The Stigma of Anger and Rage
I wanted to talk a little bit about anger or less widely used, 'rage'. They are in fact two different emotions but we often use them synonymously. Anger is a healthy response when someone crosses our boundaries.
For example, "I don't like it when you do that, stop!" or "I am feeling frustrated, leave me alone until I’ve calmed down."
There is also an in-between section of anger and rage and this might be when you are overwhelmed with stress, parenting, work or marriage etc. You may become snappy and feel angry/frustrated and irritable on a regular basis. The shame then comes up when we think of speaking out because we feel we are unfit, can’t handle life, should be better or should do better and so on.
Rage is an overwhelming response to an event in the present moment but has triggered a conscious or unconscious memory from our past. Rage often feels like it comes on suddenly, is intense and overwhelming and feels uncontrollable.
After an episode of rage people tend to hold a huge amount of shame and guilt for reacting in this way which can then lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms to avoid those uncomfortable feelings.
In a rage it is common to want to lash out violently, throw/smash things and take it out on the people closest. If this happens then the shame and guilt is amplified and it can feel suffocating, isolating and scary. It is common to want to shut down, hide away or use recreational drugs/alcohol to avoid the post-rage feelings.
Things may appear calmer for a few days following and then another event may trigger the same feelings and the cycle of rage, shame and guilt begins again.
In my opinion, not enough people talk openly about rage because society says we should never feel these feelings and we certainly shouldn't talk about them! People then become afraid of talking to anyone about them because of the judgment they may experience.
By locking things up and keeping them hidden, the feelings grow bigger and it can feel like your body has been taken over. It's natural to then suppress, avoid, detach and feel incredibly lonely.
If you were raised as a woman and experienced rage then you will likely have been told that you were wrong for feeling like that. Because it’s not lady-like to be angry.
If a man experiences anger and rage then he is a perpetrator of abuse and is cast off by society. If a woman experiences rage then she is mentally unstable, psychotic and so on.
Either one is cast off without a second thought because we have been conditioned to show others that we have our lives in order and everything is totally fine; so, anything other than ‘fine’ is not normal.
Women can show some sadness but not too much because then we are deemed unfit and having a mental breakdown. Men aren't allowed to show any emotion because they are then deemed as weak.
For me there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we care for people who struggle in this way.
If these feelings of rage have gone too far, having a safe space to talk openly about these intense feelings in order to prevent damage to themselves and others is surely a far better approach than hospitalisation, medication or prison? What happens after prison? Have they radically changed? No, they are still stuck with the same feelings because they haven't had the correct emotional support to lighten those powerful emotions and to feel able to manage in society. They are then wrapped with even deeper amounts of shame so it is likely they will reoffend.
If you are someone who suffers from rage, then please do seek support from a trained therapist who can help you to track where that rage is coming from and support you in processing and releasing it in a healthy capacity.
If you live with someone who struggles with rage then please ensure you are safe and seek support yourself. Talking to your loved one and encouraging them to seek support can open a window of opportunity in being able to express and release these trapped emotions in a healthy and safe environment.
If we can adapt our thinking from “what is wrong with you” to “what happened to you.” we move from judgment which evokes shame, to empathy which promotes self-acceptance.