Rage: Overcoming Explosive Anger Online Conference Transcript

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Dr. Ronald Potter-Efron: Rage- Overcoming Explosive AngerDr. Ronald Potter-Efron, MSW, Ph.D., author of: "Rage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Explosive Anger" discusses the differences between rage and anger, what causes someone to go into a rage and how to control your anger (anger management).

Natalie is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.

The people in blue are audience members.


Natalie: Good Evening. I'm Natalie, the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com. Our topic tonight is "Rage: Overcoming Explosive Anger". Our guest is Dr. Ronald Potter-Efron, MSW, Ph.D., author of: "Rage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Explosive Anger". He is a psychotherapist in private practice in Eau Claire, WI, who specializes in anger management, mental health counseling, and the treatment of addictions.

Good evening and welcome Dr. Potter-Efron.

Dr. Potter-Efron: Hello and thanks for the invitation.

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Natalie: In your book, Rage you say that rage is not just extreme anger. What is it, then, and how do you differentiate it from intense anger?

Dr. Potter-Efron: The two are quite different in several ways:

First, anger is goal directed. By that, I mean that an angry person wants something specific. Rage is threat-directed. The individual believes he or she is threatened and is trying to relieve the threat.

Second, rage is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde experience. The person having it feels like the rage is happening without his or her consent. There's a sense of disbelief, a "what is happening here to me" event.

Third, ragers sometimes lose conscious awareness of their activity. They have rage blackouts that last from seconds to hours. This doesn't happen with anger.

Fourth, ragers often lose control of themselves in amazing ways. It's not unusual, for instance, for them to report that it took seven grown men to pull them away from the person they were attacking. I've even had 120 women tell me this.

Natalie: A section of your book is entitled "The Raging Brain," and in it you talk about the differences between the brains of ragers and non-ragers. Explain this.

Dr. Potter-Efron: Think of all of us having less than perfect brains but some brains are even less perfect than others. Three type of brain problems may be associated with raging, but none all the time. These are:

  1. Damage to the temporal lobes on the sides of the brain. These are easily injured. Damage can lead to instant total meltdowns seemingly triggered by nothing at all. Best medication for this is anti-convulsants such as Tegretol (Carbamazepine).
  2. Under-functioning pre-frontal lobes. This affects a person's problem-solving ability and makes them more likely to blow up in total frustration.
  3. Over-functioning anterior cingulated gyrus. This leads to obsessive thought processes, an inability to let go of insults that can slowly or quickly build up to a rage episode.

Natalie: That's very interesting. What are some of the psychological and emotional factors involved in rage, and are there common experiences that ragers report having in childhood or in their early lives?

Dr. Potter-Efron: Each type of rage has its own psychological issues so let me defer on that question until later when we discuss the 4 types of rage.

Children can and do rage, probably more than adults, because they have relatively poor controls over their anger. Let's make a distinction between a goal-directed tantrum ("I want that ice cream cone!) and a true rage ("I can't stop screaming even though I don't know why I'm doing this"). And, of course, early childhood traumatization, sensitizes children to become adults who rage.

Natalie: You talk about the four different kinds of rage. What are they?

Dr. Potter-Efron: Survival rage. A response to a threat to physical survival such as rape, assault, etc. Here's an example. A client of mine was about to be beaten by his father when he was 16 years old. The last thing he remembers is screaming "NO." Two hours later he awoke from his rage state to discover his father lying unconscious (not dead) on the floor. His father weighed over 250 pounds.

Impotent rage. The threat here is to the human need for control over one's life. Frustration builds when someone feels helpless to alter significant problems. One example could be finding out your child has terminal cancer.

Shame-Based rage. Now the threat is to one's respected place in the community (and to self-respect). Some people react with rage to times when they feel disrespected.

Abandonment rage. This time the threat is the loss of an intimate relationship. "I can't live without you" leads to jealousy and desperate attempts to maintain a relationship.