RAGE is activated when we do not get what we need and want.
An absolutely essential emotional system, giving us the motivating force behind assertive self-protection. The RAGE system is activated towards others who are competing for vital resources and most intensively when these are life threatening. There are many terms we use in day-to-day life which tell us that the RAGE system may be activated – frustrated, irritated, angry, furious, hate, vengeful, cross, annoyed.
Communities striving for peace, need to find effective channels for expressing the activation of the RAGE system (e.g. free speech and encouragement of assertive behaviour) as well as to wholeheartedly support those who have appropriately acted, using their RAGE activation in self-defence.
“Anyone can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree, and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way … that is not easy.” Aristotle (320 BC)
Activation and expression
The activation of this system can show a broad range of intensity from mild irritation to intense rage; however, feeling the activation of this system, however intense does not mean we need to do anything violent. It is important to notice our feelings of anger activated by the RAGE system, so that we can make choices about how we express it, i.e. we do not have to link anger with aggression. The expression of this system ideally changes with our age – from toddlers hitting out and having tantrums to grown ups assertively communicating and acting on our own needs. Bodily imbalance such as hunger or thirst, sensitizes the activation of this system, we even have the term feeling ‘hangry’ when hunger mixes with anger. The RAGE system is closely linked to our SEEKING system being frustrated.
Mild Activation of this system may lead to…
Activation of the jaw, increased heart rate and body heat in torso and face, with a sense of pressure and strength building up inside, these bodily activations are designed to enable us to do something about the situation, and to ensure we are alert and enabled to deal problems which need addressing.
Intense Activation of this system may lead to…
Expanding strength, pressure and heat in the chest, which radiates energy down the shoulders to the hands and the legs to the feet. It can be experienced as
- a tightly coiled or volcanic energy,
- a desire to set limits or boundaries for others,
- to represent our displeasure in a defined and assertive way,
- be physically active or even cause violence.
As clarified above – noticing a feeling inside and for instance the desire to be violent (“He’s hurt me so much, I could just slap him!”) is not the same as doing something violent.
We can unhealthily express the activation of our RAGE system by being impulsive in a way that isn’t helpful for the situation – being violent, making threats, swearing, shouting, name calling. We can also have an unhelpful response by blocking the expression and holding it inside, this can create passivity, we can lose our strength and potency, we can also turn rage against ourselves which can eventually cause active self attacking behaviours like harsh self criticism or self punishment, or even self harm or suicide attempts.