What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?


Many wonderful videos turn up on Facebook. Here is a video clip I found the other day. It features one of our country’s real heroes and inspirations, Fred Rogers.

Fred Rogers Inspires Us

This is a video of Fred Rogers testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications in 1969 to save funding for public television stations. It was a masterful display of generosity and humanity.

He had 6 minutes to convince the subcommittee members that public television was worth saving. As you’ll see in the video, Fred Rogers faced an unfriendly, brusque, and cynical group of politicians … and easily won them over to achieve his goal of saving government funding for public television.

Mister Rogers (it’s hard to think of him any other way, since I’ve rarely heard him addressed otherwise) was a deeply compassionate man. His TV show was called “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for a reason. He was a friend, surrogate parent, and virtual “neighbor” to millions of people.

The gentle, soft-spoken Mister Rogers used puppets and songs to impart lessons such as the importance of kindness, acceptance, and respect. In one of his most memorable episodes, the actress Margaret Hamilton appeared as herself. She reassured young viewers that, although she had played the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz,” she was only pretending to be unkind because it was her job. In real life, she cared about children, and she would never even think of hurting anyone. Mister Rogers wrote that script (as well as all of the others) for his show, because he wanted to help children feel less fearful when they watched the classic movie. My guess is that it worked.

The Lessons We Learned From Fred Rogers

We could use someone like Mister Rogers today to help address the opioid crisis and pain-related problems. The wisdom of Fred Rogers during his testimony did more than earn him government funding. Since that hearing was televised, it taught millions of people a lesson in civility and how to treat others.

Now, it seems we have forgotten those lessons, and we need to learn them again. Words and actions seem to pit patients’ advocates and lawmakers against each other regarding pain and opioids. Many of us who are frustrated by trying to help people with serious medical problems need to recall the words and lessons of Fred Rogers.

Here are the opening lyrics of Mister Rogers’ song, “What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel,” that he sang on his show:

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?

You can find the rest of the song’s lyrics, written by Fred Rogers, here. They are about taking control of your anger and behaving in a constructive, decent way instead of harming anyone.

More of us should internalize those words.

Indeed, it should be obvious that civility, consideration, and thoughtful dialogue are necessary if we want to resolve our differences.

Mister Rogers taught us that we may not always see things from the same perspective, but that’s okay. We don’t need to agree about everything. But we must recognize that we all have feelings, and we need to treat each other respectfully.

The Power of Listening

Listening to each other might help us to find common ground.

Through listening, people might come to understand how devastating the disease of addiction is and why so many people are unwilling to hear the needs of people in pain.

And perhaps, through listening, family and friends of people with addiction could come to understand why opioids have played a key role in providing people in pain with a reason to live.

Our society has become a scary place, and to a great extent, our culture has become tribal. Respect, empathy, and the willingness to keep an open mind seem to have disappeared.

We need a helper or two to gain some leverage for people with chronic illnesses. Let’s expand the circle of those who are trying to help, and work harder to help everyone be heard and understood.

But we can’t get there via the “us vs. them” strategy. We must all be on the same side. Presumably, we all care about the forgotten members of our society — those who are ignored, lonely, and scared. If not, then that must change.

A few years ago, I realized that the topic of opioids was so polarizing that the opioid problem and chronic pain were going to require a non opioid solution.

Until we have those new therapies, perhaps we can all “stop, stop, stop” and listen, as Fred Rogers suggested, and do the right thing just because we know that it is the right thing.



  1. Jory Pradjinski on June 5, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Indeed, nothing good ever comes from aggressive and divisive behavior. Addiction and the need for effective and compassionate pain management are two different topics. Both show the needs of millions of people, however, they’ve been coupled into stifling interactions.

    As for “non-opiod solutions” we have them within of grasps. There are a multitude of great alternative treatments which can greatly help people to live better with the conditions they have. These include, but are not limited to, acupuncture, chiropractic, myofascial therapy, yoga, mediation, nutrition, healthy living, and so many more.

    As for myself, I live with 29+ years of chronic pain, arthritis, multiple failed back fusions, anxiety, depression, PTSD, dissociative amnesia just to mention a few. I’ve suffered at the hands of traditional medicine, opiod pain meds and the total lose of support.

    Today I haven’t a turned around life thanks to alternative treatments. I’m giving back now through my nonprofit Hope Instilled to help others with resources and peer-to-peer support.

    The more we can gather together and help each other, the more we can open the eyes of those who do not know chronic pain.

  2. TK on June 19, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    A friend just sent me a link to this page and I sometimes feel this anger, wow that was a complete non-sequitur. Anyhow. I have had chronic daily migraines since my brain exploded (since I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage) that should have been minor, cleared up with no defects. I was told “Go home and you should be able to resume your normal life within four weeks!”

    So now 5.5 years later I have a headache every day. Some days aren’t bad. Other days I am in so much pain I sometimes wish I hadn’t made it. However, I did and overall I have a blessed life. I can still run, lift weights, have a supportive husband, and lots of great friends. I’m a teacher and I love teaching, even though it is probably a bit too much for me with the migraines. I haven’t quite found it in me to reduce my hours yet, but I think that might be coming.

    Opioids do not work for my pain. I don’t know why, but with the exception of IV drugs when I have to go into the hospital, nothing over the counter has worked. No rescue meds at all touch them. I’ve tried a lot of alternative therapies as well and have seen little to no help with most, although self hypnosis can work for a time. I eat a healthy mostly clean diet, exercise and take good care of my body (that is very important to me). The only thing that does help is medical marijuana, but it’s short lived. Still, I am very thankful to have even that.

    There has to be another answer out there. I’ve tried ablation (was partially successful on one side, but not on the other–I have bilateral migraines) and that’s about all my pain doctor has to offer. I’m not giving up hope yet, though!

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