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Rage and Its Consequences

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

My daughter, who is an EMT (Emergency Medical Tech), described a recent case she was on that again demonstrates the destructive impact of uncontrolled anger and rage. Her ambulance was called to a traffic accident in which a man was pinned behind the wheel of his car. He was in extreme pain and had two broken legs and other injuries that were difficult to determine until he was released from the automobile. Fortunately, he did survive with relatively minor injuries except for the broken legs. What is most important in this story are the circumstances that lead to the accident. By the way, the accident was the result of his smashing into a tree. Miraculously, the other occupants of the car escaped without injury and he lived to tell the story. As to the car, who knows?

It seems that this person was on his cell phone while he was driving. The point here is not to discuss the merits or dangers of using a cell phone while driving but to discuss immediate and sudden rage reactions. He was on the cell phone discussing some type of work issue with a client who refused to cooperate and close the deal. When the conversation ended he flipped the cell phone closed, took his eye off of the road and hurled the phone onto the dash board. The combination of rage, hurling the phone and taking his eyes off of the road caused him to lose control of the automobile and crash into the tree.

Rage and driving are not a good combination. Rage and relating in a marriage or in raising children are not a good combination. Rage and anything are not a good combination. Why? When in a rage people are not in control of their impulses and are liable to do or say anything that they would otherwise would not do or say. In this state of rage, the individual can become a danger to them selves or to others. Even the nicest people who do not see themselves as violent and would never anticipate hurting others are capable of the most awful acts if they allow themselves to become overwhelmed with rage. In fact, this is obviously what is meant by the term "losing control of one’s self."

There are many reasons why people "lose control of themselves. For one, there is a tendency to take things that occur in a way that is very personal. Sometimes that happens even when we know better. Someone told me that a bank manager promised to call back with an important financial offer. When the manager failed to call the individual was incensed as though the manager deliberately intended to insult this individual. In fact, there are dozens of reasons for the manager’s failure to make the call none of which have to do with wishing to cause hurt or insult.

Also, there are those of us who have strong tendencies towards explosive anger reactions. Most of the time these are individuals who really need psychotherapy and medication to help them control their angry impulses. I had a relative who was much like this. He predictably and frequently reacted to otherwise benign circumstances with huge amounts of rage. While he was never physically abusive with his family he was most certainly verbally and emotionally abusive. He never did learn to control his anger, rejected psychotherapy and died of a heart attack having alienated most people in his life. In fact, I will never forget one occasion, when I was a little boy, when he hurled a kitchen chair across the room in a fit of rage because he had stained his new suit. While suits can be replaced I never forgot the incident and it is stored in my memory to this day. He was not my father but an uncle who played a significant role in my early life and development.

Whether it is a marital argument, a controversy with a friend or a conflict at work or while driving, rage reactions are extremely dangerous and unhealthy.

If you are a person with this tendency to rage seek help for your self now before there are terrible consequences.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

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