Rage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Explosive Anger

Category: Anger Management
Author: Ronald Potter-Efron MSW PhD
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by napjerks   2019-11-17

Your anger can be controlled if you receive the right training and stick to it for several months. You can take an online class, read a book, or see a therapist who specializes in anger management.

Some therapists are uncomfortable working with anger management. That's why they give pretty useless answers. But what they should really do is offer a referral to some kind of resource. Your current therapist wasn't very helpful in that regard. But you can do it.

Keeping a diary for a few months helps as well. Grab any old ruled notebook and use it as a journal. Write today's date then just a few notes about things that you got agitated about. You don't have to write everything, just the two or three major things. You'll know what is significant enough to write.

Every day spend a few minutes writing down what you get angry about. And anything that makes you somewhat irritated, anxious, annoyed, etc. Then take a few minutes to reflect on what you wrote. You don't have to write a lot. And the reflecting doesn't take long either. But it gets you in the habit of thinking about how you are feeling and reacting. It really helps to try to notice what you feel throughout the day. Not just anger or rage, but any emotions. Pause when you are concerned and put a word to it and say for example, "This is what overwhelmed feels like." Or for example, "This is what frustration feels like." It gives the emotion its time and acknowledges it just to give it a minute to be there. And then continue going about your day.

Any strong negative emotions can feed directly into anger. So this is why recognizing what you are feeling on a daily basis helps. It's the opposite of pushing it away or ignoring it which then makes it come back as anger. So pay attention for a few weeks and you will get in a good habit of it.

When you start to visualize or imagine hurting people, pause. Take a five minute break and go for a walk. This is basically a healthy distraction. Even a five minute walk can help you decompress. Don't listen to music or be on your phone. Just walk hands free. At the end of the day get some exercise or go for a ten to twenty minute walk before dinner. Look at the scenery and people, let your mind decompress by just feeling your feet on the pavement.

If you have difficulty letting go of it, say something more positive about what is happening. "I don't want to be angry any more. They are making me mad but they are human beings too." Say something kind about the situation and something like, "all mistakes are trivial and are forgiven." Anything that helps you have compassion both for them and for yourself. Be especially kind to your self while you are figuring it out. Hang in there!

by napjerks   2019-11-17

Meds are like putting a thick blanket over our problems. It dampens the sound coming from mind and heart on a daily basis. So coming out of them is like waking up. The circuit board is running hot because all the negative thoughts and long term pain we had were suppressed by it. So be especially kind to yourself while you're figuring it out over the next couple months. You will get angry again, the cure isn't over night. But if you take an online class read a book or see an anger management therapist, give it three to six months to learn the techniques and have time to practice them. Don't get angry at yourself for getting angry. That only makes it last that much longer. Treat each anger "episode" as an incident, an event you can reflect on. What was the trigger? As you think about that incident, especially the order things happened in, how did your level of agitation change? Was the trigger really another person or was it your expectation of what should have happened? When and how can you intervene with yourself by tabling the conversation, going to another room, going for a walk, etc. The various common anger management techniques work if we understand what they are for.

Improving communication, both with ourselves, internally, and with other people is the real cure. If you find it hard to identify what you're feeling or recognizing thoughts that turn into anger it helps to keep a journal for a few weeks. Just use any old notebook and write the date and what strong feelings or thoughts you are having. This helps with sleep too, writing persistent thoughts down so they're not rolling around in your head. Remind yourself you're allowed to get good rest. The next day is easier to take on if you've had good sleep. You don't have to write every day, just when you need to get something on paper to help figure out what's going on with any strong negative emotions or persistent negative thoughts. Negative self talk is also a direct indicator of anger, so writing them down and taking a minute to reflect on what they are saying about what's happening in your life or just that day in particular can help illuminate things that can be addressed directly instead of feeling like something is wrong but not sure what it is. This is a lot but I hope some of this helps.

Talk to your doctor about it if you need to. Let them know about the angry feelings. Seeing a therapist about it is a good idea. Your doctor's office can give you a referral or you can look one up on your provider's web page. Meds and therapy go hand in hand. I'm assuming you were seeing a therapist when you decided to come off the meds but if you weren't I highly recommend you see one to help you adjust to not being on meds any more. Give it three to six months and try to be goal oriented. Be clear with them about what is bothering you and what you want to fix. Take notes in the same journal during your sessions so you know what to focus on between visits. That's where the real learning happens, between sessions. Write down how things go and when you see them again take it with so you have specific examples of what you need help with. Hope some of this helps. Hang in there!

by napjerks   2019-11-17

Gaming? Welcome to the club of angry gamers. There's a lot here.

