Category Archives: anger

Rage and its alternatives

Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers,
for each rage leaves him less than he had been before –
 it takes something from him.
~Louis L’Amour~

Have you tried passing a car on an expressway only to find another car five feet from your back bumper? Have you tried to do something for a friend only to hear you are stupid for not doing it his way? For some people, annoyance can quickly escalate into rage.

Babies cry when they are uncomfortable but they are not in a rage. It seems clear that expressing rage is something that must be learned. Sometimes family patterns date back several generations. While there may be a few people affected in each generation, fortunately not all family members are tainted by a tendency to rage.

What is rage? The dictionary defines it as uncontrollable anger. Sometimes anger is justified. Being angry is appropriate when someone deliberately wrongs you. Other ways to handle anger besides rage exist. You can express your anger directly to the one who had wronged you. You can explain how you feel in case the other person was unaware of how their behavior affected you. You can stop to consider your reaction to see if your anger is justified.

Rage means allowing your anger to consume you to the extent that you lose control. You might talk louder, carry on incoherently, dump venom on your aggressor, or perhaps lash out in a physical fury. Rage is generally an overreaction to a situation, out of proportion to the circumstances.

How does rage develop? On the surface, it seems that someone does something you don’t like and you react with rage. There is another step, an inner one. You tell yourself that the other person had no right to do what he did. He is only doing it to upset you. If he had any sense, he would not do such a thing. You don’t deserve what he did. You should not have to put up with him acting in such a stupid way. He is so dense the only thing he could possibly understand is your blasting him. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

You can work yourself into a rage quickly. If you frequently entertain thoughts such as the above, it does not take long to end up in a rage. Once you are in a rage, you have little control of your emotions. Rage is, by definition, uncontrollable anger. It is easier to interrupt the process of becoming angry than it is to stop it once it explodes.

You have two other choices. One is to avoid situations where you know you are likely to go off the deep end. Unfortunately, you can’t always predict when this will happen.You can also think about what you tell yourself when something upsetting happens. Is this person deliberately trying to upset you? Does she know you are likely to be upset? Could you explain how you feel in a milder way than rage? You can also think about your ability to share other emotions besides rage. If you don’t know how to show embarrassment, fear, sorrow or loneliness, you may end up expressing all your negative emotions as rage. You can learn to change this pattern by talking with a friend, working with a counselor or taking an anger management course.

Action steps:

  1. How do you deal with angry feelings?
  2. Stop to think about why you are angry?
  3. Think of how you upset yourself.
  4. How do you progress from anger to rage?
  5. How can you express your anger so it will be better understood?

(Excerpt from Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life, 2nd edition, forthcoming).

Dealing with Narcissistic Rage

Dealing with Narcissistic Rage

Hate is the complement of fear and narcissists like being feared.
It imbues them with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence.

~Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited~

Psychiatrist Mark Goulston tells us that engaging people in the midst of narcissistic rage is not likely to be productive. If it is safe, you might just listen until they are finished ranting. You can later request that they talk with you in a calm and respectful manner. If that does not happen the next time, it might be best to just walk away if you can or avoid such people altogether.

Susan Whitbourne, Ph.D. suggests specific ways to handle narcissists:

  • Determine which type you’re dealing with. A grandiose narcissist might be a good ally if your goals exactly match theirs. Vulnerable narcissists are harder to deal with because they are constantly on the lookout for people who might further diminish their already poor concept of themselves.
  • Acknowledge your annoyance. Learn to recognize where your annoyance lies, usually related to the person who constantly interrupts you when you are trying to accomplish something.
  • Appreciate where the behavior comes from. Understand that vulnerable narcissists need to make themselves feel better. A modicum of reassurance for them is necessary to focus them on a group task. Just don’t get carried away with praising them or they will take over a project.
  • Evaluate the context. Some situations will worsen tendencies toward being defensive, vindictive and spiteful. One example is a narcissist who is passed over for a promotion  but still needs to work with the team who they are not leading.
  • Maintain a positive outlook. Some narcissists enjoy seeing others suffer. Letting them see your annoyance is likely to just increase their efforts to make your life more miserable.
  • Don’t let yourself get derailed. Stay focused on your own goals despite a narcissist’s efforts to take center stage and monopolize the direction of your group.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Try using humor to react to a narcissist’s attempt to monopolize group goals rather than direct confrontation.
  • Recognize that the person may need help.  Narcissists whose low self esteem leads them to their disruptive behavior may be in need of help to find better ways to improve how they see themselves.

These suggestions appear to be good ones when you are the one in charge. If the narcissist is the one in charge, your chances of using any of them successfully will be quite diminished. Using any of these approaches when you are in a vulnerable or one-down position is likely to be seen as undermining the power of the narcissist in charge. In such a situation, your options for improving the situation do not look good. Your best bet may be to find a way to remove yourself from the situation or group.

