Of course, anger is neither good nor bad. It is very useful in a number of ways e.g. a call to action in a crisis, the expression of courage in a conflict and as a warning sign in our bodies that “something” is wrong. But most of us experience anger in an explosive, shaming and negative way. Both as perpetrators of anger on others and when we experience it from others, raging, negative anger deeply wounds our hearts and tears down our relationships.
Rage, a better term for this kind of destructive anger, is a powerful force in human nature. Armed with a legal brief full of blame shifting justifications the raging person launches a verbal (and sometimes physical) assault on another, usually less powerful, person. The power difference can be physical (one is bigger/stronger than the other), positional (bosses to subordinates who might would get fired for taking an equal power stance) or emotional (intimidating personalities who emotionally strip dignity and honor from their victims).
Rageful anger is not a well thought through act by the perpetrator. The rageful perpetrator is usually unaware of the destructive forces being unleashed on their victims. When made aware of the pain they have inflicted, they will pull out defensive weapons of justification, blame, bringing up old offenses and “proving that the victim intended harm” so rage was the “only” possible response. In other words, the rageful person attempts to prove that the victim “deserves” the pain that rage inflicts upon them.
If you consistently rage, you are also at risk. There are serious health consequences for those who rage. Heart attacks are more likely. Strokes, abdominal pain, chest pain and jaw pain are more likely. Anxiety and addictions are more frequent. Divorce and estrangement from children and other important relationships result in isolation and loneliness all of which predict shorter life span.
Rageful anger is a life force that has no upside for the perpetrator, victim or society. Domestic violence keeps our police departments busy. The inability to control rage causes job loss, criminal prosecution and destruction of important relationships. There are no benefits to rage.
Fortunately, there are answers. There are programs and counseling that are successful to mitigate destructive anger responses. Anger Management Classes are available everywhere. A more private option is Anger Management focused individual and family counseling. It is unlikely that a habitually rageful person will be able to “just say no” to rage. It usually takes outside support with specific change strategies for peace to replace the rage inside.
For victims of rage, it can be very difficult to effectively confront. Individual and family counseling can provide supported strategies to help spouses and children and employees of raging individuals to find safe havens from which they can heal and cope and effectively confront their perpetrators to get the help they need.
Without intervention, rageful anger tears at the fabric of society, families and the raging person themselves. It is a destructive force with no benefits. There are answers. Seeking anger management strategies from a specialist can bring peace to one’s life and relationships.
William D. Oldham, MDiv., LPC