If you weren't diagnosed by a physician, you don't want to label yourself with IED. It's a very specific diagnosis.

There are books like Rage and you can take an online anger management course to help with it. Hang in there!

by napjerks   2019-11-17

Books like Rage have good advice and you could keep a journal for a couple weeks to work on it directly. You don't have to write a lot just what happened and who was involved.

Remember that anger is called a secondary emotion because other emotions feed it. So if you have daily frustrations, agitation, depression, etc., they can fuel the anger over the course of the day. So working on managing these things helps reduce the overall anger too. It also helps to work on identifying your triggers. What are the things that keep happening over and over again and how could you intervene with yourself so you can manage a better outcome.

A lot of the time we assume the trigger is the other person who has wronged us or criticized us. But often it's the knee-jerk reaction we have in our heads. We condition ourselves over time to react to what is happening because we have an idea of how we want things to go and it doesn't happen the way we want. If we become overly focused on that gap, the difference in what we want versus what is happening, we can find we're getting angry on and off all day. So separating ourselves from others when we feel this way and investigating what happened helps a lot. That's what the journaling or the PTSD worksheet are for. I'm not saying you have ptsd. Just cross out PTSD at the top and write Anger. The techniques are the same and this sheet is a good one. It has good explanation for how to work through it.

The anger management techniques like taking a few slow breaths, counting to 10, etc., work if we know why we are doing them. Don't beat yourself up about it. Getting mad at yourself for getting mad just makes it last longer. Just treat it as an episode you can learn from and investigate like an incident report. Hope this helps. Hang in there!

by napjerks   2019-11-17

Avoid the news when you are feeling sensitive to it. Seriously, it will still be there and if a big story comes up you will hear about it anyway. Whether through social media, TV or people talking at work. Use the time not spent on it to focus even more on the things you enjoy doing and what you consider your area - relaxation, work, hobbies, gym, friends, etc. Maybe create a news alert that sends topics you want to follow to your email but you don't have to scroll every news site every day. Constantly being immersed in the news, especially as inflammatory every article seems to be these days, is exhausting and a waste of energy. It's torture. And gaming, chat and discord are poisonous atmospheres, very triggering for people who have any slight inclination for anger.

Going for a walk when you feel agitated helps. Anger has a certain amount of energy tied to it so walking it out reduces the feeling. Keeping a journal for a few weeks can help identify the things that are persistently bothering you and make them more obvious so you can challenge the underlying assumptions. Should statements like, "That person shouldn't bother me" and "I should be able to do this, why haven't I figured this out yet" are ways we judge others and ourselves without thinking about it and they can catch us off guard if we're not aware of them.

When taking breaks and mean thoughts come up, put them in check. When strong negative emotions come up we want to make sure we allow ourselves to acknowledge them. That's anger, that's jealousy, that's resentment, etc. Give them a minute and see if there's any additional useful information associated with them. But when thoughts come up, we want to check them quickly and just say "no" or "stop" to that thought and that's it. It's a decision. We can repeat phrases like, "I'm not going to talk like that in my head any more." Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference and how you feel. If it's a persistent recurring thought we can be a little more curious and see if there are assumptions or judgmental ideas associated with it. Then counter it with whatever our aspirations as a human being are (our values). Hope this helps. Hang in there! Books like Rage can help with this process.

by napjerks   2019-11-17

Yes. The approach that has worked for me is you could start reading a book like Rage and keeping a journal of not just anger but all the strong negative feelings and emotions that come up during the day. They all feed into anger. Grab any old notebook and dedicate it to working on improving your ability to reduce your anger reactions.

Or you could take an online class. It helps to keep a notebook of what you are learning, keeping a list of techniques to remember to use and make notes on what happens when you apply it in daily life.

Give it a vigilant effort for two weeks straight and see if you start to notice a difference. Also write down persistent thoughts that keep you up at night so you can sleep. Don’t hold them in your head. Hope this helps. Hang in there!

by napjerks   2019-08-24

There are books like Rage that are a very direct approach. And your local library probably has a copy of Anger Management for Dummies you can borrow for free. They may have other books too right next to it on the shelf.

One of the best things you can do is to keep a journal on anxiety for the next couple weeks. Just write today's date and anything that is bothering, you. Start with phrases like "My boss is really pissing me off" or "I keep saying mean things to my friends" and then add some detail. Especially the order things happen. "I was already in a bad mood, they said this, then I said this and then I was out of control". Whatever it is, a couple times a day. Backtracking along that timeline helps figure out where we could possibly do something different next time. Like picking a good point to table the conversation. "Hey, let's talk about this again after lunch, or tomorrow." Whenever you feel you can talk about it again with a cool head. If no one else is involved, stand up, get a glass of water, go to another room, flip through a magazine, stare out the window, go for a walk. These are simple things that give you time to cool off. The anger techniques work if we know why we're doing them.

