The Phenomenon of Rage

anger“The critical distinction between anger and rage is related to time and intensity. Anger tends to arise “in the moment,” generating intensity that usually leads to an emotional
release that quickly reduces tension. When it is denied expression, the intensity associated with it festers, and eventually is transformed into rage. Thus, suppressed anger acts as an incubator for rage.”  Dr. Kenneth Hardy

Looking at the political climate recently the concept of rage has been on my mind.

fist through glassA context:  I am a clinical social worker and used to express a somewhat similar thought, but in the other direction. I often used to tell clients anger was hurt turned outward:  that when their spouse or child or friend or colleague hurt them, turning that hurt back on the perpetrator with anger was common, but not necessarily the best response. It was a bit protective in providing distance from the one who inflicted hurt, and it could be emotional cathartic, but it rarely would solve the problem that led to them being hurt.

shameI have also used a variant of the concept:  that depression was anger turned inward. Sort of the next step from the above…that when the world hurts us and that angers us but we can’t or don’t express it, if instead we hold it in, perhaps even get mad at ourselves for not being able to stop the hurt, we can become overwhelmed, depressed, even despairing.


believe in meThe simple answer, and in some ways over-simplified answer is: We need to be able to stand up assertively (not aggressively or angrily or defensively) for ourselves.  To do that we need to feel good enough about ourselves to face the “slings and arrows” of the world with a kind of impervious shield made of confidence and an awareness of what we believe in and can stand up for.

Learning that assertiveness can be profoundly helpful in many circumstances: with a bully in our school or at our job, with an overly dominant or abusive loved one. However, this is often more difficult than simple and may need the help of a therapist to achieve.

enragedBut today, I have been thinking about the rage in our country that seems to be fueling some of our dissension in the current election.

Lately, I began remembering the Principles of Rage from a class I attended about this dynamic as Ken Hardy outlined it for African Americans experiencing racism and a silencing of their protests about that experience.

Dr. Hardy’s framework for rage was that when you are in a system that consistently oppresses or discounts you and you cannot overcome the issues that you face along with people like yourself, no matter how valiantly you try, you become angry. If even then change does not occur, overtime that anger can harden and  become rage, despair, and alienation.

This is not a post about race, though I may post more on that in the future as President Obama has said, it truly merits consideration.

It is a post about rage. And Dr. Hardy’s principles more broadly apply, I believe, to the times we are in.

angry bubble conversation copyUnemployed blue-collar white men, former line workers in manufacturing plants, auto companies, steel mills, or coal mines who had able to achieve a middle class lifestyle through hard work and no longer can are caught in the throes of rage. Unfulfilled promises and failed answers have been compressed with frustration into outrage. They are flocking to the embrace of a man who has offered to “be their voice.”  And he spews anger effectively, directing them to blame “the Other.”  That is not the answer to the issue. Nor is it to be found in inflaming anger, or issuing veiled threats or calls to arms. But this post is not about him.

I hope it is about us.

matchesI have liberal friends who are lambasting him and his followers. I understand why. He scares them. He scares me. And the crudeness and hatred voiced by some of his followers is ugly. He and they seem to relish it. Yet, the answer is not to cut it off and silence it, not until we hear the pain, the genuine underlying hurt in many of them that is all too real. To shout them down, or shut them up. will only fuel the rage.

And that is not who we are. America has always been the land of opportunity. Imagine what it is like to have a good life and then lose it, along with your home, extinguished with your dream for a better life for your children.

I have worked with many who came back to school in the Great Recession post 2008 to get a GED, to get technical training, to pick up yet another certification to try to reassert their place in the world, to keep on feeding their families. Many are still struggling.

meeting copyWe need as a country to care about that. We need to begin to hold the powers that be to an accounting. The answer can never be to just say “No” to the other side. We need to insist that they sit down and hammer out compromises, and they work together to assure we offer that American possibility to all, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity or political party.

We need laws that are fair and do not disadvantage some for the benefit of a few.

We need to provide an education that assures the ability to do the jobs available now and ones that will be there tomorrow, and we must give the dispossessed a hand up to opportunities in a world that is changing.

flag copyAmerica is better than this campaign and we are more than this election. We are not the land of quitters, and we are more than good losers. Our strength is not found in hating the other side opposing anything they try. Rather, like our founders, we need to set aside anger and work on solutions and compromises. We can find the answers, together.

About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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21 Responses to The Phenomenon of Rage

  1. Jo, I agree with your assessment of where some of this rage is coming from. But I think you need to add that there are a lot of angry white men out there who just can’t get over the fact that we’ve had a black president for 8 years. Race is at the bottom of everything in this country, I’m afraid.
    Their sense of entitlement has been fractured and now they are clutching at the old white bully who will put it all right and make “our country great again” making sure an “unstable woman” (probably worse in their minds than a black president) doesn’t get control. The irony is that the laws we need to help the downtrodden would never be enacted by a Republican – it would be too liberal for that mindset. The mindset of our Senate and House leaders who have stopped such legislation so many times in the past
    There are many layers to this rage which is acting as a wall for moving forward. Our view of a Great America is not one espoused by that angry mob and the ripples are going to turn into an earth quake no matter who is elected in November. I would like to be optimistic, but today I’m finding it harder than ever to be hopeful. Time will tell. Your liberal friend, Clare

