May 8, 2023


Part 1

There is a very fine line between anger that is warranted and anger that goes beyond the called for response. Sounds like double talk so let me clarify. I think I’m safe in saying that all of us, at one time or another, have gotten angry. Sometimes it’s triggered by an event and sometimes we just get angry at ourselves. There are also other times when our anger seems to go beyond the normal range and can turn to rage. Let’s discuss the latter, rage.

When anger turns to out-of-control rage there are only two emotions driving it: shame and/or guilt. The reasons for the guilt or shame may be real or just perceived to be real but will have the same impact. Shame and guilt feelings lead to inner pain that can translate to explosive anger. I’ve seen explosive anger and rage repeatedly during my years working with violent children and adults. Whether or not guilt and/or shame is warranted or just perceived, the threat is real, and the violence can get out of control.

I’ve had clients say, “Nonsense, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed”, and they felt their anger was justified. One client called it “righteous anger”, but In every single case, I would work with them on timelines and in every single case, they would discover the shame and guilt that was fueling the rage. Take my word for it, if you have explosive anger episodes, the cause lies in your unresolved pasts and the life experiences you have absorbed and have not closed out.

I’m going to simplify a very complicated set of circumstances leading to angry outbursts. They are a “symptom” of a far deeper problem. So, stop “chasing symptoms” and know, if you have a problem controlling your anger, you need to assess the reasons and get help. The issues come from within you, not outside you, meaning, stop trying to justify or rationalize an unacceptable social behavior. If you can do that, you will begin to understand the emotions driving the anger or rage. If you can’t, you will continue to get angry at others and the world for your own insecurities and wind up a very angry and bitter person. Anger will ultimately eat you alive like cancer.

Anger Management was a funny movie but did not realistically address the underlying problem. The movie and our legal system think anger management classes will suffice for resolving your problems. NO, NO, NO. It is simply a “healthier ground” than violence. It will only be a band aid until you dig deeper into yourselves and find the cause of such outbursts. Again, I have witnessed and have personally experienced triggered violent episodes. In my experiences on a crisis response team, my ability to see through the rage saved a potentially violent outcome to the calls. Zeroing in on the pain that fueled the anger worked 100% of the time for me.

My tip for anyone in a situation where someone is in a rage is to hone-in on the pain they are in and not try to compete with the anger. It will only escalate the situation. Try saying “I can see you are in a lot of pain, let’s just talk about it”. Sounds simple and a little weird for a response to someone in a rage at you, but like I’ve said, it’s been a successful tool for me. Let me put it another way, it is a heck of a lot safer than confronting their anger with more anger. That ending will put someone in the ER or in the morgue.

I will continue the discussion on anger and rage in my next blog post, but for now, learn the forces behind the outbursts. Learn from your timelines where shame and guilt may have originated. Also, know the sequence of such outbursts. They will always have a past origin. The cause can be from childhood abuse all the way up to adult events that generated guilt and/or shame. Without proper resolution, anger and rage are like a loaded gun, ready to go off at any subtle cue in your environment.

For today I’ll leave you with this statement. The moment you feel your unacceptable outburst or rage is justified is the moment you will stop growing and start “Spinning”. Start educating yourselves now!

Mind, Body, Spirit…Balance!

Vinnie Strumolo, CEO, CCO, LMFT