Name-calling, cursing, pushing, shoving, grabbing and worse. You can’t believe it got that far, but it did, and you don’t recognize yourself.
Sounds like a rage attack. Anger plus panic til you reach a tipping point, and you are out of control. It feels like the other person is hurting you from the inside out and not the outside in.
Fertile Ground for Anger: Anxiety and Depression
Once you are in a full-on rage attack, any plea to “control” yourself is useless because the part of you that’s in charge has left the building. You have a better chance of modulating this behavior if you can catch it and recognize it as it builds. Think about the day it happened and even the day before. Go through it with a fine tooth comb. Were you tired? Were you sick? Were you worried about something? Has something big changed in the past year? Job? Partner? Baby? Apartment? Is it possible you are depressed? Nothing sets up a rage attack better than a day of self-loathing. Do you suffer with chronic worry and obsessive thoughts? That fried feeling is fertilizer for rage.
If you can, sit down. In fact, relax onto the couch or the floor. Soft muscles will short-circuit an on-coming attack. Take a deep breath. You can be really really angry and do nothing. I’m going to state that again: You can be really really angry and do nothing.
So Good, So Bad
One thing I see over and over in my office is a person trying very hard to be good. This person tries so hard to be good, they are tied in knots inside. Your saintlike tendencies will dissolve into the devil’s work if you push yourself beyond human limits. But it’s likely you don’t even know you are pushing yourself too hard until you flash over into anger. It may be that you are modelling yourself after a patient parent. (I know about this, I had a mother who was a saint.)
Sometimes it’s the opposite. You came from a family that yells. Having tasted impatience and irritability in your young life, you want to protect others from the hurts you suffered. Don’t get me wrong, I like goodness. But when does it go beyond the possible? You are a human being with limits on your energies. Are you asking too much of yourself? If, for example, you spend all day in a work environment where you constantly deal with slights, crazy deadlines and interruptions, you will be frazzled when you get home. And anyone who cares for young children may make it to 4:30 p.m., but after that your mood is toast.
It may help to count to ten, but rage is such that you may calm down momentarily and be right back in the red zone in an instant. Better you should exit the scene if you can. Take a walk, longer rather than shorter. If you are fighting with an adult, ask them if they are willing to pause the fight. And partners, spouses, friends, I’m begging you to give the raging person space. I know I’m asking for something that’s well nigh impossible. You want to be understood, you want to win, you need to make your point. It feels like life or death. It isn’t, but it feels that way.
The angry outburst is a culmination of 10,000 pinches, pokes and demands. If you want to sift out the ones you can be in charge of, give me a call. (212) 929-9897.
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