There is anger, and then there is rage. This past week we have seen rage Even collective rage. The roots of rage are gnarly and random. They go beyond cause and effect and seem to exist without predictable pattern. Rage is anarchy of the emotions in a hijacked brain. Rage is so severe in its host that vision and sense of time may be suspended or altered. The ears may not hear and the mind may not be able to remember. A cascade of chemicals hijack the autonomic nervous system, sometimes with excess adrenaline and oxygen causing the body to shake and tremble. The face of rage is distortion.
Rage is a proverbial “last straw” reaction that roots in unmitigated pain and hopelessness. Rage is a sense of overwhelm that feels nothing is left to lose. Rage is the absence of order.
Observing rage is a frightening thing. Children who are exposed to a raging parent may suffer PTSD into their adult lives and may not be able to tolerate even the expression of healthy anger in self and others for fear that it may turn into the terrifying rage that they have experienced.
Alcoholism, unrelenting mental illness and pain, crushing financial stress and poverty, infidelity and betrayal, failure of a life long endeavor,, disgrace, the loss of a life, these are possible “last straws” that can trigger a rage attack. This past week, watching a man lose his life unnecessarily at the hands of someone who callously held power of life and death over him was a trigger that unleashed rage. “I can’t breathe.” Too much, too many times before, too much cognitive dissonance to process by reasoning something that is completely unreasonable.
How do we back out of rage and allow ourselves to feel heartbreak without despair? How can we get back into our right minds without feeling compromised? The answer is we do it together. Rage is the loneliest of experiences. Seeing two Kansas City cops holding up a sign that read, “Black lives matter,” while having strong professional lines to contain the disorder is the beginning of finding ways together to prevent this activation of rage from happening again. It is a process.
While rage must be contained for the safety of self and others, its only prevention comes in calmer moments of genuine conversation and understanding of the roots of repressed anger. We pull each other back with the steadiness of kindness and giving to each and every person respect and compassion and carrying hope for those who have lost it. Much patience will be required to understand those struggling from long histories of being marginalized.