by Richard Boyd, Body Mind Psychotherapist, Energetics Institute, Perth, West Australia
One of the long term emerging trends in society has been the slow but sustained rise in anger and rage in men and women across all strata of society. This face of anger and rage has many faces but its effects are the same – damaged lives and suffering for all caught up in the cycles of destructive acting out and violence.
Western society has always had an uncomfortable relationship with human feelings and emotions, but more so the “bad ones” such as anger and then rage, as well as the perceived negative ones such as grief. The lack of permission to feel and express emotion is one of the main causes of later emotional dysfunction in adults.
There are a number of modern elements to the problem. The first and most pervasive is the fast, stressed pace of life, and what it demands of the average person in society.
People are under pressure to produce and perform whether that be in workplaces or in the home with that being measured typically by materialistic measures such as wealth and consumer object ownership. People are more inclined today to have a demand of “now” and be less inclined to be patient and to wait.
What comes with this is a sense of false entitlement. False entitlement is that held expectation that I can have what I want whenever I want it and that I have a right to demand self-gratification at the expense of others.
In a sense we have bred people to be indifferent to the effects of what is our behaviour on others. We want what we want and we want it now, which is the demand of a two year old, but yet it now survives in twenty two and forty two year olds as a form of emotional immaturity and a symptom of a narcissistic attitude.
When as adults such persons enter the community they tend to be impatient, intolerant and lacking compassion. The thin veneer of sociability can wear away when small irritants occur that test the resilience and flow of life for that person.
In some cases the environment becomes the frustration. Take for instance the growing traffic gridlock that is developing as a semi-permanent feature on Perth roads. Recent statistics in Western Australia cite that the average road user will lose xx days per year stuck in traffic.
The anger and rage that lurks within finds traffic delays and the perceived poor driving habits of others as a trigger and a justified excuse to lash out. Road rage is growing at such a rate in Perth that the police have commented on it and asked the public to be more tolerant on our roads.
The WA police released statistics that show in 2013 there were 2468 complaints to police about alleged road rage incidents. The police have also shown that alcohol and drug fuelled violence is on the increase and that women are increasingly resorting to violence when under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.
One of the contributing problems to this rise in angry behaviour is that more people have lost the ability to find their self-esteem through their inner resources and self identity. Instead they are seeking it in “other esteem” whether that be in associating with important other people, or by having other things such as an attractive partner, houses, cars, boats, tech gadgets, and experiences such as extravagant holidays.
This is a treadmill that once a person gets on it there is no end and that person is soon running to keep a materialistic lifestyle going. That person feels the stress, anxiety and demands which keep that image based charade going and soon find their short lived happiness replaced by the suffering of stress and despair.
The stress is the forced actions to keep paying off these goods, or propelling the juggernaught of a lifestyle that needs the fuel of more and more money to keep going. The despair is that realisation that no object outside ourself brings any permanent happiness but instead a brief enjoyment and then a responsibility and obligation to house, protect and maintain it.
It can be at this point that the materialistic person starts to make contact with a growing anger and rage building inside them. Despite having a better living standard than all our ancestors that persons find they are becoming more restless, aggressive and unhappy.
What they thought would happen from all this wealth and object attainment does not come true. There is normally a degree of resentment building within that person at those around them who get to enjoy the lifestyle or objects but do not have the responsibility to buy or maintain them.
Such people often find they cannot enjoy their wealth and the shared experience of those objects of lifestyle as they have become a burden and things that create stress and unhappiness. What happens next is typically one of two paths and each do not work either.
The first is chasing after more but maybe different objects of that lifestyle thinking I need so and so to prove I am somebody, or I need X as that is what will make me happy. We are a dog chasing our tail and all we do is accumulate or swap objects, relationships and lifestyles seeking happiness as something “out there”.
In this scenario life gets worse and the person may start to live outside their means, or become depressed. They find life is empty and meaningless and they find they cannot find their happiness despite their fortunate lifestyle.
