Norman L. Coad, D.Min
Anger is an intense emotional response that arises out of fear, pain and unmet expectations, or unfairness, with various levels of intensity. Some of the levels of anger are expressed in words such as: annoy, irk, vex, affront, offend, irritate, incense, infuriate, exasperate, enrage, etc.
Rage (or wrath) is anger that has been stuffed away, packed away, crammed in, and hidden from sight. The initial cause of the anger is no longer attached to a specific event, but is generalized, unfocused anger that builds in intensity and volume the longer it remains unresolved.
Anger is a good, normal, healthy emotion whose purpose is to protect. Rage is destructive, erodes our well being, affects our health and puts us at risk.
Psychology and Sociology recognize three types of anger:
Hasty and Sudden Anger—that tied to a specific event or events.
Settled and Deliberate Anger—that of perceived, deliberate harm or unfair treatment. This too is tied to specific events.
Dispositioned Anger—that related to character traits, instincts and perceived, known events that manifest in irritability and aggrevation.
Anger can potentially mobilize psychological resources, boost determination toward correcting wrong behaviors, promote social justice, communicate negative sentiment and redress grievances. It can also be used to develop patience.
In the book of John, we are told Jesus (the Lord) went up to Jerusalem at Jewish Passover. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market (John 2:13-16 NIV). He was angry, but did not sin. He corrected an evil practice of the religious establishment. For we do not have a high priest (the Lord Jesus Christ) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15 NIV).
Rage is destructive when it impairs our ability to process information and to exert control over our behavior. The rageful one can lose objectivity, empathy and cause harm to self and others.
Rage can move us to physical and verbal abuse that results in direct or indirect aggression.
Neurological studies tie anger and rage to innate fight or flight reactions. Anger is often a response to perceived threat to oneself or to another, and frustration has long been recognized as a trigger for anger and aggression. This reactive aggression progresses from one level of intensity to another without regard for any potential good. Low levels of danger from distant threats induce freezing. Higher levels of danger from closer threats induce attempts to escape the immediate environment. Still higher levels of danger from a close threat, when escape is impossible, initiate reactive aggressions (unprovoked attack or act of hostility).
When someone is experiencing and expressing anger, they are not using the thinking part of the brain where logic, judgment and strategy part of the brain reside, but the emotional center of the brain which resides in the limbic system where the more primitive elemental responses originate.
How Rage Is Produced
When the flight response is used to protect in anger producing situations there is no resolution to the anger (e.g. if the loss is verbally abusive or wounding you may not respond and deal with the situation to keep your job): What does one do with the anger? It is put inside and ignored. The anger is put away as live ammunition that can explode at any moment. All that stuffed anger gradually loses its connection to specific anger events. This becomes unfocused rage and/or wrath. A lid is put over this place to keep it from coming forth to vent too easily. The pressure builds up until it almost chokes the person. At this point a “safe anger event” is used to lower the pressure such as blowing up at spouse and children, road rage and the like. Lowering the pressure is not good anger management nor anger resolution.
As Blaise Pascal (French philosopher and mathematician, 1623-1662) said, “The emotions have their reasons that the reasons cannot know.”
The emotional data goes to the amygdala which can cause a panic feeling (called an amygdala hijacking) to occur. This produces an emotional reaction without much regard to consequences. The surge of energy in the overriding event releases a flood of hormones triggering the fight or flight response. A longer lasting hormone is released that can last for several hours (or days).
Tissue damage resulting in loss of functioning in the frontal cortex can lead to impaired behavioral control (considering anger from a cognitive neuroscience perspective).
Frustration occurs when the individual continues to do an action and no reward occurs. Also, failure to distribute resources equally leads to anger and retribution by those unfairly treated—frustration has long been recognized as a trigger to anger.
There is then a simple distinction between passive anger versus aggressive anger, or rage.
Passive anger characteristics may include:
- Dispassion—without passion, emotion, or without bias; uninvolved, i.e., giving someone the cold shoulder; being unconcerned; “sitting on the fuse”; checking out with drugs or alcohol; oversleeping; being unresponsive to others anger or frigidity; objectifying your sex partner; substituting talk or intellectualizing instead of being involved and taking action.
- Evasiveness—avoiding; not dealing with the issue, not being assertive; walking away.
- Defeatism—being negative, playing the victim role, feeling and acting powerlessly; procrastinating; majoring on minor issues and neglecting the real, more challenging issues at hand; staying in a frustrated, unproductive state and never resolving issues.
- Obsessive Behaviors—being germophobic, unnecessarily washing hands, over verifying all things and still not being confident of a proper outcome; excessive dieting, overeating; perfectionism.
