Sue Parker-Hall, whose work I refer to in the comments on the biblical passage in this session, is a psychotherapist, counsellor and trainer based in Cornwall. Her book, ‘Anger, Rage and Relationship’ arose out of her work with people involved in domestic violence and is primarily for professionals but it contains much that’s useful to us all.
She makes the distinction between anger and rage. Rage can be ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. The charts, which come from her book, depict hot rage emerging when a whole range of internal struggles, fears and resentments boil over and are expressed in ways that are often destructive. It can emerge as loud and vociferous talking or can take the form of grumbling, sarcasm, criticism of others. It can be sparked by something to which anger would be an appropriate response but because it gets tangled up with all the other emotions, it emerges aggressively. We can look for help when we’re having difficulty dealing with hot rage from someone who will listen attentively to the range of feelings that are upsetting us, not judge us for having the feelings but help us separate out what is what. Then each of the constituent feelings can be expressed in a way appropriate to it, including anger (now separated from rage).
Cold Rage is when we put the lid on those emotions swirling round inside us. Most likely we’ll do this because the kinds of expression common with hot rage are anti-social and we don’t like drawing attention to ourselves that way. But though we try, cold rage still does have observable symptoms. These are things like a feeling of emptiness, of depression, of self-criticism, of cynicism and lack of belief in those willing or trying to help us. But we do need help with cold rage and someone willing to offer us the safety to let out the feelings we’re having, to put them into words, can help deal with those unpleasant symptoms.
Anger is untrammelled by confusion with other needs and emotions. Its cause is therefore easier to determine and the response easier to express in creative ways. Sue Parker Hall gives the following guidelines for how to do that:
• Use ‘I’ statements
for example: ‘When I think about you borrowing my car, scraping it, then not telling me and denying it when I asked you about it I feel angry and hurt’
• Make requests
for example: ‘What I’d like is for you to own up, say you are sorry and make some payment towards the repairs.’
• Offer positive consequences;
for example: ‘If you co-operate I will accept that accidents happen and happily lend you my car again.’
• Follow up with negative consequences if necessary;
for example: ‘If you don’t co-operate then I will not lend you my car again.’
Finally, she quotes in her book how ‘Suzanna’ described the difference it made to her that she could separate anger and rage:
‘I used to think my hot rage was my anger but I now realise that I didn’t feel pure anger, separate from rage, until I was in my thirties and had processed quite a few of the troubling things that had “wriggled and wiggled and jiggled inside me”. I was sooooo excited by its energy, I felt really powerful but very kind too . . . not mean and nasty to others like I was with my rage. I feel quite tearful saying this … I knew that I mattered, that my needs were important. . . not more important than anyone else’s but definitely as important. I suddenly had energy to take action my own behalf, could think things through really well rather than going berserk! People were much more likely to listen to me so I could have an influence on situations; my input was taken on board. Finally, I felt like I could protect myself and say “no” to people … I just felt so much more alive and secure in the world because of it. So different from feeling my rage which only ever left me feeling worse. . . usually ashamed because I’d hurt others and made myself look stupid . .. also nothing had changed’