How to support someone suffering from rage

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My incessant RAGING about my circumstances was a cry for someone else to understand me and say they understood.

NOTE: If you believe someone has said something abusive to an someone, address that person privately. If you are dissatisfied, contact an administrator.

  • Statements like "Do you mean....?" or "Is this what I hear you saying?" Statements like this help the person feel that you are trying to understand what is being said. Even if you're wrong in your assessment, the other person feels that you are trying to connect. (Non-Violent Communication technique). Questions like "What is it that you need right now, do you know, can you tell me?" work wonders too. Getting genuinely honest responses back from someone about what they have said is essential. This is to prevent the person who is upset from feeling placated. Genuine connection is the goal.
  • Let them have their say. However, if you find their comments abusive (toward anyone, please contact an administrator. We want you to feel safe here, too. If their comments make you uneasy, but you don't think containment is needed, simply ignore their posts. Sometimes people work through their distress if we just "hold a space" for them, without any "back and forth."
  • Encourage them. Statements like "Awww you can do it, I know you can." "You're stronger than you know, I can see it." or "I believe in you." "You can tell me anything." "You can say whatever you need to say to me, I'll listen." Feel free to contact them privately, if you think you can be a good cheerleader.
  • Make sure your internal motivation is grounded in wanting to help the person feel calmer, and not in wanting to 'fix' their problems.
  • Don't tell them they have no reason to be upset.
  • Acknowledge that you heard and are empathetic, “ Your history makes me feel sad.” “I’m so sorry you went through that.” Or offer a cyber hug or something similar. Try not to mention anything specific to their trauma experience in your response. Specific cues reactivate the old, unwanted brain circuit.
  • If you resonate deeply with someone else’s pain by stepping into their projections and affirming them (“You’re right; that’s unforgivable!”) you are fanning the flames of the very brain pathway they are trying to unlearn. This is not helping the person.
  • Remind the upset person they are loved, no matter how unloving or violent their behavior.
  • Remind them of their most inspired, noble, capable self. This lets them know you “see” the real them behind the storm of rage.
  • If you can, help them laugh (without mentioning anything that acts as a cue for another storm).
  • Remind yourself that their suffering may be serving some larger purpose, such as learning how to help others by modeling healing.
  • Wait patiently, and hold a vision of them already healed, balanced and happy.
  • When the time is right, it may also help to remind them to use the techniques they can reach from the Are You Stuck in Rage? page.

None of these techniques is based on judgment of the person who is stuck. Such folks have understandable reasons for their behavior. However, the more they torment themselves by activating a painful brain pathway for whatever fleeting satisfaction they can gain, they are less likely they are to lay down the new brain pathways that will carry them in directions they really want to go.

Not all people struggling with rage were abused as children, but many were. Those of us who haven’t experienced this, but want to support those who have, may find this description helpful in realizing what they are coping with, and why they swing from “poor me” to “rage,” and find it a challenge to develop a solid sense of what balance feels like:

Child sexual abuse is damaging to the vast majority of its victims, not simply because it is sometimes frightening, but also because of the many ways in which it disrupts normal child development and the capacity for normative relational functioning. Regardless of how the child formulated what is happening at the time of CSA, survivors of this type of abuse often find, later in life, that this violation has deprived them of the opportunity to experience adaptive and gratifying sexual functioning, left them with a greatly disrupted capacity to trust other people, and created the experience of tremendous confusion about, and discomfort engaging in, emotionally intimate relationships.

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