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Eliminating Rage

Chapter 11: Eliminating Rage

Tools for Anger Work-Out

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


How does my rage manifest itself?

When I am in a rage I:
  • act without thinking.
  • am out of control both emotionally and sometimes physically.
  • want to strike out and hurt someone or break something.
  • boil over with hatred and disgust.
  • think and act out violently.
  • am so angry that I can't handle it.
  • feel my anger controlling me rather than the other way around.
  • feel my throat tighten; my face get red and hot; my neck and shoulders tighten and my hands automatically clench into a fist.
  • begin to cry, scream, and lash out.
  • get murderous thoughts against the object(s) of my rage.
  • have a tendency to act impulsively where I become potentially dangerous to myself or others.
  • get so frustrated that I want to run away in the midst of my raging.
  • feel that to go on is futile and I want out.
  • become completely irrational.
  • tend to act out badly and wind up feeling guilty and/or embarrassed afterwards.
  • show the dark side of my personality.
  • am often reacting to a hot button that has been pushed that taps into my unresolved anger.
  • fume so that I become speechless or begin to stutter.
  • become a frightening spectacle of uncontrolled anger.
  • am temporarily insane. 


What are the results of my rage?

As a result of my getting into a fit of rage:
  • I end up with a big mess to clean up.
  • people avoid me, staying clear for a long time after my fit.
  • I feel loads of guilt and spend a great amount of time and energy making up for it.
  • people are so offended that they reject and/or abandon me.
  • I run away from the situation that caused me to lose it.
  • I lose the respect of others.
  • my shame and embarrassment are so great that I avoid the victims of my rage.
  • I decided it was better to stuff my anger and I have held my anger in ever since.
  • people walk around me gingerly avoiding saying or doing anything that might rile me up again.
  • I have the reputation of being crazy.
  • I have become confused, believing that rage is the only way to express anger.
  • I recognize that I can intimidate people, get my way, and control the situation.
  • people respond to my power play and either comply with my demands or come to a halt and refuse to budge.
  • I look back on it as an out of body experience. I have the sensation of watching myself from outside of me.

What are the roots of my rage?

My fits of rage are rooted in:

  • my never learning to ventilate my anger appropriately as I experienced it.
  • the role modeling I received from my parents.
  • the way anger was shown in my family of origin.
  • my being physically, mentally, verbally, or sexually abused in my family of origin or later by a significant other.
  • me trying to get people's attention.
  • me trying to control a situation or to get my way.
  • my stuffing anger until I can't take it anymore and I explode.
  • my need to look good when I am angry.
  • my need to blow up when it's a case of one time too many.
  • my not making systematic efforts to work out my pent up anger.
  • my explosive personality.
  • my denial of the intensity of my unresolved anger.
  • my insecurity and lack of self-confidence.
  • my being overly sensitive to the actions and comments of others.
  • the chip on my shoulder, the grudge I hold against those who I believe have treated me unfairly.
  • stereotypic problem solving where I react to situations in the same way no matter who is involved.


What names are given to my fits of rage?

People refer to my fits of rage as:

hissy fits, temper tantrums, nasty, acts of rage, blowing my lid, vicious, uncontrollable anger, out of control, getting, worked up, going crazy, insane, aggravated, going bazookas, wound up, agitated, wacko, explosive, hellish, outrageous, going nuts, irate, bizarre, violent, murderous, offensive, bullying, dictatorial, disgusting, gruesome, furious


Why do I resort to fits of rage?

  • I tend to get into a fit of rage when:
  • my rights are either ignored or unresponded to.
  • the inequity of a situation appears overwhelming.
  • the futility of a situation seems unfair.
  • I feel like I'm being ignored and I want people to listen to me.
  • I lose control and burst out with my anger and bitterness.
  • something is said or done to me that brings up an angry feeling from the past.
  • I have tolerated pain too long.
  • I have kept my silence for too long and I finally explode.
  • I have suffered silently, hoping that by not openly complaining things will change.
  • things don't change, I give up my silence, and let out my pent up feelings.
  • I have watched someone I care about deeply being unfairly treated for a long time.
  • I step in and try to speak up for someone and lose my control in the process.


What irrational thinking results in my fits of rage?

