The Face of RageGeplaatst op: 16 november 2011
The Negative Emotion
Rage is an automatic response to bad treatment, a negative emotion that occurs when people feel their boundaries crossed. Rage is linked directly to aggression, often they go together or the aggression will lead to rage. Verbal rage, screaming, cursing and yelling, is shown quite often and sometimes leads to physical violence. Rarely physical violence isn’t preceded by verbal rage, but even if that happens there are always signs of rage in the aggressor.
The Pale and the Dark Face
Signs of approaching anger express themselves most often in the preparation for the ancient ‘Fight or Flight’-response. The body tenses up to either run away or attack. Preparation often shows itself by blood relocating to the most urgent spots, drawing it away from the less important locations. Such as the face. Signs of rage in an aggressor preparing for fight or flight will be blood drawing away from the face, rendering the face ‘pale’ compared to the normal hue of the skin. The tightening of the mouth will make the lips appear thinner and the eyes widen, showing more white and smaller irises. This ‘pale face’ is a sign for those in conflict resolution to go to high alert. The aggressor is for now undecided and the rage can go either way. At the time for action, blood often flows to those body parts that need them the most. If the pale face turns dark, the decision is made and the expression of the aggression is determined. Blood suffusing the face often expresses itself in verbal aggression and most often the aggressor will stick with one form of aggression. People yelling and screaming are less inclined to escalate to physical violence than the silent types.
Dealing with Aggression
In most cases, when confronted with the pale face of rage, it’s good form to step back to increase the distance and hold your hands at shoulder height with the palms facing the aggressor. Empty hands are an almost universal calming gesture, showing that you are unarmed and inclined to negotiate. Keep your face relaxed, but don’t smile as this can be misinterpreted. If someone starts yelling, do not interrupt. Allow the rage to vent itself until the aggressor runs out of steam and wait a few beats after they become silent before you respond. Make sure your response is in an even, calming voice, speaking a little slower than you usually speak. Acknowledge the aggressor’s anger [I see you are angry] and express the desire to negotiate [what can I do for you?]. Although this sound incredibly simple, it is extremely difficult not to go into the flow of the aggression or to become defensive or aggressive yourself.
Rage is most often a sign of impotent to act on a perceived threat. The aggressor is stuck in a position with just the options to fight or flee, while most situations have more than two solutions. Aggressors are mostly blind to these solutions, the rage giving them tunnel vision. To be receptive to alternate solutions, the aggression has to go, which is why it’s most important for the rage to be vented, preferably in a way that doesn’t harm anyone, such as screaming, cursing and yelling. If that doesn’t work, the aggressor needs to vent on objects instead of living creatures. Some anger management classes suggest balling up or tearing paper, crushing soft drink cans or kicking earth. After the aggression and impotence has been vented a solution can be found for the problem that caused the aggression.