Healing anger - the differences between anger and rage
Anger and rage are completely different phenomena with different origins, purposes and, therefore, different therapy needs.
Anger is not an emotion to be “conquered” or “beaten.” On the contrary it is an extremely important emotion – one that is vital for our continued well-being. It helps us to care for ourselves. It helps us to identify when something is not quite right and needs attention. Anger itself has very different characteristics to rage.
Anger can be characterised as follows:
- It is respectful of yourself and others. Anger doesn’t mean shouting and screaming – it means taking care of yourself.
- Anger alerts us to the fact that something in the environment around us needs addressing.
- Anger can prevent us from being exploited or manipulated – it’s a kind of self-preservation mechanism.
- Anger protects our sense of self as a unique individual.
Rage, however, is disrespectful to others. It doesn’t solve a problem but only serves to make it worse. Rage can be both hot and explosive or cold and seemingly ‘reasonable’. In both cases however it remains a highly destructive emotion.
Unlike anger, rage is an unconscious process, which cannot be tamed by pure willpower or by attempting to alter behaviour. These approaches will not result in a longer-term resolution to ongoing anger and rage issues. As an individual is unable to deal with more and more life’s experiences in a healthy way, they experience more and more stress. This in turn can lead to a feeling of a whole raft of different emotions trying to get out, which then explode in an uncontrollable rage.
A safe and supportive environment - the therapeutic relationship - provides the environment in which significant life events that a person has not yet been able to come to terms with (trauma) are organically processed. Events such as bereavement, divorce, trauma, illnesses and abuse can all lead to trauma. At any moment the body is wanting to process trauma, to bring ourselves into balance; safety allows us to put aside our normal defences and express the emotion, which could not be felt at the time. This in turn reduces the internal stress that has previously erupted as rage. This is what is known as an empathic approach to anger management.
The key benefit of this empathic approach is that it provides a long-term solution to anger and rage issues, giving a person the ability to heal, to remain stable and – crucially – to be able to regulate themselves in the future.
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About Sue Parker Hall
I am a Certified Transactional Analyst (UKCP registered) and a BACP snr. accredited therapist. I facilitate personal and professional development in a variety of settings (statutory and voluntary).
Author of Anger, Rage and Relationship: An Empathic Approach to Anger Management (Routledge, 2008).