  • There is only one thing people will listen to and that is when I blow my top.
  • I've got to maintain my silence no matter what.
  • It's better to suffer silently.
  • Not complaining is a sign of character.
  • I'll do anything to get my way.
  • It's not what you do that counts but it's how you win.
  • Kill or be killed.
  • The best defense is a good offense.
  • I'd get an ulcer if I didn't let out my anger.
  • Everyone is out to get me.
  • No one cares how I feel.
  • No one understands me or my problem.
  • They all ignore me.
  • No one will ever take advantage of me again.
  • No one is going to get away with hurting me or anyone I care for.
  • Life sucks; you have to be constantly alert to defend yourself against it.
  • You never know the minute or the hour when you'll be taken advantage of.
  • No one ever listens to me unless I shout.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • It doesn't pay to suffer silently.

How can I prevent getting into a fit of rage?

In order to avoid succumbing to a fit of rage I need to:

  • let people know assertively when my rights have been ignored.
  • show my anger assertively rather than stuffing it in and keeping silent.
  • perform anger work-out over things that angers me over which I have no control.
  • ventilate my anger a little at a time away from people.
  • give permission to those in my life to walk away from me when I get into a fit of rage.
  • get into my car or my room when I feel like exploding and not explode on others.
  • engage in more physical and strenuous exercise every day.
  • lessen the impact of my pent up anger and frustration.
  • write a letter of protest rather than explode in rage.
  • slow down and control my impulses.
  • recognize the irrational thinking that lies at the root of my rage.
  • replace this irrational thinking with appropriate rational alternatives.
  • honestly analyze the results of my fits of rage.
  • identify those hot buttons that are likely to get me into a rage.
  • systematically defuse these anger issues through anger work-out.
  • recognize that such fits either go ignored yet perceived as offensive, or else they intimidate others and are perceived as power plays, attempts to control others.

What steps will eliminate my fits of rage?

Step 1: I first must identify my level of risk for getting into rage. To do this I will rate the following statements on a scale of 1 to 5 writing down my ratings in my journal for each item according to their impact on my life.

1 = never true

2 = sometimes true

3 = often true

4 = almost always true

5 = always true

Risk for Rage Inventory

  1. I react without thinking when I get angry.
  2. I get out of control when I get frustrated and angry.
  3. I strike or hit objects, walls, or people when I'm mad.
  4. I was abused physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually by my parents or other significant others.
  5. I am known to be a violent acting person.
  6. Acting out in a fit of rage is the only way I ever saw anger expressed.
  7. My anger controls me rather than the opposite.
  8. I get an actual physical bodily response when I'm very anger.
  9. I want to kill someone, something, or myself when I'm out of control.
  10. I don't believe people listen to me unless I get angry, shout, and pound my fist.
  11. I want to run away or quit when I get angry.
  12. I have a hard time getting calmed down after I've been angry.
  13. I feel guilt and remorse after I have raged.
  14. I let people see the dark side of my personality when I get angry.
  15. I have several hot buttons which, when pushed, get me very upset rather quickly.
  16. I lose my ability to speak clearly and accurately when I get angry.
  17. I feel like I go crazy during a rage.
  18. I find that I continually fume silently about things that anger me. I never seem to find a release.
  19. I have a tendency to view life as unfair, especially to me.
  20. I frighten people with my show of anger.
  21. I try to keep a lid on my anger but when it rises to the surface I can no longer control it.
  22. I don't make the effort to do systematic anger work-out over what bothers me.
  23. I have no idea how deep my anger goes.
  24. I have a chip on my shoulder.
  25. I hold grudges against people.
  26. I only know one way to show my anger: to explode.
  27. I feel that my rights are continuously being ignored.
  28. I am overwhelmed by the unfairness of life.
  29. I don't believe that people listen to me.
  30. I feel like a loser in life.
  31. I feel like my anger is always at the surface ready to explode.
  32. I was extremely hurt in my past life, and I am often reminded of the pain.
  33. I have unresolved anger.
  34. I get upset when I see others being treated unfairly.
  35. I am embarrassed by the ways I show my anger.

