Anger Or Rage?

Is it Anger or Rage?

Anger noun: A strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrongRage noun: A fit of violent anger

Everyone gets angry. This may seem to be an overly simplistic statement, however, it is worth considering that while we easily acknowledge happiness, sadness, jealousy or guilt as valid emotions, somehow we often feel it is wrong to express anger. This may be because we often confuse anger with rage. Therefore, it seems the true question is, what is the difference between anger and rage:

  • What exactly is anger verses rage?
  • What is it like for you to get angry as opposed to feeling enraged?
  • What makes you angry or pushes you into a state of rage?
  • What, if any, is the use of anger as opposed to the destructive force of rage?
  • What is the impact of anger or rage on you and those you love?

The underlying issue that needs clarification is the distinction between anger and rage. In truth, anger is a highly motivating feeling. We experience heightened reasoning and cognition. Anger can propel us to stand up against injustice or defend ourselves and those we care about in times of need. We often, in short, make better decisions when we are angry. It can help us with something as simple as settling up a mismanaged account with the telephone company, if we learn to regulate its affect and harness its power. Anger, when used effectively, can change our worlds. We rarely change our worlds when we are happy with them.

Rage, however, is something very different. It is rage, not anger that pushes us into a highly stressed state where our reasoning and cognition become impaired. We are apt to lash out, become aggressive and do or say things we will later regret. Whereas anger can support us when it is constructively harnessed, rage and its destructive nature is an issue that needs to be managed, controlled and understood.

It can be a complex undertaking in and of itself for us to learn to distinguish between these closely aligned states of being. One constructive place to begin, can be to consider the accompanying feelings we experiences with anger verses rage. By doing this, one can create a starting point through which one can begin to recognise and understand what is going on in a moment of intense emotion. Where anger can make us feel righteous and energised into action, rage is more often than not followed by feelings of shame and guilt; a desperate desire to repair the damage done with no ability to know where to begin. These accompanying feelings most often induce more stress, can lead to further feelings of anger or frustration, and a cycle begins to emerge.

The goal then, is to be able to distinguish between these two states, embrace the positive attributes that anger can provide, while containing the elements of anger that can spin off into rage and destructive behaviour. This may sound easy or over simplistic but, with practice, it can create a framework through which effective emotional management can begin.

Recognising the triggers of your rage can be difficult as they are different for everyone and they often arise quickly. These are often hidden as underlying causes within situations but, inevitably, it is the nature of the trigger that is likely to be the same even if settings or events appear different. It is, therefore, your reaction to a given situation, more than the situation itself, that one must be alert to. You may experience feeling or feelings of being:

  • Ignored (unseen or unheard)
  • Marginalised (set apart from others or undervalued)
  • Humiliated (your feelings are seen as ridiculous)
  • Dismissed (your feelings are seen as unimportant)

It is these responses to situations or events that may set you down an emotionally responsive path, resulting in an overwhelming feeling of anger, which, if unchecked, can lead to rage. The challenge in this moment is to recognise this feeling and make time and space for you to process it as very few situations in the long term are sorted out by a short-term explosive confrontation.

The first and most important step is to understand that defusing the extreme feeling in the moment can enable you to focus on the true source of your rage. Simple things like:

  • Walking away from the situation no matter how abrupt this may seem
  • Telling someone that you are unable to speak with them at that moment and you will return when you are feeling more calm
  • Stay away from alcohol or other behaviour altering substances.
  • Tell someone you will ‘give some thought’ to what is being said and walk away. Even if you do not mean it, it may give you the time you need to reflect, calm down and consider what you hope to gain from the exchange when you return.
  • Ring someone you trust.

Whichever one or combination of the above you choose, the objective is to break or disrupt your pattern or spiral into a state of rage. If you still find that your rage interferes or impinges upon your quality of life, the lives of those you care about, or interferes with work, your next course of action is to seek specialist support.

In short, anger can propel you to fight for a cause, change an injustice or make a change for the better. While in this state you can learn and evaluate the situation when new information comes to light. Anger is a powerful tool when used appropriately. Rage can leave you feeling ashamed and often humiliated by your actions. It can leave you feeling physically exhausted and more isolated having damaged those you care about and who care about you.

Anger is a skilled surgeon, to rages bull in a china shop.