Anger is a buildup of other emotions. That's why they call anger a secondary emotion, because seemingly less important feelings cause it to build up. So noticing any strong negative emotions you're getting throughout the day helps address them and gradually defuse the anger. It helps to put a name to what you are feeling. Saying things like, "This is what overwhelmed feels like." acknowledges the feeling and gives it its own time. Just for a minute or two recognize it and let it be there for a minute. That's what helps identify the feelings that have become hidden to us but are turning into anger. Giving them their time softens the anger and lessens the buildup.

Sometimes we have just build up a bunch of habits that don't work well so we just need to let them rest and pick up better techniques. For the next two weeks work on active listening. It's basically a way to listen until a person is finished talking, instead of only hearing a few words and already interrupting them with snarky comebacks. Let them finish talking and then if you didn't completely understand anything, ask sincere questions. That's it. It's surprisingly effective because if we listen to understand, the other person usually is much less aggressive in their responses too. So it's mutually beneficial. Practicing this for about two weeks is enough to make it a pretty good habit.

Also, being assertive about how you feel sooner in a conversation. We've all bottled things up and then blow up because we didn't even express ourselves. So try a phrase like, "When you say ___ it makes me feel _____." Use it like a broken record. It has endless uses in discussions about work, home life, family conversations. Just repeat and repeat this phrase. Be explicit about how you feel and say things earlier than you normally would. That way we aren't waiting too long and our emotions are already getting fiery before we even talk about the real thing that's bothering us.

There's an online course for a $10 registration. All their courses are free actually, after registering.

You can bring your anger down without having to rehash your entire life. A lot of it is just how we've become conditioned to overreact. Not that you shouldn't work on those things too. But if the anger is a problem, focus on it directly for about three months and see how much progress you can make.

The way we talk to ourselves is an indicator of how angry we are on a regular basis. Negative self talk is a huge indicator of anger. So is being passive aggressive. With awareness of this, just start writing what makes you angry out on your notebook. You don't have to write a lot, just use bullet points or short sentences. It is good for sleep too, writing down what is rolling around in your head. It gets it out on paper and you won't forget it. It will still be there to address in the morning. But you deserve good sleep because it's easier to deal with tomorrow if you've gotten decent rest. Hope some of this helps. Hang in there!

by napjerks   2019-08-24

Why did you originally start seeing the therapist? Just addressing the anger here, it is something you can focus on for two or three months and make pretty good headway on. Either taking a class or reading a book and keeping a journal goes a long way.

Are your siblings adopted too? You have a lot of tension with your relationship with them. Have you talked about this with your therapist?

In-state schools are simply cheaper. With a big family, the cost of college is a huge burden. You've probably seen how much student debt recent graduates have, even from mediocre universities. So try not to be too hard on your parents about it. They're saving you from crushing debt which can be a huge mental burden so it's best avoided. If you have no debt you're mobile. Do your best in college and when you graduate you can take any job anywhere and move at a moment's notice. That's real freedom.

> I’m always so passive but I just get so angry.

It took me a long time to associate not communicating - holding everything in and never complaining - with being angry all the time. Pushing things down and trying to ignore them, pretending like they're not problems is a huge source of anger. Because then it's in us like a poison. Talking about what bothers you with people actually helps. So we just have to learn how to address it the right way. Active listening is a communication technique that helps with it. Listening to truly understand the other person and to fully explain yourself actually reduces anger because you're sharing what your needs really are, both yours and the other person's.

Resentment, bitterness, indignation, shame are all terrible emotions but they're also honest. They are feelings that help us figure out how we are interpreting what is happening in our life. They give us important information. But we don't want to throw the best parts of our lives away because we are over-reacting to things we are taking personally. I hope you are able to talk with your therapist directly about all of the things you posted here. Consider printing your words out and bringing it with you to your next session. Keep it in a notebook and use it to record difficult things you're working through and the therapist's advice.

The real work happens between sessions. The therapy visits are just to get advice. How should I approach this situation? How do I deal with dinner nights with my parents? Then the real work is practicing with the techniques the therapist gives you. When you see the therapist again, report back on what happened, how things went. Record enough notes to help you remember how things are going. That's all you have to write. They will then help you adjust the techniques you're using and talk through scenarios that haven't gone so well so you can try another approach.