Add the ratings on each of thirty-five items above. Compare my score to the level of risk.
____My score

 Score    Interpretation
35-70 = Mild risk of fits of rage
71-105 = Moderate risk of fits of rage
106-140 = Marked risk of fits of rage

141 or higher = Severe risk of fits of rage


What have I learned by taking this inventory:

  • If I am at a mild risk I need to continue my attempts to prevent fits of rage.
  • If I am at a moderate risk I need to develop strategies to inhibit my rage when it erupts.
  • If I am at a marked risk I need to develop ways to overcome the negative impact of my rage and learn to redirect my anger.
  • If I am at a severe risk I am so out of control that I need to not only develop means to lessen the damage resulting from my rage, but I need to get help from the support people in my life to develop ways to divert my uncontrolled anger.
Step 2: After determining my risk factor for rage, I need to clarify my feelings about my rage behavior. I will answer the following questions in my journal:
  • What is my level of risk for rage? What does this say about how I deal with my anger?
  • What factors increase my level of risk?
  • How do the people in my life react during my fits of rage?
  • What are the negative consequences of these fits?
  • How do I explain my rage? Why do I have these fits?
  • What do I experience when I am in one of these fits?
  • What do others call my fits of rage? How does this make me feel?
  • Do I experience guilt after one of these fits? What do I do about these feelings? Do I deny or minimize their impact?
  • How does my initial silent withdrawal into anger tie into these fits of rage?
  • How do my blocks to anger fit into this scenario?
  • How does my personal behavioral script relate to these fits of rage?
  • Are there factors in my upbringing in my family of origin, to account for my fits of rage? List them.
  • How was anger dealt with in my family of origin? Who in my family had similar fits of rage?
  • How do I react to others during their fits of rage with me?


Step 3: I now need to address my hot button issues. I will review the following list of potential hot buttons and write down in my journal the rating for each according to its intensity for me.

1 = cool 

2 = lukewarm to mildly warm 

3 = warm to mild heat 

4 = moderate to high heat 

5 = scalding

Intensity of Heat Hot Button Issues

  1. injustice toward me or others
  2. having my ideas ignored
  3. feeling put down
  4. being laughed at
  5. being made fun of
  6. being misunderstood
  7. being left out, not chosen
  8. sensing unfairness to self or others
  9. feeling abused: real or implied; physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual
  10. sensing prejudice against me or my ideas
  11. people not following my directions
  12. people not doing as I requested
  13. not winning in competition
  14. feeling rejection
  15. feeling a lack of approval from others
  16. sensing that people don't respect me
  17. feeling that my opinion is not valued
  18. being considered stupid, incompetent, or ignorant
  19. being cheated
  20. being lied to
  21. being accused of something I didn't do
  22. seeing the fruits of my labor go unappreciated
  23. feeling like a failure or a loser
  24. finding out the truth about something I should have known; realizing that information was deliberately kept from me
  25. being caught off guard about the truth
  26. when others jump to negative assumptions about me
  27. when I'm not given a chance
  28. recognizing that people less intelligent, less competent, and less creative than I have become more successful than I
  29. never being given a chance to show my stuff or to succeed
  30. being called a name or labeled something offensive
  31. being reminded of my faults
  32. seeing my faults in others, especially my offspring or protege
  33. recognizing that I can't do something I want to do
  34. realizing that people are deliberately making things tough for me
  35. feeling intimidated
  36. feeling fat, dumb, and ugly
  37. being unable to connect with someone
  38. recognizing that it is futile to continue to try
  39. realizing that the barriers I'm fighting against are overwhelming
  40. watching people turn away from me
  41. _____
  42. _____
  43. _____
  44. _____
  45. _____
  46. _____
  47. _____
  48. _____
  49. _____
  50. _____
For above 10 items 41 to 50 fill in hot button items specific to me. Rate the intensity of their heat for me. 


Step 4: For each of the hot button issues with a rating of 3 or higher, I need to separately complete the following hot button detonator  activity:

Hot Button Detonator Activity

To detonate a hot button I must:
  • clarify its ability to set me off into a rage.
  • clarify how this hot button influences other hot buttons that set me off.
  • clarify the factors that contribute to this issue being a hot button.
  • identify the unresolved anger that underlies this issue.
  • identify those in my family of origin or past life who have contributed to the intensity of this hot button.
  • Perform daily anger work-outs on the unresolved anger concerning this specific hot button.
  • Inform the support people in my life of this hot button and give them permission to intervene when they see it has been pushed.
  • Work on my self-love, sense of self-esteem, self confidence, and inner security to diminish the importance of this hot button in my life.
  • Take each hot button issue and write a positive visual imagery where I no longer feel the heat.
  • Write a description of each hot button issue and take the papers to support group meetings.
  • As each issue is detonated, I'll put the hot-button description in a bonfire and enjoy seeing it destroyed.

Step 5: Once I have detonated each of my hot buttons, if I still have fits of rage, I need to return to Step 1 and identify what hot button led to the fit of rage, and then systematically detonate it. I need to detonate each hot button over and over until I have eliminated my fits of rage.