Maybe you are not ready to flee or are in a position of not being able to afford doing so. Now what? Susan Price has some ideas. Here is one possible scenario: “Your boss is a complete narcissist: he expects you to be at his whim all day, he blames everyone for mistakes except himself, argues and contradicts employees with every small detail even things he said himself!” If this sounds familiar, read on. Here are her suggestions for handling the situation:

  • Forget being friends. You will have to sell your soul to be considered a friend by such a person. Remember that narcissists are not capable of making friends in the sense of having mutual respect and caring for each other. Your interests are never a priority.
  • Don’t criticize. Your criticism will never be taken at face value. Anger or rage is to be expected when you criticize a narcissist.
  • Focus on analyzing problems. Sharing your feelings is not likely to get you anywhere. Narcissists are interested only in their own feelings. Instead, concentrate on problems and potential solutions. Then, don’t count on receiving credit for a good idea.
  • Let him or her make decisions.  Presenting options works better than suggesting the best option. Then allow him or her to take credit for the plan.
  • Make him or her look and feel good. His or her importance and having it recognized are uppermost in such a person’s mind. Don’t be stingy with praise.
  • Absorb the blame. Narcissists never see themselves at fault. Someone else is always the blame for whatever goes wrong.
  • Set boundaries and keep them. Try to focus on solutions and temper criticism with praise.
  • Don’t compete. Don’t expect praise for yourself or thanks for doing a good job. A narcissist will always take credit for teaching you to do a good job.

To survive, you need to set aside your own needs and become a cog in the machine operated by a narcissistic boss. Staying afloat is a tricky business and has few rewards. You might be better off finding a more rational and rewarding position. If you decide to stay, don’t expect much for yourself.

You might be wondering whether dealing with a narcissist with power is a lost cause. It is difficult but not impossible. In a social group, you can work with others to reconstitute the group without the offending narcissist. In a corporation, the board of directors, informed by shareholders and workers, has power over any given boss. In government, citizens have power to elect representatives who have the power to contain if not remove narcissists not in touch with public needs.  In all these cases, your job is to start working with others and find a mutual path toward resolving the impasse.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Dealing with a narcissist is an uphill battle at best.
  • Don’t expect to do the impossible.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself.
  • Get support from others in your venture.
  • Try to avoid situations where narcissists have power over you.

(Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Anger in America)

Build Bridges Rather Than Walls

 

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

~Plato~

I have been writing articles for fifteen years .My goal as been to encourage people to look at themselves, their inner workings and their relationships as a way to come closer to others as a world community. As such, I see it as our responsibility to understand each other, learn what is important to others and find ways we can work together in our common interest. I have heard from many people over the years who are working to find a productive and cooperative way to live in peace with others.

In the past few years, citizens of our planet have increasingly turned against each other. Finding ways to work together has faded and become tarnished as more of us are tempted to turn toward grabbing what we want, ignoring what is good for anyone else, and worshipping our own needs. In my opinion, President Trump has seized on this trend, especially latching on to the anger many people feel and express over not having what they want and feel they deserve.

Although he talks about his goal as sticking up for ordinary people, his decisions so far do not offer much to the common people. The benefits of his decisions are more geared to corporations and the wealthy, which includes him.

He has not mellowed any since his inauguration and appears as petulant as ever. In my study of anger for a book I am writing, I have come to see more clearly the connection between anger and fear. The more anger a person shows, the deeper his or her fear. As far as I can tell, his fear is of not being number one, not getting enough adulation and not being appreciated. With the smallest slight, he retaliates in anger.

Why do walls have a special place in his heart? My sense is that this is his way to protect himself from the ravages of the hordes who would decrease his fortunes. He clings to his fortune and exaggerated sense of himself to make himself feel worthwhile. The fear which underlies anger and rage are often rooted in early life experiences. I don’t know enough about his early life to speak with authority, but I would suspect that he suffers from emotional wounds at a young age.

We think of walls and bridges as constructed of concrete and steel. Yet if we feel a need to protect ourselves emotionally, we build emotional walls between ourselves and others to make us feel safe. After resolving our own inner hurt, we can then feel safe enough to start building emotional bridges between us and others.

The natural reaction of a hurt person to anger expressed toward him or her is to hurt the person seen as an attacker. Responding to Trump’s anger with our own anger just makes it harder for him to recover from his own sense of being hurt and escalates his tendency to react to everyone he sees as a threat with even greater anger.

I have come to realize that my anger aroused by Trump’s actions results from my own pain residing in my inner child. I will work on my own sense of hurt signified by my anger toward Trump. I will work toward a sense of compassion for his inner child and for the pain he has accumulated.

Life Lab Lessons

  • When you feel anger toward someone, look inside yourself to see what inner hurt triggers your anger.
  • Before you engage someone else, work to resolve your own feeling of hurt.
  • See others’ anger as a sign of their inner feelings of being hurt.
  • Once you have resolved your own feelings, see what you can do to help others see the meaning of their own anger.
  • Help them resolve their feelings of hurt if they will let you.

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How can people move past anger after the election?

Why do elections create such strong emotions?

In any election both sides have invested a lot of passion, energy and time in their point of view. For many reasons humans take not getting their point of view validated as a menace and a threat to their well-being. When we have to coexist with someone who has a different point and their point of view is victorious, it’s hard.

It’s quite challenging to be in a world where one’s strongly held views are repudiated. Our minds wrap around the rightness of our view and the need to have other people share those views in order to feel that there is order and safety. If you find out the other side has won, it is a loss which needs to be grieved and it creates a tremendous amount of vulnerability.

Excerpt from Amy Adam article in Stanford News- read more