Dealing with explosive rage in your relationship

Everyone gets angry sometimes. Anger is a healthy emotional alert system signaling real or perceived danger and alerting the individual to act for self-preservation. Yet, some people experience overwhelming explosive anger that involves emotional/physical abuse that is atypical of them and destructive to their relationship. Managing this type of rage is an urgent matter for both mates.

Dr. Ronald Potter-Efron, in “Rage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Explosive Anger,” explains that rage is different from anger. Rage is a spontaneous, explosive reaction that occurs without the individual’s consent, it stuns the person and often involves rage blackouts of not recalling any or even part of the incidents.

Potter-Efron lists four types of rage reactions: 1.Survival Rage, a perceived threat to one’s physical existence. 2. Impotent Rage, a threat to one’s control over his/her life. 3. Shame- Based Rage, a threat to loss of self-esteem. 4. Abandonment Rage, loss of an intimate relationship.

This psychologist explains that some brain dysfunctions may be responsible for these rage disorders. Certain medications can ameliorate some of the episodes of instant total meltdowns triggered by seemingly innocuous events.

Some rage outbursts may be the behavioral manifestations of an individual who has a form of personality disorder. Uncontrollable attacks are the methods used to dominate and subjugate a partner. This raging individual is not surprised by his outbursts because he believes that the spouse is at fault, initiates the situation and merits these rage sessions.

In relationships, the most common cause of rage stems from “Regressions,” the strong responses to a current situation that are actually triggered by earlier trauma in which one was helpless in defending oneself. For example, a husband who had been abused as a child may explosively rage at his wife, unaware that her behavior simulates his parent’s abuse and reactivates his helplessness and despair.

In “The Dark Side of The Inner Child,” Dr. Stephen Wolinsky details the nature of these “regressions” and provides behavioral tools to ease one’s proclivity to behave in this disturbing and self-defeating manner.

Richard Schwartz’ Internal Family System treatment is another therapeutic approach that teaches individuals how to manage their own wounded and over-reactive “parts.” Success is self-empowering.

If your partner is a raging individual:

    • Protect yourself from physical harm. Call 911 to secure your safety.
    • Leave until the raging individual has made significant improvements.
    • Insist that the mate seek medical/psychological evaluation and adheres to recommended treatment.
    • Insist that your raging mate receives therapy toward self-healing.

    If you have rage attacks:

    • Understand that this behavior is unsuitable to a person of your caliber, damaging to you and your partner and must stop.
    • Leave the relationship if you believe that your mate is to blame for your outbursts. He/she will not change. You need help.
    • Seek medical/psychological evaluation to determine the source of your rage.
    • Undertake therapy to regain pride in your conduct and recreate the healthy relationship you both deserve to have.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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