Sometimes the antidote to a strong negative feeling is just looking up what the opposite emotion of it is. The opposite of resentment is gratitude. When you feel resentment, let it be there. Say out loud "this is what resentment feels like." It's ok to have that feeling. Then take a moment and see if there's anything you could possibly have gratitude for. Both resentment and gratitude have their place in our daily lives, we're human. They're paying for college. You don't have to work while you're studying. That's a huge advantage over other students who may take five or six years to finish because they have to work and pay as they go. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself room to breathe. Continue to be honest. You are right to share and ask for help. Keep talking about it. Be especially kind to yourself and everyone around you while you're figuring out how to deal. Hang in there.

by OhSirrah   2019-08-24

Have you seen a doctor about your depression? Anger and depression are often talked about together, and in RAGE, which is sounds like you’ve read (if not you should link below) the author explains how these can feed into each other. Be advised, New York City and London are some of the most expensive places in the world to live, so if you are not a citizen of their respective countries, it will be hard for you to live and work there. https://www.amazon.com/Rage-Step-Step-Overcoming-Explosive/dp/1572244623/ref=nodl_)

by napjerks   2019-07-21

Take a class, read a book find a therapist who specializes in anger management.

by napjerks   2019-07-21

Get yourself to the ER or 24 hour clinic for your hand. You’ll have plenty of time to ponder things once the cast is on. Walk around to bring your energy back down but just take care of yourself right now. For later: Rage.

by napjerks   2019-07-21

You can still work on the anger directly though. Sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel like you're on your own. Therapy can just be a roundabout way of getting help if the therapist isn't specifically trained in anger management. But books like Rage directly address anger and how not to "blow up".

Or take an online anger class for just $5 at Open Path, probably the most economical option out there. I haven't taken it yet so I can't say anything about it but there are other classes online that look very similar and cost $100 and up. Help is available if you need it.

I think three months of focused anger management study and practice can take most of us further than we might think. It can feel like it's firmly entrenched but we just have to drop what's not working and pick up some new techniques. It's a little trial and effort. We have relapses because we can't predict everything we're going to react negatively to. So as my tech friends like to say, it's a iterative process. But it's worth focusing on directly. Anyway, wish you the best.

by napjerks   2019-07-21

Have you ever been in therapy or prescribed meds in the past?

There are a lot of books like Rage that have techniques for dealing with anger that seems to go from 0 to 100 quickly. If you decide to go see your school counselor or a therapist for help you do NOT have to take any meds if you don't want to. "Talk therapy" alone can help a lot with anger issues. You can give it a few months for the techniques they teach to sink in. Be especially patient and kind with yourself and others while you're figuring it out.

It sounds like you're under a lot of pressure to do well in school. Sometimes when people are telling us what to do all the time and how to do it we can feel even more pressure. You're not a bad person for trying to live up to their standards but for whatever reason you're struggling. What are you studying btw?

> i cant even bring myself to do my schoolwork

What's happening with your schoolwork? Distractions? Anxiety? What's preventing you from getting to it? There are various approaches you can use if you feel trapped.

> my anxiety is all out of wack and some nights i cant even sleep or focus on work

Grab a fresh journal or any notebook you already have. Before you go to sleep at night write down what is bothering you or just any thoughts you have that have been continuously running around in your head. Get them on paper. That way you can still remember them, they'll be there the next day. But they're out of your head and into the notebook. This helps your head quiet down at night. You don't have to write a lot, just the major points. You don't even have to do it every day. Try it for a week straight and see if it helps. Just use that journal for this purpose. Keep it on your desk or nightstand close to the bed with a good a pen.

Protect your sleep like gold. If you stay up late or don't get enough sleep you'll already be in a bad mood the following morning. It helps to read a book or magazine as the last thing you read at night too. Staring at a cellphone screen keeps your eyes buzzing with blue light. That blue light messes with our circadian rhythm. So looking at text on paper is better. Hope some of this helps. Hang in there!

Edit: I should just add that if you're a gamer, it can be a huge source of stress that only gets worse if not addressed. A lot of people post on here asking for advice with gaming related anger.

by napjerks   2019-07-21

I’m sorry for what you’re going through. You’re not a terrible person. Remind yourself these kinds of events aren’t the end of the world. Things happen and they can be difficult to deal with. You only need to find the right approach. Consider having a conversation with his brother directly and with your boyfriend present.

Can you share the circumstances of the hitting incident? Maybe we can offer more specific advice.

In the meantime there are articles like When You Love an Angry Person that help with suggestions you can make to your boyfriend for when you get mad. And you can read Rage on your own to help work on your anger.

But the abuse you suffered needs addressing too. I hope you can get therapy for it.