There’s anger, and then there’s rage.
You know what I mean.
Anger is one of those, I don’t know, normal, everyday emotions. It shows up as a more-or-less predictable experience: frustration, irritation, hanger. Nothing you can’t handle. Maybe you snap or gripe or get a little testy. But it’s (usually) nothing that gets out of hand.
That’s your everyday anger. Then there’s rage.
Rage is like anger but times a thousand hundred million.
Rage is like anger the way a volcano is like a campfire.
Rage is not to be messed with. Rage is the force of a thousand mama bears.
Anger comes from a lot of sources (traffic, bad weather, mouth breathers, loud chewers, stubbed toe, burnt toast, catcalls, general human ignorance). It generally swells up and dissipates quickly. It’s like a summer shower: suddenly there, drenching everything, and then it clears up. It’s gone.
Rage is not this way.
Rage is a force that starts deep in the chest, where the pain of injustice gets buried.
Rage is collective, cumulative.
Rage is the confusion, the pain, the hurt, the helplessness, the terror, and the loneliness of some continued terrible experience.
The experience might have happened just once, but you relive it mentally over and over. Or the experience might be happening, actively, over and over in your life.
You live through it, day after day. But after a while?
You get ragey.
Good for you.
Rage is powerful. Rage is all the energy of that hurt inflicted turning itself around and finding an exit.
No, you don’t want to let rage drive you to hurt someone else, to turn the abuse around and become the abuser.
That’s not the purpose of being rage.
The purpose of rage is to end the abuse that’s happening to you. It’s the real You speaking up, and saying, “No more.” Being ragey is becoming aware that you don’t have to be endure what you are enduring.
Rage is finding the power to stand up for yourself, to say what you know is true, and to call people out on their bullshit.
People, you may have noticed, do not like to be called out on their bullshit.
People will say things like, “She just snapped,” or “I don’t know what came over him.”
People will try to find ways to get you out of your rageyness before you realize how powerful it is.
Discrediting is often the first response to rage. It’s an attempt to talk you out of your rage by demeaning you and, thus, making your rage invalid.
It sounds like this:
- “You don’t usually act this way.”
- “Why are you so emotional?”
- “You’re just interpreting everything as my fault.”
- “You’re just being so unreasonable.”
- “You’re making me the bad guy.”
- “You’re just living off your feelings.”
- “This is childlike behavior.”
- “You’re just tired.”
- “You’re just frustrated.”
- “Emotionally you’re all over the place.”
All of those phrases above are different ways of saying, “You don’t really feel what you think you feel. You don’t really know what you think you know. You can’t trust yourself. Trust me instead.”
This is more bullshit. Don’t listen to it.
Another response to rage is to try to downsize it.
You’ll express your rage, and you’ll start explaining why you feel rage, and you’ll get interrupted.
The interruptions will sound something like this:
- “Welcome to the real world.”
- “That’s just the way life is.”
- “Sometimes this is what it takes to ____.”
- “Yeah, but listen to what I’m going through.”
- “That’s nothing compared to what I’ve experienced.”
- “I’ve endured more than that.”
- “I’ve suffered more than that.”
- “You never said anything about this before.”
- “That’s no more than I’ve given up for you.”
- “You do ____ to me all the time and I don’t mind.”
All of those phrases are different ways of saying, “You don’t have a right to feel enraged about this.” And there are different reasons given, right? But they are not good reasons. They are bullshit reasons.
It doesn’t matter if somebody else has suffered more, endured more, given up more, or allowed themselves to be victimized more than you have: you still have the right to see injustice, to feel pain, to end abuse, and to get ragey.
It doesn’t matter if somebody else thinks that abuse, injustice, or some other bad option is the way the world works. It doesn’t have to be the way your world works.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been ragey about a thing before, and you are now.
It doesn’t matter if you’re never brought it up before, and suddenly you are bringing it up. You don’t have to pass some prerequisite or meet a qualifying standard before your rage is valid.
And people who try to convince you otherwise? Are full of bullshit. They probably believe their own bullshit, but that doesn’t make it any better.
One other response to rage comes up quite often.
In fact, maybe this one comes up first, or most often. It’s the easiest, I think, for most people to use. It’s just simple distraction, but it works. We humans are easily distractible.
It sounds like this:
- “That’s not the issue.”
- “But what about (insert unrelated thing)?”
- “Well, but you never (insert unrelated mistake/failure).”
- “That’s not how it works.”
- “That doesn’t mean what you think it means.” (This turns into redefining terms so you have to rethink every single thing you’re trying to say to make sure you’re using the terms correctly. This is a power play of owning the language and forcing you to have to think very very hard in order to express a simple opinion. Then you’re so busy trying to use the terms accurately that you get lost on the point you’re trying to make.)
- “I’m not blaming you.”
- “We don’t have time for this.”
- “We have to deal with (insert unrelated crisis) right now.”
- “Why are you attacking me?”
- “You’re not handling this well.”
- “You don’t have to yell.”
All of these phrases are meant to turn the conversation away from what’s really important (why you’re feeling rage) and get you into a space that can be filled with bullshit: defining and redefining terms, harping over details, bringing up your mistakes, and arguing over how you’re arguing.
It’s about shifting the attention so that the object of your rage doesn’t ever have to take responsibility.
These are effective tactics, and they work as long as you don’t recognize them.
Once you start recognizing them, though, things begin to change.
Your rage is a tool. It comes with a message. Listen to it. It comes to help you own your life.