- Psychological Manipulation—provoking others to anger and rage; patronizing; not giving appropriate support to whom it is due; emotional blackmail; false tearfulness; feigning illness; undermining relationships; using sex to get what you want; being negative or critical to another about someone else, gossiping; withholding, or using money or other resources to get people to do what you want.
- Secretive Behavior—concealing one’s thoughts, feelings, etc., from others; reticence, not being open or frank; hiding resentments; being two-faced—being one way to some people and acting differently to others; putting others down to build yourself up, making anonymous complaints, poison pen letters, stealing, conniving.
- Self-blame—apologizing too often; overly, harshly criticizing oneself and others; inviting criticism; setting oneself up for failure.
- Aggressive Anger (Rage)—aggressive anger characteristics may include:
- Bullying—threatening people directly, persecuting, pushing and shoving, using power to oppress, shouting, road rage, playing on people’s weaknesses.
- Destructiveness—destroying objects; vandalism; harming animals; child abuse; destroying a relationship; reckless driving; substance abuse.
- Grandiosity—showing off; expressing mistrust; being a sore loser; always wanting to be center stage; talking over people’s heads; expecting kiss and make-up sessions to solve problems.
- Hurtfulness—violence; mean, cruel behavior to others; abuse: sexual, physical, verbal, emotional psychological; religious, ritual, etc.; rape, a crime of violence; hate crimes: prejudice—motivated crime often violent targeting victims based on sex, ethnicity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation; labeling and profiling; willfully discriminating; blaming and punishing people.
- Threats of Violence—frightening people by threatening bodily harm; finger pointing; threats against property or their livelihood, name, or family; projecting symbols associated with violent crimes; slamming doors, etc.
- Stereotyping is based on unvarying, fixed perceptions of certain individuals or groups of people which is a caricature (a deliberately distorted picturing of a person or group) emphasizing badness, ugliness, inferiority.
- Scapegoat—a person, group or thing to which we assign the blame for the mistakes, crimes or misfortunes of others which are really caused by other agencies.
- Projection—the unconscious act or process of ascribing to others one’s own ideas, emotions, attributes or behaviors which are viewed as undesirable, bad, evil or wicked, this being done by an individual or a group. When by a group, the group is viewed as the source of many or all problems. The psychological effect is to rid the projecting individual or group of the responsibility to deal with their own issues or for a group to engage in their life situations and seek real salutations to their problems.
- Low Self Esteem—one psychological process that individuals and social groups use to enhance their self esteem is to build themselves up by tearing others down. When this occurs it masks itself by an assumed role of superiority while the devalued ones are ascribed the role of the inferior ones.When stereotyping, scapegoating or projecting are tied to low self esteem (which devalues others) are combined, great personal or social damage is done. Dictators and authoritarian regimes seize on this and perpetrate great moral and social injustice. For example, the Christian Church set in motion great events of monumental evil:
- The Council of Elvira in Spain (AD 306) banned the intermarriage of Christians to Jews.
- The Council of Nicaea (AD 325) “We desire, dearest brethren to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews.” The celebration of Easter was separated from the Passover.
- St. Hilary of Poitiers (AD 310–367) referred to Jews as a perverse people God had cursed forever.
- Theodosius the Great (AD 347–395) permitted the destruction of synagogues, as long as it served a religious purpose. The Bishop of Milan immediately reacted by burning a local synagogue to the ground, an act he described as pleasing to God.
- St. Augustine, in 415 AD wrote in The City of God that the Christian Church had replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. He believed Jews to be the enemy of God’s people, saying the “true image of the Hebrew” was Judas Iscariot.
- Historically, the Christian Church has blamed the Jews for killing Jesus, but the Jews say, “No, the Romans killed Jesus.” However, the Bible is clear about it. He laid down his life freely for us all (John 10:17-18).
- The Crusades (AD 1096)—Christian soldiers with crosses emblazoned on their uniforms and a cross before them marched through Europe into the Holy Land butchering Muslim and Jew alike. They celebrated their capture of Jerusalem by herding Jews into the great synagogue and burned them alive as they sang, “Christ We Adore Thee.”
- The Spanish Inquisition (1480–1834)—thousands of Jews were burned at the stake, their property confiscated and those not killed were ordered to leave the country. This was launched by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
- Pope Leo decreed that Jews were to be confined to ghettos and their property confiscated (1826).
- The Holocaust and Nazi Germany under Hitler (1933-1945) in an act of genocide murdered six million Jews.
