(7 Minutes Read)

Explosive Anger

Let’s talk about rage. Rage is that intense and out-of-control version of anger that most of us only experienced back when we were two years old, though some unlucky few also experience it throughout their adult life. If you’re not one of those people, let me tell you that rage is not only destructive externally, but it’s also one of the most painful and confusing emotions. Probably due to that, it has been even more misunderstood than most.

Ironically, that explosive and out-of-control version of anger seems to attach itself to those who really want to do good, be good, and always remain in perfect control. Though perhaps not for obvious reasons.

Let’s talk about rage as aggression in the shadow. Judged, repressed, and out of control.

Define Rage

Much like anger, rage is an aggressive reaction to a perceived threat. It’s an emotional attempt to change something that’s bothering you. Unlike anger though, which is focused and directed towards a specific object, rage is explosive, messy, and splashes all over the place. It’s undirected, out of control, and extremely intense.

At its core, Rage is a type of acute sympathetic reaction to an overwhelming sense of threat. It can be a perfect reaction when a person is facing imidate mortal danger. However, in a world that is relatively safe, where people rarely find themselves in a state of mortal danger, most expression of rage we come across is usually the result of perception errors. Not threats to our lives, as much as threats to our way of life.

Anger Snowball Rolling Down the Hill

Anger comes to help us take control over external things. When we feel like we need to force a change in something or someone else, and they don’t seem to cooperate willingly, we get angry. When others encounter anger, they can either submit or resist. We can argue about whether that’s the best response and how appropriate it may be, but either way, it does work every now and then.

Self-directed anger, however, is a completely different animal. Internally, anger never ever works. Being angry at yourself never got anyone the results they wanted. Simply because we can never force our will and submit at the same time. As long as we’re angry, we resist, and when encountering resistance, anger only intensifies. Creating a loop of resistance and anger.

Fighting against the fighting urge as if it’s a separate entity that can be forced into submission causes people to do weird things, like being aggressive towards themselves, and in extreme cases even trying to punish themselves or beat themselves up and inflict self-injury.

Trying to control anger by force creates an ever-intensifying internal vicious cycle that doesn’t stop until someone either exhausts themselves or gives up. And when both sides are the same person, I’m sure you can see how messy this can get.

People who don’t accept their anger and don’t yet know how to manage this emotion correctly, make the mistake of trying to control it by forcing it into submission. In other words, they end up getting angry at their own anger. Not consciously, of course, since people who don’t consciously accept anger as a part of the natural human experience can have no conscious control over it.

What started as a small snowball of unattended discomfort rolls down the hillside, it quickly picks up mass and energy as it becomes a massive fit of rage.

The Spiral of Internal Anger

Holding to a belief that anger is negative, bad, illegitimate, and shouldn’t be experienced causes a person to automatically try and suppress the emotion and push it away. Where is away though? Emotions can’t leave. They have nowhere to go. Pushing emotions away doesn’t get rid of them. It’s a hoax. People are just pretending like their emotions are gone.

Pretending like one or another ‘negative’ emotion is gone might help not feeling it anymore, at least for as long as one can maintain the appearance. However, this form of self-deception is very disempowering and rather difficult to maintain.

As the emotion moves into the shadow of the unconscious, away from the control of logic and reason, it becomes both stronger and dumber.

Trapped in the shadow, with no way out, internal pressure builds up slowly until it reaches its boiling point. Then, when the emotion becomes too strong to hold back, it erupts like fresh hot magma out of the deep pits of the unconscious volcano.

In a split second, the sympathetic system is overwhelmed, blood boils and muscles tense up. A fresh shot of adrenaline is released into the bloodstream as the amygdala takes over. The conscious brain is forced into standby mode and the primitive survival system is now in full control.

The Battle for Control and The Self-Reinforcing Loop

If there’s one thing I’d want you to take out of this is that rage is tricky and disarming rage is incredibly counterintuitive.

Obviously, an intense and uncontrolled emotional explosion is a sign that emotions are bad and shouldn’t be expressed, right? It’s a logical deduction and it’s hard to argue with that, especially after seeing a person completely losing control and turning into a live bomb right in front of you.

With every explosive fit of rage, the confirmation bias strengthens this belief and the maladaptive neural pathways become deeper, quicker, and more defined.

“This emotion must be controlled! “

After a few episodes and confirmation, this whole cycle happens automatically without any human intervention.

I mean, of course… this emotion shouldn’t be expressed, at this time, in this environment, under those conditions, and in this way. But to actually make a change, we must find a better way. We must be wiser. We must find a way to win without fighting.

How to Get Rid of Rage

I hope it’s clear by now that fighting anger and trying to gain control over it is not natural or healthy behavior.

In fact, since anger was originally designed for external control, a healthy individual will never experience self-anger. Instead, they would feel sadness, disappointment, guilt, or shame, which are all ‘cold’ emotions. Becoming angry at oneself can only happen in a state of dissociation, or self-separation. When one turns away from the self and rejects a certain part of themselves. Abandoning their inner child, so to speak.

It is only in this state of internal separation that one can make the mistake of activating anger internally. This little mistake makes people feel overwhelmed, frustrated and disempowered. Pushing them even further into that state of dissociation. Over time, what started as just a bit of self-judgment and lack of self-acceptance transforms into a full-on attack against oneself.

The Healthy Way – Regain Control / How to Heal Rage

The hidden truth is that control was never lost, it was given. The emotions that a person attempts to ‘get rid of’ and repress don’t go away, they just change owners. Once a person decides to reject one of his emotions, the conscious mind hands that emotion over to the unconscious mind. This might be a comfortable solution in the short term, as it releases you from feeling that emotion or being responsible for it, but you still act on it.

There’s only one way to take back control and get rid of rage once and for all, but it is a path that raging people are too afraid to take. The only way to regain your control is to accept your anger. Allow your anger back into your conscious awareness, and choose to express it consciously, rather than unconsciously. But to do that successfully, you must first learn how to evolve your expression of anger.

Anger has to come out, simply because it has nowhere else to go, but it is up to you to choose if it will be expressed in actions or words. The healthy way to dissolve anger is to communicate it. When feeling anger coming up, simply saying “I am angry” will immediately have a considerable effect. And once you’ve mastered this skill, to keep anger from coming back you need to express the reason you feel that way. This part is so incredibly difficult that most people, myself included, would sometimes rather act angry for days and even weeks than express this.

Saying something like “I am angry because I feel you don’t care about me” is much harder than throwing a fit of rage, but if you wish to stop acting angry this is what you have to do. Express your fear, your weakness, your worries, and your pains. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Take the risk of rejection and humiliation. If you can do that, anger and rage both would be under your complete control.

Anger at lies lasts forever. Anger at truth can’t last.

Greg Evans

It is never too late to stop fighting, accept yourself, and regain control over your emotions.
If you can accept your anger and bring it back into the realm of the conscious, you will have to deal with anger again, which can be difficult at times. But on the other hand, your rage will be gone.

Anger is just anger. It isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It’s like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy. You just have to make the choice.

Jim Butcher, White Night


Main Image by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

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