You do not have to be Rockefeller to be in this position. This aspirational lifestyle dogs many singles, middle class families and the wealthy and is a trap that breeds over time a growing anger and rage at how powerless and lost they feel with their life.
I see a lot of couples who split up at the end of such a cycle. Their anger and rage is often directed at each other and often they fail to see how they contribute to the problem themselves. This is expressed anger and rage in one of its forms that can be quite destructive and which tends to be a pattern or cyclical in the lives of those who suffer from it.
Yet another strategy for coping for the wealthy or the aspirational lifestyle seeker who becomes stuck on the materialistic treadmill is addictions. This self-soothing or self-medicating strategy is a passive aggressive form of attack on the self and also on those around that person.
Addictions tend to sabotage the addicts life. The person becomes more and more consumed by that addictive experience, process or object whether that be drink, drugs, sex, gambling work or whatever is now the self-soothing escape from life and responsibilities.
That rage against oneself is felt in the embrace of that addiction. The person self harms by lying to themselves and others about what they are doing and its impact, cost or consequences on them, their relationships or others. The person will tend to be in a shame-anger dynamic and self-soothes when they feel bad, ashamed or angry.
They may also lash out at others in their shame based defensiveness and use anger to shutdown accountability via questioning and challenges from others. The person is out of control and hates being reminded, and simply starts to hate themselves and life.
The self-loathing is a downward spiral. In moments of clarity they see the hurt and the damage they have created around them and the rejection and hurt they cause to those who love them.
This reinforces the self-hatred and tends to trigger more addictive impulses and so the negative behaviour occurs again. The downward spiral continues as they live in their pain.
Another form of mind violence towards others is silence. Silence is an insidious form of manipulation and control of others.
The reason for this is that overt aggression involves expression that communicates the anger and normally the story or cause behind it. At least as a witness or a victim we can see it coming, process the story, the rational or irrational reasons for the upset and so come to an understanding even if we do not agree with their stance.
Silence affords none of that. Silence speaks loudly in its mood, bodily expression and withdrawal or shutting down. The absence of direct communication affects the brain of the people around the silent angry person.
The vacuum of non-explanation cannot be tolerated by the human brain which will story tell and then go anxious to try and explain what is not being explained. It becomes worry and recurrent anxious thinking that starts to plant seeds of self- doubt and undermines the reality of the victim who makes up scenarios and justifications in their head about the state of silent anger that presents itself through the other person.
This is known as mind violence as it tortures other people by its control and manipulation of communication through withholding. Mind violence in its various forms can create mental and emotional disorders in its victims and cannot be dismissed as non-violent or harmless.
Another form of violence that may accompany a downward spiral is suicide which is the rage and anger turned against the self and the universe. We kill ourself which is the internalised rage, we hurt the survivors around us which is outward rage, and we attack life itself which is the attack against everything and our own life force and so is universal.
When we consider the German pilot Andreas Lubitz who deliberately flew an airliner into the French Alps and killed all 150 people on board, we can feel the anger of a pre-determined person who had a plan and who knew he was affecting the lives of others on the plane, and their loved ones and families who survived them.
A conscious plan to kill oneself by killing others as well is violent and an aggressive stance against life. The pilot was reported as having previously been depressed and that makes sense as depression is one way anger and hatred that is suppressed internally via a hypo-arousal shutting down creating the depression illness.
The advent of methyl amphetamine has been another trigger for increased outbursts of rage and anger fuelled violent outbursts by men and women in our society. The severity and intensity of these angry outbursts is increasing to the point that the incidence of killing or permanent injury outcomes is seen in statistics.
The drug induced violence of Ice and Meth is showing up in our court rooms where crime, violence and homicide is now becoming increasingly linked to Ice and Meth drug use and addiction. Users become super strong and have high resistant to pain, but are also made hyper-aroused to physical violence which often then occurs in social settings such as parties or events, in road rage settings, at work or at home.