- Paul Helberg, in The Destruction of European Jews, writes: Since the fourth century after Christ, there have been three anti-Jewish policies (forced) conversion, expulsion, annihilation. The second appeared as an alternative to the first, the third emerged as an alternative to the second. The missionaries of Christianity said in effect, “You have no right to live among us as Jews.” The secular ruler who followed proclaimed “You have no right to live among us.” The Nazis at last decreed, “You have no right to live.” Ilyich Lenin (1820-1924) and Josef Stalin (1879-1933) initiated the practices which we called Stalinism. Stalin consolidated his power over the Soviet Socialist Republic by practicing totalitarianism over occupied or politically dominated countries. Stalin ruthlessly gathered up his political enemies, tortured them to get information, then isolated them in labor camps or prisons and/or executed them. It is reported that he murdered over eleven million people. It is stated in Lenin’s, The Lessons of the Paris Communal, that the reason that the Paris Commune failed in 1871 was because they did not kill their enemies. Stalin took this evil principle further than anyone else in history. They, however, drew from the practices in Europe that had occurred before. That is to say, “You have no right to live as you are. You have no right to live among us. You have no right to live.” Wherever totalitarianism exists and dominates, there the same angry, evil practices thrive.
The stereotyping of Negroes and our treatment of the American Indian are ongoing issues in our nation. There were, as is estimated, about thirteen million Indians in America when white settlers arrived on their shores. When the Indian wars were over there were about three hundred thousand. That looks like genocide. Of the almost three hundred treaties made with the Indians not one of them was kept. At this time, our government is working out with the Indian tribes in court the final reparation settlement. My mother’s side of the family who were frontier settlers since before the revolutionary war have shed the blood of red Americans. No one’s hands are clean. Some of my family were slave holders in the antebellum south. They lost everything with the Civil War. My great grandmother and her sister were godly women who did much to nurture biblical Christianity in the family. The truth is as well that they prospered from slavery. After the Civil War none were slave holders. They did not participate in share cropping.
Anger Management’s purpose is to control and regulate anger so that it does not result in problems.
Medical treatment of anger is a type of anger management. In this approach, which is commonly practiced by the medical community, drugs are administered to manage the patient’s anger issues. One sees this with alcohol and drug addicted people, the mentally disabled, migraines, and PTSD to name a few.
The psychological community often uses cognitive therapies in anger management. These may include: relaxation techniques, monitored breathing exercises, cognitive restructuring and imagery, anger journal writing, the effectiveness of such therapies is very difficult to assess.
Anger Resolution arises out of the fact that the flight response has been over used in anger producing situations. If one takes flight, does not process the anger event to the point of resolution, then the anger is still active. In order to control it we put anger inside us (called “stuffing”). It sits there until some sort of resolution of anger is realized.
I use a very simple seven step process to resolve anger:
1. Ask the Lord to help you limit the amount of anger you deal with, and also to help you limit the amount of anger you deal with at any one time so that you are not out of control.
2. Admit I am angry.
3. Let the anger come up.
4. Express the anger in a way that does not hurt you or others:
1) Begin by going into your bedroom. Close the door and speak out loud of the angry memory you are experiencing.
2) Then begin screaming into a pillow.
3) Then hit the bed (or some combination or equivalent of these).
5. When tired, say out loud, “I forgive; I let it go.” (We all know that saying it is so does not make it so.)
6. Check your anger feeling. Some times you feel it in your stomach, other times in your heart in painful sharp feelings. Other times it seems that within you the anger rises up in order to do battle. If the anger feeling is there then the anger is not resolved.
7. Repeat the above.
Note: It may, and often does, take several repetitions before the amount of anger is resolved. Continue until you have resolution.
This is a psychological tool to help you deal successfully with your rage. It works. The more you use the tool, the more skilled you become.
Exceptions: 1) It will not work if you do not work the steps and continue until resolution. 2) If the anger/rage keeps on building and does not diminish, then it is demonically empowered. In this case, the demon programming of rage must be cast out. Then return to use the seven step resolution process.
Anger is a good, normal, healthy emotion that is tied to specific events. It is used to protect.
Rage is destructive, unfocused and can occur if triggered and may result in compulsive acting out.
Rationalizations such as stereotyping, scapegoating and blaming psychologically release us of the responsibility to deal with real problems in the real world responsibly.
Dictatorial and authoritarian regimes use these rationalizations to do great evil. Historically, they are not alone in this behavior. The Christian Church and White America have perpetrated great evil this way.
Anger management and anger resolution are used to deal with aggressive anger or rage.
1. Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus. Springfield, MA, Merriam-Webster Inc., 1976.
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/anger.3. Ibid.4. Ibid.5. Ibid.
16. Blair, R. J. R. ( 2001) “Neuro-cognitive models of aggression, the Antisocial Personality Disorders and Psychopathy.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 71, 727 -731.Abstract.
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