How to NOT Rip Someone’s Head Off During a Fit of Rage

I asked for chocolate frosting. Does this birthday cake look brown to you?? Heads are gonna roll, b*tches!

Scene: Bedroom. 11pm. Husband and I engaged in our usual late night banter. And…action!

Him: What would you do if I cheated on you, you punched me, and I punched you back?
Me: What?
Him: How would you feel if I punched you, but only because you punched me first?
Me: That’s ridiculous, I’d never punch you.
Him: But let’s just say I cheated, so you punched me.
Me: I’m much more likely to respond by throwing over your desk and destroying all of your expensive animation equipment.
Him: That’s true. I can see you doing that.
Me: I mean, I probably wouldn’t do that either. But obviously, if you want to torture someone, all you have to do is destroy all the things and people they love most. Duh.
Him: See, here’s the thing: you rarely ever get angry, but when you do, you come up with the most evil revenge plans.
Me: I’m not evil, I’m just very creative. Or maybe I watch too many mob movies.

Ironically, the next day I was at a client’s house discussing healthy ways to express his anger as he grieved the death of a loved one. Obviously, I didn’t bring up the conversation I’d had the night before with my husband. And I didn’t bring up the film Taken, starring Liam Neeson, either:

Here’s something you should know about me: I HATE getting angry. Granted, no one really likes feeling pissed off. But I take it to another level.

One of my strengths is I’m pretty Zen on a daily basis, and I can keep calm and clear-headed when everyone else is having a total freak-out. So I hate when someone gets under my skin. I hate knowing that my Zen bubble is not impenetrable.

I shouldn’t view anger as a weakness because it’s not. But sometimes I treat my anger as if it is, by suppressing it. I’m working on this issue of mine because that’s what good therapists are supposed to do in order to be great at their job.

So part of being a grown-up for me is: (1) admitting when I’m angry (which I can tend to be in denial about); and (2) figuring out how to express my anger in a way that both makes me feel better and improves the situation.

I’ve found that the following tactics work well for me:

  • writing a letter to the person I’m angry at (but NOT sending it)
  • venting to a trusted and wise loved one
  • expressing my feelings and communicating my needs to whomever I’m angry at. (This one probably seems like a no-brainer to you, but I find it very difficult.)

You may find the following activities helpful as well:

  • turning to a creative outlet
  • exercising
  • journaling
  • punching or screaming into a pillow
  • meditation or prayer

And for those of you who are sociopaths, please do NOT express your anger by:

  • kicking a puppy
  • tripping a senior citizen
  • throwing a baby
  • setting a squirrel on fire

Final Thoughts

Your expression of anger shouldn’t make the existing problem worse, nor put yourself or others in any physical danger. Instead, it should make you feel a bit better.  And maybe, if you’re really thoughtful about how you respond to your anger, it can lead to an improvement in the situation, a solution to the problem, healing and reconciliation with another person, or your own personal growth.

Your Turn: How do you deal with your anger?


Photo Credits: Photo #2 , Photo #3

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16 Responses to How to NOT Rip Someone’s Head Off During a Fit of Rage

  1. Pingback: Scary Conversations | a brave life

  2. You Know Me says:

    Think preventative health care. I used to get angry a bunch. Like many, I directed my most devastating anger at those I loved the most. I expect this happens because we place our greatest and most unreasonable expectations on them. Being Zen is a good thing. Anger that comes too easily can quickly become viral as we do and say things that can be difficult if not impossible to forgive.

    Here are a few things I try to remember and employ in my preventative regimen.
    1. I am not responsible for what others think, say, or do. I am responsible for how I respond.
    2. Begin and end every day with some relaxation, meditation and prayer. I expressly pray for those who have hurt or offended me in some fashion.
    3. Remember to deal with self-reproach or anger, remembering especially that I am human, imperfect, make mistakes etc. If I cannot forgive myself, I cannot forgive others.
    4. If I feel I must be direct with someone or in dealing with a conflict, I remind myself to tell the truth in love. Because you are right – Your expression of anger shouldn’t make the existing problem worse, nor put yourself or others in any physical danger. Instead, it should make you (and the object of your anger) feel a bit better.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Ah, preventative care– I like that. Great way of looking at it.

      #1…I think I’m pretty good at being accountable for my not-so-wise actions and words, but it’s long been my nature to feel overly responsible for how other people feel and act. Workin’ on it.

      #2…a good one. I imagine it would help to put it in a permanent place in one’s daily schedule.

      #3…so true, so important, and SO hard to do (it typically takes me YEARS to forgive myself for anything!).

      #4…Any tips for how to do this? What seems “loving” to you might not sound that way to others. (Which brings us back to #1, I guess.)

