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by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


Rage - How To Stay In Control


We all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it: either as mild irritation or at times as extreme displeasure. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive feelings and behaviours, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, is, therefore, necessary to our survival and a completely normal, healthy, human emotion.

But when it turns to rage, it is anger that is out of control and destructive. Although rage stems from anger, rage is never heathy. Rage denotes a complete loss of control and is characterised by shouting, threats of violence as well as acts of violence, and involves a degree of aggressiveness that is out of proportion to any provocation. Unlike anger, rage is not a normal, healthy emotion. Rage is destructive and harmful to all involved.

If you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening – both to yourself as well as to the victim of your rage – you will need to seek help to find better ways to express your anger and deal with your emotion. There are psychological tests which can test your ability to express anger apropriately, but most of us know if we have a probem with rage. We understand, almost instinctively, that our anger is not healthy anger.

It’s worth having an idea of the common ways in which most of us deal with anger. In general people use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming.

1. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive, not aggressive, manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. It can sometimes be very difficult to tread the line between assertiveness and aggression – especially in the heat of the moment.

2. Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn’t allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression.

Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticising everything, and making cynical comments haven’t learned how to constructively express their anger. Not surprisingly, they aren’t likely to have many successful relationships.

3. Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside. This response can be especially helpful if things have become over-heated and you need to restore your balance before expressing your anger in an appropriate and uselful way. Many people find that by removing themselves, physically, from the situation is also helpful. However, it’s important that the anger is addressed later when your feelings have calmed down and you are again in control.

Strategies to help you calm down angry feelings include:

Simple relaxation, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won’t relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your “gut”.
  • Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax”, “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
  • Use imagery; visualise a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
You can download our free relaxation audio from The Real Secret website

Practise these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you’re in a tense situation.

Think! When you’re angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, “oh, it’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,” tell yourself, “it’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow.” Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything, that it won’t make you feel better and may actually make you feel worse.

Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it’s justified, can quickly become irrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that the world is not out to get you, you’re just experiencing some of the day to day irritations that are a part of everyone’s daily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it’ll help you get a more balanced perspective.

Angry people tend to jump to and act on conclusions, and some of those conclusions can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do if ywhich ou’re in a heated discussion is slow down and think through your responses. Don’t say the first thing that comes into your head, but slow down, breathe, and think carefully about what you want to say. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering. Try to stay as cool as you can, reminding yourself that allowing yourself to get into a rage will not solve anything.

I have only touched the tip of the iceberg that is rage. There is a great more to say but that will have to wait for another day. My main aim today has been to look at the ways in which we typically deal with anger and to offer some simple techniques for dealing with anger that has the potential to become an unhealthy rage.

Victim support: We would like to know more about the experience of being on the receiving end of a rage attack and so it would be very helpful if anyone reading this blog and who has had such an experience could comment on how they coped and what strategies for coping they would recommend.

Posted by Annabel

There are exercises and activities in The Real Secret which can help you gain control of your life, communicate more effectively and process anger, grief and trauma. You can buy it in paperback or Kindle formats on and, as well as other online booksellers; you can order it through any bookshop.

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