A woman called me the other day for help. When I asked her what the problem was, she didn’t hesitate. “I am living with the angriest man in the world.” I said, “Tell me how he expresses his anger?”
After four or five descriptive sentences I said, “I hate to interrupt, but everything you’ve said so far is rage.” And she said, “What’s the difference?”
Anger is about the “Here and Now;” it is an active response to issues and situations occurring at the present time. You feel anger because of what your boss said to you this morning or because your spouse incorrectly balanced the checkbook this week.
Rage is about the “There and Then;” it is about our past. Rage is a reaction to what your boss has said to you every morning for the last year. What you’ve stuffed and bottled-up all this time, suddenly comes gushing out like a geyser. Likewise, rage occurs because the checkbook has gone unbalanced for two years; seemingly warranting a deafening silence to correct or punish your spouse’s behavior.
|WHAT IS HEALTHY ANGER?||WHAT IS RAGE/UNHEALTHY ANGER?|
|A feeling||A reaction|
|A primary emotion||Stuffs or masks emotions|
|It is neither positive or negative||It is negative and inappropriate|
|Anger is energy||Rage is exhausting|
|Meant to be given away||Meant to be given up|
|It doesn’t hurt anyone||Hurts everyone involved|
|Anger clears the air||Clouds communication|
|It increases understanding||Adds to confusion|
|Helps communication||Increases conflicts and misunderstandings|
|Rights injustices and wrongs||Is an injustice and wrongs people further|
|It increases energy, intimacy, and peace of mind||Decreases energy in people, increases the distance between them and causes discord|
|Contained and controlled until proper time, place and person||Pervasive, out of control, and misdirected|
|About the present||About the past|
|About “Me”||About “You”|
Anger lives in the present and so takes minutes to be felt and expressed. Rage sticks around because it is grounded in the past. Because anger lives in the present, it takes moments or minutes at the most to be felt and expressed. When Jerome’s wife was late for a special luncheon they’d planned, Jerome said, “I’m angry. Now, I only have forty-five minutes left for lunch before I have to return for work. Let’s eat and make the most of our time.”
Rage lives in the past and takes a very long time because it is grounded in our personal life history, and once unleashed, the result is that no one wants to eat with anyone because no one has an appetite left. Sandy’s now ex-boyfriend was chronically late; Sandy’s response was, “I’m tired of you always putting everything before me. Didn’t your mother teach you it is rude to keep people waiting? I got here on time. I can’t see why you can’t!” …And she was just getting warmed up. Clearly, there was more than anger going on.
Rage is what constitutes most marathon arguments. You know the ones that begin at eight o’ clock after dinner after the kids are put to bed and is still going strong at one in the morning until someone cries, “Uncle,” and says, “Does anyone know the original point of this?” or attempts to just share some feelings.
Anger is about me and rage is about you. If I express anger, I am telling you about me. Anger is revealing. If I am raging, I’m telling the other person about them and thus I am concealing what I am really feeling and going through. What many people do when they rage is this: They tell the other person about them. What they didn’t do and shouldn’t have done; why what they said is wrong, crazy, sick, and messed up. When they finally finish their diatribe, then it’s the other person’s turn to tell the first person about them and how what they said doesn’t apply, and that if they’d said it differently, maybe they could be heard, and if they’d only read more self-help books they wouldn’t have said it at all. After that, then it’s the first speaker’s turn again, and then the second, and we affectionately call this marriage, and then very often we call it adversity and grounds for divorce.
Rage has moved more people out of relationships than U-Haul. It shoves everyone out the door, out of lives, or out of business. Rage pushes everyone away because no one wants to be around it.
On the other hand, anger expressed in present time and in an appropriate manner, actually draws people to you. If a man says to his wife, “I’m angry and I need to talk,” nine times out of ten the wife will respond with something like, “Okay, tell me more,” or “I’m listening,” or “What’s going on?”
If an employee says to a fellow worker, “I’m angry about what went on in the staff meeting this morning,” most fellow employees will say, “Tell me more,” or “Let’s talk about it this afternoon over a beer.” In other words, if I do not rage at you, you have no reason to run—indeed anger can create the beginning of many productive dialogues and initiate problem solving.
Rage engenders defensiveness, distance, and the feeling of being in some kind of danger; it shows disrespect and disregard for both the speaker and the one pretending to listen. Anger shows appreciation and respect. If one’s boss is angry and says so and follows that statement with something like, “…and I’d like for you to meet me for lunch so we can discuss the issue,”—this says I value you and our relationship enough to make some time and request that you make some time to resolve the issue at hand.
Rage basically says —in no uncertain terms— I do not value you or this relationship enough to warrant an expenditure of my time or energy to try to achieve resolution.
Anger is a response to injustice, rudeness, impoliteness, impoverishment, impudence, and abuse. Rage is a reaction to situations, circumstances, people, processes, and problems. Responses are generated by present stimuli. Reactions are a re-activation of one’s history and memories about people, processes, and problems.
These rage reactions are almost always disproportionate to what is being said or done or not done or said to one’s satisfaction. Angry responses are proportional to what is coming towards us or being taken away from us.
These reactive behaviors and actions warrant these types of reactions from others: “Where is all of this coming from…?” or “Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill?” In other words, the person might be angry at a pounds’ worth, but is dumping a tons’ worth of rage on them.
Rage incorporates statements like “You always,” or, “You never.” They often include ultimatums and threats. The one raging believes in a black and white mentality, all or nothing, or my way or the highway.
Anger uses words like, “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “every now and then.” Anger is comfortable with some gray areas.
Anger engages conflict and rage runs from it. The angry men or women are in essence saying I have a problem and I am seeking a solution. Rage says you have a problem and that’s the problem—no solution in sight.
Anger says let’s confront these divisive issues; rage says let’s further divide. A CEO who attended one of my corporate anger presentations, stood up during my talk and said, “I never run from confrontations. I stand toe to toe with anyone. I get in their face no matter what I have to do or say to get my point across.” The sturdy, sixty-year-old with a crew-cut haircut sat down with a satisfied look on his face.
I responded, “Does that include yelling, calling people names, and other like behaviors or actions?”
“Whatever it takes!” he replied.
These actions and behaviors often employed in conflicted situations are self-defeating. One reason is that many people (including the aforementioned CEO) are avoiding conflict, in spite of how things may appear on the surface. They hate confrontations because in the past this meant they felt defeated by their parents, coaches, teachers, ex-wives or husbands.
But perhaps a more significant explanation for so much avoidance is that most people have not been taught how to do it with a win-win attitude. Instead we’re taught there can only be one winner or one loser; an approach grounded in rage.
When we realize that it is inappropriate actions and reactions that cover our emotions, a new freedom is developed to speak out our feelings without fear of retaliation and retribution. And now that our responses are proportional to people and circumstances, neither the speaker nor listener has anything to fear.
PASSIVE WORDS USED BY THE RAGING PERSON:
- You always _____.
- You never _____.
- Why can’t you _____?
- If only you _____.
- It’s all your fault.
- Shame on you.
- You’re lying.
- When are you going to _____?
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