      • You Know Me says:

        Our words are so powerful and carry so much capacity to hurt or heal. Telling the truth in love means choosing one’s words carefully with a mind toward nurturing or healing the relationship. And it means gaining control over one’s feelings in order to gain control over one’s words and actions.

  3. Jennie says:

    I can relate to the “putting away” of my anger and sitting on it. I seem to be in the midst of that right now…and I am so wimpy about conflict. Ugh. Sometimes, I wish I could be so enraged that I say exactly what someone completely deserves. You know, the whole truth? But I want to make sure exactly what the problem is before causing conflict…and I usually come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it in the end. Which is pretty wimpy, I’d say.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Hello, twin. ;)

      I identified with just about everything you said, it’s almost creepy. However, wimp or not, it is wise to try to understand the problem before confronting someone. That comes natural for people like us, I think, especially if you’re a fellow introvert. The hard part is the next step: having a discussion with the other party involved. Are you like me– do you equate confrontation (or the sharing of feelings that are remotely “negative”) with unbearable conflict? Do you get nervous about how people will respond to your honest opinions?

      You’re right, after thinking things through, it may not be worth it to confront someone in the end. But for conflict-avoidant “wimps” it often IS important, precisely because we must improve at speaking our truth and expressing our needs. That’s what our balls need to look like.

  4. Grace says:

    When I’m sad or disappointed I often default to feeling angry because it is easier for me to deal with. Typically I drop multiple F-bombs, call my really zen sister and journal to get through the anger. Once that’s done then the real meat of the problem is revealed.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      There was only one time in my life where I ran my mouth and vented (with sass and obscenities) to my best friends. One of them said, “Kim, you sound like your sister right now. I like it!”

      True, gotta take the proper steps to find the real meat of the problem. But at least you’re entertaining while on the way to finding it. ;)

  5. Amish says:

    I found the book “Theres a cow in my parking space” very helpful. It talks about why get angry, when there is nothing you can do about it. So when i find my self mad or angry I picture the situation diffently and i find i am not as mad anymore.

  6. Steph says:

    Loved the title, loved the content and esp loved the random conversation between you and Brian and the friendly reminder of things you should not do to express your anger.

    I find anger to be one of my go to emotions (is that bad lol). Its definitely harder for me to admit I’m sad or frustrated and easier to admit anger. I have a difficult time confronting ppl im angry with though, especially if im angry at a friend. Instead i wind up venting a lot. I use a lot of the same positive coping skills you listed to manage my anger.

    One other caveat for your other readers: it is also NOT a good idea to throw your cell phone against a couch when angry, bc it may just bounce off the soft cushioning and fly in a trajectory such that it goes through the partially open bathroom door where your husband is going #1 and narrowly miss hitting him in a very sensitive area before landing on the floor near his feet. :O

    Knowing is half the battle… ;)

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Haha! (I mean, at the phone-almost-hitting-your-husband’s-Amish-man-parts thing.) I think everyone’s got a crazy story about what they’ve thrown in a fit of rage. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. How else can I deal with the guilt I have about all the food and beverages I’ve thrown in my life. ;)

      Oh, and it IS so difficult to tell a friend that you’re angry. There’s a lot more risk there vs. getting angry at someone you don’t have a meaningful relationship with. But what I find interesting is that it’s easier for me to get angry at Brian than at anyone else. (Not that this happens all that often.) But with him I know he won’t judge me for what I’m angry about, and he won’t abandon me or distance himself from me for an extended amount of time, which friends have the option of doing.

  7. Sheryl says:

    When I get truly angry I feel like a bit of a rage monster. I want to stomp and scream and throw things, and I often get it into my head that the correct thing to do would be to smash every dish in the house. Which wouldn’t be so productive.

    What actually I find is productive is to first give myself some space to identify the exact source of my anger. Because my rage tends to start as one thing and then snowball into “I’m mad at everything”. Once I’ve identified the real cause? Talk it out. Maybe pout a bit. Tell the person I’m angry with why I’m upset and what I need to make it better. Find out how they feel about the situation and try to hash it out.

    • Steph says:

      I can definitely relate to this Sheryl. I often feel “smashy”on the inside when I’m really pissed, and also do benefit from taking time to tease apart what I’m really angry about

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Interesting, I find that I implode more often than I explode with anger. I tend have an “anger sandwich”– first I get sad and hurt when someone crosses the line with me, then a few hours later I realize I’m actually angry, and finally, I feel guilty for an additional few hours (days?) because of the fact that I got angry. And if that’s not nuts enough for you, I have to check in with my husband: Is it appropriate for me to feel angry about this situation? I don’t want to be mean!! (Uh, yeah…I have issues.)

      But despite our different styles of anger, you and I rely on the same process in order to feel better: give yourself space, identify the exact source of your anger, talk it out and get some perspective, and finally talk with the person you’re upset at. I think this process works for most people because it satisfies all our emotional needs.

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