This chemical induced violence is in epidemic proportions amongst the younger age groups due to the perceived nature of Meth and Ice being seen as manageable party or social drugs. Users are in denial about the risk of drug induced psychosis and rage outbursts it produces as they are often amnesic to their own actions when in the moments of acting out such violence.
There is also an increased usage of steroids such as the body building classes of testosterone by younger men who are being pressured by the body conscious, macho culture that social media propagates through narcissistic selfie propagation.
Men are bulking up with hormonal and steroid assistance but the nature of these drugs is to bring additional aggression into the person consuming these drugs. If you add Meth or Ice as a social drug to body building steroid users then you have a recipe for a rageaholic prone personality.
The net effect of these contributing factors is the increased levels of physical anger and rage across the community. We see it in the increased road rage incidents, the impatience of people in queues, the abuse online of trolls against others, the one punch criminal cases in court, the bullying in workplaces, the assaults on sports fields, the sexual and physical abuse of children, women and passive men by more dominant and aggressive men and women.
Where ever you look you see it playing out. Children are become more violent with the number of child to child, child to teacher, and parent to child assaults in and around schools on the increase. Racism, sexism and religious hatred are all alive and well in our culture.
Every human is born with aggressive potential. As part of our “fight and flight” system encoded within parts of the brain we all have the potential to fight, to attack, and to be triggered into anger and rage when confronted or overwhelmed.
As part of our evolution and socialisation we have found ways to avoid raw acting out of aggressive impulses except in all but defensive or extreme situations. These curbs are seen in rules, laws, conventions, education, social rituals and beliefs.
We often channel this aggression into sport, challenges, tasks and goals as a way of discharging aggressive impulses into “positive” forms. We need some aggression to motivate us into action and to make us safe so anger at least helps us to set boundaries, state our “no”, and to keep us confident to be present in our environment without stress.
However the same potential can become distorted and show its negative face via acting out, trauma, and unsafe forms of expression. The visible forms of anger and rage are by their very nature energetic, hyper-aroused and action oriented.
They are the more typical forms that we see reported in the press and which we may easily experience from another or notice occurring in our community.
Yet there are also invisible and more subtle forms of violence in our culture that are those forms of mind violence done to others and also those forms of self-mutilation whether done to the body or the mind or the spirit of the Self. Many of these dynamics may be traced back to our family of origin.
The childhood development process for each one of us happened within a family system. It is accurate to say that a childhood for any one of us saw each one of us exposed to individual, family and cultural dynamics that worked for or against us.
Take for instance having a parent who is a perpetrator of some form of violence to family members, whether that be on physical, sexual, emotional, mental or spiritual planes. Much offender behaviour is “acting out” or re-enactment behaviours of their own trauma, and the behaviour matches how they were once victimised themselves.
In this situation we see inter-generational abuse running down family trees until someone or something intervenes to put a stop to the perpetrator who was once themselves a victim. Victims will tend to internalise the trauma on a number of fronts but as a general rule they will tend to develop a “repetition compulsion” to revisit the original trauma in themselves.
This re-creation is either becoming a victim again in some other circumstance and with some other perpetrator, or identifying with the original perpetrator and becoming a perpetrator ourself and act out similar criminal or traumatic behaviours on others who are our victims. We internalise the violence against us when we were powerless and in fear as victims, and then act it out later as a perpetrator against someone else, or we self-mutilate by self-violence by again becoming a victim to someone else.
Children learn from their parent’s actions, words and behaviours. Its part our human design to assimilate by visual and bodily cues who we should be through mimicking and learning from our parents and family siblings in how they present and act.
A healthy person has healthy anger which is life affirming as it sets boundaries, protests a “no” when required, and acts to keep us alive and safe when we are under threat. Children learn healthy or unhealthy anger from their parents and peers depending on what is put in front of them.
So violence as unhealthy anger and rage is a virus in one way and it spreads both from the one-on-one dynamics we experience as well as the family system dynamics that we normalise and live in day to day. The past generational baggage tumbles down the generations informing us as to who we are and invades us silently and subconsciously, much like real viruses in the community.
