in the moment, to do this.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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