Friday, November 7, 2014

The Calm After the Storm

I have a temper, as other people often put it--a problem with sudden rage, a response to brain chemistry that I find hard to control. I start yelling at a coworker, friend or loved one for what must seem to that person like no reason, sometimes saying things I regret later.

What's interesting about this phenomenon is that though it looks like rage, the feeling is actually fear. The feeling is always fear, but the response differs. Sometimes it's flight, sometimes fight. Rage is fight. The best defense can be a good offense when you are being attacked.

But unfortunately, the rage is wrong when the situation doesn't warrant it. Chances are you are not being attacked; perhaps you're only being criticized, or thwarted, or confused. None of those situations call for sudden, uncontrollable rage. Yet it happens because the mind is reacting to what it perceives as danger. The stakes seem high but in reality they are not.

It doesn't matter that the response is wrong, however--not to the brain, anyway. Venting the rage works to make the person feel better, and that's what counts. Unfortunately, everyone else feels worse. The short-term effect is relief, but the long-term effects may be ruined relationships, loss of employment, or worse. People who take the rage past verbal abuse to violence might end up hurting or killing someone before they can stop.

For me, the rage is like a sudden, violent thunderstorm. It comes out of the blue and pow! Thunder, lightning, heavy rain, high winds. The storm wreaks havoc, then it's gone--just like that--and the clouds clear, the sun reappears and the sky is a bright blue behind a beautiful rainbow.  Looking around, though, we see the downed tree limbs and the destruction the violent storm left behind. Sometimes the consequences are severe--damage to property or even life. It's never as if nothing happened. In the aftermath, there are always signs of the storm's power.

When the rage comes over me like a sudden thunderstorm, it leaves just as suddenly. I feel better then, but looking around, I see that no one else feels better. People might be angry, stunned, even frightened. Those are the lingering signs of the destructive power of my rage. Coworkers, friends, loved ones remember what it was like. They view me in a different light after that, one that includes a knowledge of my potential for sudden harm.

My mind selects this stormy solution, but only because it's familiar, it's convenient and it works. At least in the short term, anyway. I need to choose a different solution to the bad brain chemistry, but that's not easy because doing so requires that I see the storm coming and avoid it somehow. Depression can sweep over me without anyone (but me) noticing right away, so I have time to do something about it before it harms my relationships. Rage, on the other hand, is immediately consequential. The harm occurs and is over before I even register that it is brain-chemistry-induced.

So, I'm still working on that early-warning system that will help me in my quest to avoid erroneous rage.

No comments:

Post a Comment