Otto Bettelheim coined the idea of “identification with the aggressor”. He described the process as being where children who are being hurt want the trauma and pain to end split themselves and cease to identify with themselves, and instead create an identity with the abusive perpetrator and adopt their strength and power, rather than feel the shame and trauma of the victim self.
The aftermath is a split-self child who has inside a sub-personality that is a weak traumatised and shamed child, but also an angry violent strong perpetrator adult. The trauma embodied in the person and their nervous system will trigger and fuel the shame and then the acting out as the victim or the perpetrator. The re-enactment violence and abuse may be directed toward oneself or another person.
Extreme violence that overwhelmed the child or where there was a learnt response to submit, comply, give up, or go into a hypo-aroused shutting down state, may result in the development of a “learned helplessness” or a victim personality.
A hypo-aroused shutting down state and energy system in the body will create a numbing out to feelings and pain which protects the person somewhat. The thinking that I have no choice is the old belief system that was probably true in childhood in the face of siblings or adults abusing me, but is not true as an adult.
However the adult will shutdown, give up free will choice and submit as a victim to whatever is going on. There may also be a childhood voice going on in the head that tells oneself that I deserve this, I am bad or defective or flawed and that is why this keeps happening to me and so I feel more shame yet again.
Self mutilation is one common form of acting out against oneself and also others. Rage against the self will tend to invoke in us self mutilation but that be seen in risk taking behaviours, self sabotage in business or relationships, suicide, or accidents and illness.
Self mutilation also serves to punish others who look upon us with concern, fear and feel the powerlessness that was our state perhaps when we were young and subject to mind or some other violence. We punish ourself and those around us who love and show concern for us as our anger seeks to hurt and punish all within reach.
Some eating disorders are considered to have one of several causes as being from self hatred and the wasting away (anorexia) or the binge eater(bulimic) may be in some cases acting out their rage via self mutilation versus just simply exerting control over the one thing they feel left in control of(their bodies).
Some religious and family systems promote violence in its rules and beliefs. Such family systems dominated by parents who believe and justify violence via religious or cultural justifications are abusing their children.
We are seeing this more and more in recent times in two polarities. On the one hand we have had a major ongoing Royal Commission into child abuse by the predominately Judeo-Christian religious orders and their affiliated schools, convents, orphanages, institutions and charities.
Here the powerless children were denied any rights as humans and became slaves, playthings, sexual objects and condemned sinners of shaming and violent priests, nuns, governors, teachers and other authority position adults. Many have sought expensive legal teams to fight claims tooth and nail being made accountable to the law, to victims, to their parishioners and society at large.
The churches and its ministers have been judged and found guilty by the public at large. Most disconcerting has been the continued denials, minimisation and coverups that have continued to this day as the perpetrators and the churches as institutional abusers still try to dodge accountability and responsibility via adequate change, redress and honest disclosure about this inter-generational abuse at a vast systemic scale on a global scale.
The other polarity is the rise of the abuser and psychopathic perpetrator who hides behind the mask of Islam in its death cult form that we know as ISIS or Daesh. This recent phenomena is merely a honeypot for violent psychopathic men, mind controlled men and women, and compliant victim types who see salvation under the guise of this “religion”, by following a creed of absolute rigid and violent rules of inhumanity.
The world has reacted to ISIS by meeting violence with violence and while the outcome over a long term timeframe is likely to be the annihilation of what is abhorrent to all but a few, calls upon us to see ISIS as a symptom and look deeper for a cause of how can such a group flourish and even attract recruits who previously were once reasonable and non-violent people.
Both the Western Church abuse scandals and ISIS point to a sick society. Add to that the rampant levels of abuse, drug and alcohol addiction issues, destruction of environments and cultures, violence and trauma in society and we collectively are snowballing downhill towards an outcome that bodes poorly for the fate of mankind.