Have you ever wondered why we sometimes find ourselves consumed with uncontrollable anger? Why do certain things trigger our inner fury?
Let’s take a closer look the origins of anger and how it can boil over into rage.
The Evolution of Anger
One of the most intense emotions in the human experience is anger. Anger can be caused by a variety of stimuli, including feelings of threat or frustration. While anger is a universal emotion, its evolutionary roots still aren’t entirely clear. However, there are a few different theories about how anger may have developed in humans.
One theory suggests that anger is an evolutionarily adaptive emotion. It may have originally developed as a means of helping humans survive and reproduce. For example, if our ancestors were threatened by a predator, becoming enraged may have helped them fight back and escape. Or, if they were competing with another individual for resources, getting angry may have helped them win the competition.
While this theory makes sense, it doesn’t explain why we still experience anger in situations where it isn’t adaptive (such as when we’re frustrated by our partner or child).
A second theory suggests that anger is a byproduct of other evolutionary adaptations. For example, the part of the brain that controls anger (the amygdala) may have originally evolved for other purposes, such as fear or aggression. Over time, however, this same area of the brain became involved in controlling anger as well. This theory could explain why we sometimes see rage erupting “out of nowhere” – it may simply be an emotional manifestation of other processes happening in the brain.
SCIENCE OF RAGE: BIOLOGICAL AND NEUROCHEMICAL CAUSES
It’s no secret that humans can be a volatile bunch. We’re prone to fits of anger and aggression that can, in extreme cases, lead to violence. But what drives this behavior? Are we simply hardwired for rage, or is there more to it than that?
As mentioned earlier, rage is a primitive emotion that may have developed as a survival mechanism. Today, the root causes of rage are thought to be both biological and neurochemical.
Biological factors include things like hormones and brain chemistry. Neurochemical factors refer to the chemicals in the brain that influence our mood and behavior. For example, serotonin is a chemical that helps regulate our mood and keep us feeling calm and relaxed. Low levels of serotonin have been linked with increased aggression and hostility.
While we may not be able to completely prevent ourselves from giving in to rage, understanding the biological and neurochemical factors behind it can help us find better ways to control our emotions and behaviors.
Here are some common types of rage and some of the best ways to deal with them.
3 Common Types of Rage and How to Get Help When You Start to Lose Control
There are different forms of anger or rage. Here’s a closer look at just a few of the types…
From childhood temper tantrums to adult acts of aggression, anger seems to be hardwired into the human psyche. Maybe there’s a justifiable reason for why you’re upset, like someone shoving your child. Or perhaps your fit of anger was completely unprovoked…maybe you’re just having a really bad day and needed to let off some steam.
Whether triggered by real or perceived threats or offenses, anger can escalate to outbursts, which can lead to violence. Such violent outbursts can lead to physical struggles, damage to property, or even fatalities. Frequent violent outbursts may be a sign of trouble, so if this is an area where you struggle, getting help might be the best course of action to protect yourself and others around you.
Social Media Rage
Social media rage is a relatively new phenomenon that pertains to the anger people feel when they interact with others on social media platforms. This form of anger can be caused by many things, such as disagreeing with a comment made by someone else online or feeling like you’re being ignored. Social media rage can lead to name-calling, cyberbullying, and even doxxing (releasing private information about someone online).
Another form of rage may be directed at the technology itself. If a page is loading too slowly or if a perceived link isn’t taking a user to where they want to go, this can produce an aggressive behavior termed rage clicks.
Rage clicks occur when users rapidly tap or pound on a link, button, or other area of an app or website when it fails to advance them to their intended goal. Some companies use heatmapping to track where customers are clicking on their site. Rage clicks will appear as big, red circles or blotches on a specific part of a web page, indicating the user’s persistent and hostile reaction to not getting a desired result.
If this ever happens to you, the best way to deescalate the situation is to just put the phone down for a few moments (unless you’re in a life-threatening situation). Reengage when you’ve calmed down and maybe try backing out of the current page and try clicking the button again. Sometimes unresponsive web pages may be due to slow wi-fi or elements that appear as if they’re clickable, but really aren’t. A brief timeout and a little patience may help prevent you from engaging in rage clicks.
Road rage is a type of anger that is often caused by stress while driving. It can lead to aggressive driving, yelling, and even violence.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) defines road rage as: “Aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other road vehicle which includes rude gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted toward another driver in an effort to intimidate or release frustration.”
Road rage is responsible for many injuries and fatalities each year. Shockingly, 82% of U.S. drivers admit to having committed an act of road rage at least once in the past year.
Many people get angry, frustrated, or stressed out by bad drivers, traffic jams, road construction, or other delays. But what causes some drivers to become so enraged?
When you’re behind the wheel, you don’t want to be the victim of aggressive behavior, and it can make you feel anxious or angry. In many cases where drivers are targeted by road rage, they respond aggressively by making rude gestures, shouting, honking, tailgating, or flashing their lights. As a result, rage and aggressive behavior may escalate and the consequences can be deadly.
Diffusing Road Rage
The next time you find yourself engaging in aggressive driving behaviors, follow these tips to diffuse the situation:
- Consider the consequences of your actions:
- Physical harm to yourself or others (including kids)
- Damage to one or more vehicles
- Increased insurance premiums
- Potential legal issues
- Pull off the highway or road, find a safe place to park, and:
- Do a deep breathing exercise
- Turn on some soothing music (classical or easy listening vs. rock or rap)
- Don’t start driving again until you’ve completely cooled down
You can minimize the risk of giving in to road rage by practicing daily stress-reducing therapies like deep breathing, havening, journaling, exercising, listening to soothing music, and enjoying relaxing scents from diffused essential oils.
Also, consider taking dietary supplements with calming and relaxing ingredients like BrainMD’s Everyday Stress Relief, Calm My Brain, and GABA Calming Support.
GET CURIOUS, NOT FURIOUS
Anger is a signal that something isn’t right in your world. We generally experience it when we feel the need to defend ourselves. But anger also can be the brain’s way of dealing with deeper, emotional issues.
When you feel angry, ask yourself what other emotions might be driving the anger. Get curious about what triggers you to become enraged.
If episodes of road rage or other types of outbursts persist, it’s recommended that you see a trained counselor or therapist. They can give you practical strategies and therapies to help stabilize your emotions and behaviors so you can enjoy a more peaceful life.
Published by Amen Clinic