Rage… Anger Gone Amuck
Since my last article about anger I’ve been thinking quite a bit about rage. That dysfunctional friend of mine who I have been working to say “good-bye” to for years. I have been the receiver and giver of rage.
Just as depression or anxiety is sadness or fear gone amuck, rage is anger gone awry. I believe it’s one of the reasons that we so often fear getting or being angry. Without careful work, anger can very quickly turn to rage. It takes hard work to hone this powerful emotion.
How does it feel to be on the receiving end of rage? I’m sure some of you have experienced receiving rage, but if you haven’t, from my experience, it is scarier than the scariest movie you’ve watched. Rage is much more personal. I’ve found that it’s more like being the prey in a “to the death” match. Rage aimed at you will trigger your fear response of flight, freeze or fight. For me it was often fight, which helped me in carefully crafting my own rage response.
But, how many of us know what it’s like on the giving side? How does it feel in your body and what happens to your mind? I would like to share my personal experience with the giving side of rage.
With head hung low, I can tell you that I’ve raged more times than I can count. I’m truly ashamed of those moments and have asked forgiveness from my husband, the most frequent rage receiver. As a woman I’ve wanted to hide my rage from the public. It was difficult to see and to admit that I had an unhealthy pattern in my life. I have decided to share my shame and my learning. I am still learning, and I know writing this will help me to better understand this place I’ve visited.
Let’s begin with what it feel like in my body. For me it often begins with anger. My body starts to feel warm all over. There is a feeling of strength and power throughout my mind and body. Deeper inside my body I notice other reactions. My throat shrinks. My brain and heart pound. My mouth is dry. My eyes fixate. My hands clench. My breath quickens.
What can trigger this anger? Often a word or phrase or a smell or a sound. When the smell or sound subsides, the anger often dissolves away leaving behind a trail of electricity to be felt. Sometimes I will scream, if the anger is intense enough. Nearly every episode of anger leaves me in tears. I am always grateful when sadness can break through the anger. I’ve been able to see the hurt little girl sitting in the corner by herself.
However, there are times when the anger will not allow fear or sadness a voice. This can be triggered by a person attempting to help me see my anger is misplaced. Or my loved one is fearful but rather than flee, they fight back. It makes sense, the person on the other end wants to be protected. But often the anger warning sign is missed and because I’ve not been able to catch myself, I head for the rage train.
As I move from anger to rage, my body is no longer warm, but boiling hot. It’s more like my body is in a pot of boiling water. Like steam from a tea pot at the boiling point, exploding with sound and heat. My fingers and toes begin to tingle and deep in my core (slightly above my belly) a knot begins to form. I can feel this knot growing in size. Every muscle in my entire body tenses. My hands are full on fists. The longer I listen and stay quiet, the more the rage fuels. My throat closes so much that I can only breath through my nose. I cough a lot. Words are no longer possible. My ears cannot hear anymore. My heart and head continue pound against their prison causing physical pain.
If at this moment I am able to catch myself and escape to my safe haven, I can safely scream or punch a pillow with my eyes wide open to expel the rage. My thinking brain then wakes up. I can return to pure anger and ask for space until I can properly express myself.
However, if I don’t catch myself and I finally hear their words, it’s entirely distorted. Let me give you some examples:
“Calm down” is translated into “I’m trying to control you”
“You misunderstood me” is translated into “Don’t you know anything?”
The body continues to boil with an inevitable explosion. At this point, I am entirely out of control.
So, now you might be asking: what can I do as the person receiving the rage? This is a good question.
First, here are some things to know about someone in a state of rage:
- Everything you say is filtered through rage
- Nothing you do can stop the rage
- Nothing you say will stop the rage
- Rage will subside
My recommendation, leave this person alone. Leaving them means LITERALLY leaving their immediate space or even the building. Just get away from that person. You MUST protect yourself when at the receiving end of rage.
You might find yourself asking if you should leave this person all together. I cannot tell you what to do, but I can tell you it’s very normal to be scared. That is fear protecting you. And if you listen carefully, you might find anger in yourself as well. This anger and fear may have your answer. It’s normal to be afraid of that raging person. Rage can turn very violent very fast. Unlike depression and anxiety, rage turns outward. This boiling point needs an escape valve. Stay out of the way of being that escape valve! I’ve lived with rage long enough to know that there is no rationalization that can happen in this state. It is a very scary place to visit. For the giver and the receiver.
In rage, I’ve hit my husband
In rage, I’ve pulled a telephone out of the wall
In rage, I’ve physically hurt myself
In rage, I’ve broken cherished items
Nothing stopped me. No words stopped me. No action stopped me. Only I could stop myself.
I had to get control of myself. I had to work with myself.
Lots of screaming
Lots of punching pillows and beds
Lots of therapy
and lots and LOTS of crying
Rage scares me
Rage should scare me
Rage would scare anyone on the receiving end
Rage should scare everyone on the giving end
It’s anger gone amuck
I’ve decided I need to stop visiting this place and learn to hone my anger. Still I have been at the brink of rage. Knowing full well the pain I have caused my husband. I’m proud to say that it has been years since I’ve allowed rage to visit. Although he knocks at the door asking to come in. I work hard to not allow him to enter.
With a seated practice and an intention to understand my rage, I have been able to rewire that well worn pattern in my brain toward a less volatile place. Rage is my unresolved anger continually bubbling up.
I often remind myself that I shouldn’t shun anger, it’s not anger’s fault. I just need to practice expressing and using it effectively.
Practice sitting with anger
Practice expressing my anger
Practice loving myself
Only through practice can I truly heal and allow my fear and sadness equal billing to anger.