May 22, 2023


3 – Part Series on Anger

Part 3

In Part 3 of my 3-part series on anger I wanted to address how people may use anger as a defense to keep others at a distance. This is especially true with past unresolved childhood abuse. Often, these memories of a loved one who hurt them leads to adult relationships and the use of anger to keep people at a distance. This is also true of people who have been hurt in relationships and subsequently hurt those in later relationships. Anger is a great defense to keep people from getting too close to hurt you again. 

Anger is a very dangerous and destructive emotion that needs clinical attention when out of control. I have found that when anger turns to violence there is little that can be done to defuse it. It takes on a life of its own and needs to cycle out. Anger that turns to rage, then violence, is a vicious cycle that just causes more shame, guilt and traumas and the “Spinning” continues.

The anger cycle needs to be broken. The immediate fix is applying a “healthy ground” (e.g., Anger Management, sports, exercise, journaling, meditating), a method I refer to as applying a band aid. This band aid will temporarily defuse the situation. However, I have found that even the most effective grounds will only hold off outbursts for a short period of time. It’s imperative that those of you suffering from this symptom seek treatment. Without treatment anger will consume you and your loved ones like a cancer.

The irony when treating anger and violence is that loved ones who have not been involved with your past traumas/life events usually are at the receiving end of the outbursts. This is typical and present with children who have been abused. The children are rightfully terrified of expressing anger towards abusers and will take it out on safer loved ones in later life. These children will use anger to control their environments and loved ones while simultaneously keeping loved ones at an emotional distance. It’s a “catch 22, damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.

I can address the numerous situations where anger and violence are the lingering symptoms of past traumas/life events, and where loved ones take the brunt of the abuser’s rage (e.g., abandonment, neglect, etc.). But for the sake of time, let me just say that violence keeps loved ones at a distance and causes further traumas.

To the victims of survivor’s rage, I’ll leave you with one possible intervention that has repeatedly worked for me over the years. Do not argue with people who are getting very angry, it will only fuel the rage they already are feeling. In fact, it’s what they are looking for to be able to put the internal pain to rest. Focus your energies on the pain they are in and try using the following statement that has worked for me in my past mobile crisis and hospital experiences: “I can see you are in a lot of pain, let’s just talk about it”. This will at worst, cause the abuser to stop and think about what you just said, and best case it will defuse the situation.

I do recognize that it’s very difficult for loved ones caught up in the heat of the moment to focus on the pain the abusers are in. You, the loved ones, are also being traumatized, and may think it’s okay to let the abusers have it with your anger and rage from being abused, but it’s neither the time nor the place.

It’s just safer to focus on defusing the situation so no further damage or injuries are incurred. It can be a matter of life and death. Once the rage is defused, the immediate danger will be over, and it will be time for the loved ones to also seek help for the traumas they have suffered.

I will leave you all by saying that anger/rage are destructive feelings. There are just too many deep causes to this emotion. My posts will always pertain to anger/rage being a symptom of unresolved past traumas/life events, but there are other reasons that may be the causal agent to this problem. Just know that ignoring outbursts will never solve the problem and needed counseling may be the only answer.

Mind, Body, Spirit…Balance!

Vinnie Strumolo, CEO, CCO, LMFT