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      You are seeing my “reasoned” post. Doug could tell you my rants about Trump, and about the hostility and disrespect directed toward President Obama (the Tea Party’s poster of the President in white face made my blood boil.) But I have spent a lifetime trying to find solutions to problems for individuals and for my agency. I learned long ago that it is only in a calm approach that hears people out, combined with a positive attitude that facilitates change. This election had been a serious challenge to that belief, I have to admit. But I also saw the fear and hurt inside the blue-collar men who were forced by the economy to come back to school at the college to try to regain their self-respect and support their families. I actually believe the GOPs trickle down fake, flawed, economic plan was a betrayal. So, it makes little sense to me that they continue in that party, but lots of sense they would embrace a new face, and an angry outsider selling PT Barnham hope. I think many of them are enraged rather than just angry, but the GOP and conservative talk radio is stoking the anger to try not to lose power. I hope Trump loses so big the Republicans have to change and actually compromise. That’s me the eternal optimist. Your left leaning but proudly independent friend, J

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Osyth says:

    Being an English girl who normally lives in France but is on a year in New England, I of course treat this whole situation with fascination – castrated fascination because I have no right to vote. What you write makes total sense to me. I have recently tried to get European friends to stop throwing bricks at Mr Trump and to understand what is making the voters turn out in force to back him. That is the issue that must be understood in the same way as the British need to understand what made more voters ask to leave Europe than remain. There is little point in lashing out and holding heads the issue is to get to the bottom of the issue, surely? I really enjoyed this article. Thank you to you and thank you to Bernadette and her Senior Salon for pointing me to you

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Thank you for your comments, Osyth. I couldn’t agree more that there are definitely similarities between the Brexit voters and the Trump voters. The success of Brexit has added to my fear of Trump’s possible success…and to my commitment to understand the anger that is fueling his campaign. I hope you enjoy your year in New England. It is a lovely part of our country! So glad you visited Bernadette’s Salon. Jo

      Liked by 1 person

  4. thejuicenut says:

    A lot of us around the world are holding our breath right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this piece, but I especially appreciated the comment discussion between you and Clare. It’s an example of the fundamental discourse that should be happening in our country right now, for the benefit of all of us, but it simply isn’t happening in the larger population, with lines drawn in the sand (admittedly more so on the right, but the fault lies in both directions). Hopefully, we can get there. (P.S. I’m unable to “like” any of the comments. Perhaps this is intentional on your part, and that’s entirely your business, but I thought I’d mention it just in case there’s a WordPress setting that you might need to review.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Thanks, Brian and thanks for letting me know about the like issue. Now sure what is happening (I am not a techie). Others have been able to like it. I will contact Zemantec. Glad you brought it to my attention. 😊Jo


  6. Little Voice says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Will reblog.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Joyful2bee says:

    I agree that rage and anger have a lot to do with those who are following the hate monger. But I can’t help but wonder if fear and a feeling of helplessness is also a factor. We all had to sit by and watch 9/11 unfold, then bombings, murders, (even in our own country), wars, soldiers coming home wounded emotionally and physically. And there seems nothing we can do about any of it but place the responsibility and means in the hands of someone else. I am not a vengeful person but I felt so much pain and have felt it, that I want it all to stop. But it just never will. I have to accept that there are things I can do and things I can not do about the pain of witnessing people hating and judging each other all over the world. Part of the problem is that helplessness linked with fear of “when is it going to happen to me or my country?” amplifies in some people to action in a direction that is not productive, but more destructive, like voting for some one who promises they can fix everything when they can do nothing without the cooperation of congress. Love our checks and balance system!! I choose to make a difference where I am. It will take a long time but at least I am doing something positive. Maybe if enough others do the same thing, maybe someday we will have a better world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Totally agree. I can only hope that all that is stirred up in this election will make whoever is elected President and lawmakers in Congress decide we need to see all the hurt in America and work together to do something about it. In the meantime, you’re right the best thing to do is try to make the world a little better in my corner of it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Joy. Jo


  8. A great post, Jo, and I like your encouragement for a calmer, more thoughtful response to the troubles our nation faces. Looking beyond the behavior to the root issues is not only empathic, but it opens the door to progress in finding solutions. I think our elected leaders know this, for the most part – they’re intelligent people. What is most distressing to me is that they, in many cases, speak and act against the very idea of calm, thoughtful cooperation. Partisanship is politically lucrative and fear is a powerful means of crowd control. Our politics are intensely manipulative and identifying the “other” as the cause of all problems is an effective strategy. As a result, many of the angry voters are ones that consistently vote against their own best interests. I haven’t any answers. Our system is seriously broken. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • joanneeddy says:

      Thanks, Diana. I really agree that in their anger the Trump voters are accepting a candidate who in no way understands them and will continue the policies that help the rich and hurt them. My husband keeps saying to me the extreme of this election may force a different look at the politics of “no” by highlighting where refusal to work together leads. The pendulum of change always swings eventually, I am hoping he’s right and this is the apogee. I don’t love Hilary and she has made mistakes, but she does care about important things, perhaps she will rise 🙂 and rise to the moment. I sure hope so. Jo

      Liked by 1 person

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