Thanks for Nothing, Mother Nature!

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As we approach Memorial Day weekend when people have many outdoor plans, it is common for people to voice frustration toward the weather.  This prompted several readers to request an explanation.  Specifically, readers want to know, “what’s the point of getting angry over something we can’t control?”

Anger over the weather occurs for the same reasons people get mad at anything they consider unpleasant.  The lack of control does not change anything and there are actually many examples of things outside of our control that make us angry (e.g., traffic, decisions made by employers, legislators or parents).  In fact, a lack of control is a common aspect of the anger experience because when people have control, they tend to exercise that control to try and solve the problem that is causing their frustration.

Ultimately, what is happening is that people perceive the weather as unfairly interfering with their goals.  Whether it is going for walks, having a picnic, or planning an outdoor party, people’s plans depend on the weather and anger is a very natural response to having one’s goals blocked.  The more important the event (e.g., a wedding), the more frustration the person is likely to feel (along with some other negative emotions).  Likewise, people seem to become angrier when there is bad weather on a weekend as compared to a weekday because it is more likely to disrupt their personal plans.

There are several things, though, that stand out with regard to anger at the weather.

Serious Complications. First, the weather is not always just an inconvenience.  For some, it disrupts their very livelihood.  Bad storms can destroy crops, can destroy homes, and even take lives.  These and other problems are not just mild hassles.  They are serious losses and anger is a very natural part of the grieving process.

Universality. There is a reason why weather is the go-to for small talk with strangers.  It is a shared event (i.e., everyone in a particular community is dealing with the same weather) so it is the one thing that people know they have in common with the grocery store clerk, bus driver, or random person on the elevator.  What this means with regard to anger is that there are many people you can vent to.  The problem is that venting tends to do little more than make the frustration greater, as people are reminding themselves throughout the day how irritating it all is.

No One to Blame. Finally, one interesting aspect of this sort of anger is that there is no one to blame for bad weather.  Most of the time when we get angry, there is a culprit (e.g., our boss, spouse, parent).  Even traffic can be pinned, at least in our minds, on the person who caused the accident, the other drivers, the person who designed the intersection, etc.  In this case, though, we do not have an offending party.  That does not stop us from trying to find one, though, as we often make up a wrongdoer to be the recipient of our frustration (e.g., the weatherman, Mother Nature, or even God).  Like anything, people will find a target for their weather-related angst.

By Ryan C. Martin
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