In the book, “Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day” by Anne Katherine, M.A. the author discusses the difference between ‘Rage’ and ‘Anger’, in the chapter addressing anger boundaries.
“…the difference between anger and rage is that rage takes prisoners. Rage doesn’t back off until the other person is hurt. Rage seeks to draw blood, or its emotional equivalent. It needs to cause damage before it starts evaporating. Allowed to escalate, rage can eventually kill.
Anger is different. Anger is an energy that flows from an internal place. It does not need a target. It does not seek to hurt others. In order for anger to dissipate, we must feel our true feeling, express it accurately, and talk about the true event.”
I like the differentiation the author makes.
My mother experienced rages. They were mindless, hateful, blind rages. She would lash out physically, at anyone within striking distance, including my father. She would hit and strike you with her fists until she ruptured the blood vessels in her own hands, leaving them black and blue. She would humiliate and denigrate with name calling and verbal abuse and she would not stop until she had emotionally destroyed you.
She experienced physical changes when she went into a rage. Her eyes seemed to dilate and appeared black, her face turned red, her jaw tightened and I honestly believe, emotionally she checked out.
I cannot think of any time, nor any incident that has caused me to feel ‘rage.’ Yes, I’ve been incredibly, unbelievably angry, but never rage filled.
Even when my son was abused physically at school, I was not enraged. I couldn’t let myself, I had to think clearly, I had to immediately determine what the best course of action was and be able to be supportive of my son so that he wasn’t scared more than he already had been by the incident itself.
My thoughts on rage are that it is a very selfish emotional state. It is out of control, all about self, it is unthinking and there is an element of ‘hatred’ that accompanies it. I also think that rage can only exist if empathy is non-existent.
I find myself, always, thinking about how the other person must feel, what they must be thinking, how damaged they have to be to do or say the things they do that hurt other people. I try to consider what they must be going through that brought them to a place of such a loss of control. I’m always trying to understand.
My mother saw me as a ‘glutton’ for punishment because I would continually be hurt, but remain willing to try again, to put whatever had hurt me behind me and move forward. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t get more angry. She wanted me to be hateful, to ‘blow up’, to be more reactionary. I was not.
I tend to take time to process my anger, perhaps that’s why it never escalates to the level of ‘rage?’
I had a friend who insisted I wasn’t human if I never felt rage, they insisted that I was lying to myself, that I had to have felt rage at the abuse my mother had inflicted on me, but that wasn’t the case… when I was growing up and the abuse was taking place I honestly thought everyone’s mother behaved as she did, that other kids were ‘punished’ the same way we were, so I didn’t have a reason to be angry and hateful about it then. When I became a teenager I started to understand her jealousy, envy, competitiveness, as I saw it in others as well, and when I started working on my personal issues as an adult I was asked to examine her life and possible motivations for her behavior and she became a much more sympathetic character.
I did experience anger and the various stages of grief in relation to the ‘mother’ I never had, the damage that was done to me physically and emotionally.
I’m beginning to think I’m ‘hard-wired’ to be empathetic, to think of others, consider their feelings.