Recently, while lunching with a close friend who is both sophisticated and tolerant, I remarked about the European financial crisis and the difficulty of resolving cross-cultural attitudes. Well, you would have thought that I had thrown a firecracker across the table. My friend started to rant and carry on about what I had said, accusing some countries of “utter financial incompetence” and finally pronouncing in a loud, agitated voice that the whole idea of a European Union was “just idiotic”!
Wow, I thought. And then, suddenly, she stopped and fell silent, apparently more shocked by the torrent of rage she had unleashed than even I was.
Where does rage like that come from? When we find ourselves barking at the grocery-store clerk, threatening our kids after a minor infraction or, for that matter, yelling at a friend over lunch, clearly it is not the situation causing the rage—it’s something much deeper. Still, it happens everywhere and every day. Insignificant events such as these trigger rage in lots of people, many of whom are usually peaceful.
To explore why my friend might have snapped and why all of us are prone to occasional outbursts, I called Daily Health News regular contributor Lauren Zander, a life coach with a keen insight into what makes people tick.
Rage is nearly always a sign of unacknowledged feelings, said Zander. It’s one step past the deep feelings of sadness, disappointment and hurt. “When you don’t get what you want or what you expected from someone or some experience, you feel let down and unhappy,” said Zander. “But if you don’t acknowledge those feelings and if you don’t try to change your situation to make those feelings go away, then those feelings can snowball into rage.”
For instance, my luncheon friend told me that after her odd display of fury over the economies in Greece and Spain, she was so concerned about her behavior that she consciously set out to take a closer look at her life. And that’s when she realized how deeply upset she had been about the man she had so hoped would be “the one.” In spite of her efforts, their relationship was headed directly for the rocks, and this had been too painful for her to admit even to herself. But that disappointment and frustration had to come out somewhere—and out it came, over lunch!
Of course, venting rage isn’t going to solve whatever problem is causing the rage. So to get to the root of your rage, you must figure out what’s making you feel disappointed or frustrated—and then take action so you no longer feel disappointed or frustrated.
Sometimes the cause of the rage is so obvious that it’s easy to spot. For example, if you’re venting about how you’re having trouble selling your house—that may, in fact, be what’s making you unhappy. But in my friend’s case, her rage came from a hidden place—what she was venting about had nothing to do with what was bothering her. She finally realized that her relationship truly wasn’t working, so she ended it. From that point on, it was no longer a source of stress for her. Ever since then, she has seemed much calmer.
Your hidden problem might not have to do with love. Perhaps your self-made business isn’t making as much money as it used to, but you’ve been in denial about it. Maybe it’s time to accept the fact that you can’t rely on your business alone and recognize that it’s time to find a new part-time job working for someone else to get rid of that financial burden. Or perhaps your friends have promised to come to your house for poker night every Thursday, but many of them have been no-shows lately, and it’s hurting your feelings. Maybe you should quit inviting them over and let them plan the next get-together so you don’t keep setting yourself up for disappointment.
There are a million things that can cause you frustration and disappointment and eventually spew out of you as rage. Only you can tell what they are.
But remember, whatever your problem is, there’s always a way to solve it instead of letting it fester. So if you find yourself flying off the handle one day…or many days…the key is to look past whatever issue is bothering you on the surface and dig deeper. And if that doesn’t help you find the reason, by all means speak with a therapist, clergyman or other counselor. Rage is not good for those around you, and it’s not good for you!
Source: Lauren Zander, cofounder and chairman, The Handel Group, New York City. www.HandelGroup.com