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Author Topic: BEHAVIORS: Anger and Rage and passive aggression  (Read 6579 times)
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« on: April 08, 2009, 09:14:14 PM »

Perhaps because of my upbringing, I am afraid to show anger.  When I do raise my voice, yell, or otherwise feel that I have not perfectly contained my anger, I feel guilty.

We hear about a borderline's "raging" on this board a lot.  I would like to hear more about what that actually means. 

My mother was waify.  She ignored us much more than anything else, so I fortunate, I suppose, to not have been raged at. 
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2009, 09:31:06 PM »

DEFINITION: Rage, in psychiatry, is a mental state that is one extreme of the intensity spectrum of anger. When a person experiences rage it usually lasts until a threat is removed or the person under rage is incapacitated. The other end of the spectrum is annoyance.

I figured I would define it straight from the book first, then expand on it. Basically, as the definition suggests, it is a reaction to a person, situation, or activity that is designed to overwhelm the undesireable object with anger to the point of its dismissal. Once the object being raged at is removed, clearer waters prevail. It is usually used as a tool, and it can be an effective one.

The problem with raging is this, if used effectively, it becomes an extremely enabling action. The rager learns very quickly that by raging, they usually get the desired outcome. The trouble is that if you try to outlast the rager, to teach them that it isnt going to work on you, the situation will escalate beyond your control, or the person trying to defuse the rager will be dismissed entirely.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being angry. We all get angry. That is a normal reaction to certain things. As long as you are reasonable with your anger, and try to solve it and drop it, you will be just fine. Carrying the anger with you will ultimately lead to hatred. Once hatred enters the equation, it is a hard thing to let go of.
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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2009, 09:40:04 PM »

Rage is often the result of pent-up anger/fear that has not been dealt with... often because it in directed toward "self" or a target that is feared.

When a "safe" external target comes along, no matter how tiny it can trigger the release, which is often out of proportion to the triggering event.

Often the rage is directed at loved ones as they are convenient, deeply affected (greatest satisfaction of release), and the most likely to be tempered with their response because they love the person.

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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2009, 08:56:02 AM »

This might be one of the best questions asked! We all talk about rages, but what is it? Rage is an emotion of severe displeasure or dissatisfaction. On the spectrum of emotions of displeasure/dissatisfaction, the lowest levels of this emotion would be annoyance or frustration. We all get annoyed at things every day. The line at the grocery store is longer than we expect, and we have a lot of tasks to do so it is annoying to have to wait longer than expected.

Somewhere further down the spectrum is anger. Where you draw the line between annoyance and anger is probably based on the individuals ability to regulate emotion. In my opinion, the line between annoyance and anger is crossed when physiological changes occur. Tight jaw, eyebrows clenched, lips tight, nostrils flared, slightly elevated pulse, breathing rate increased, and slight release of adrenaline.

Rage is at the far end of the spectrum, and again the line between anger and rage is probably not constant. The physiological reactions to the emotion of dissatisfaction are much more severe than in the angered state, such as a feeling that the heart is pounding out of the chest and an adrenaline release that is pretty close to what it would feel like to be in fear of imminent life-threatening danger.

Reactions  to each of these emotions would be:

  • Annoyance -- Becoming slightly vocal and displaying some outward signs to signify annoyance. The person stuck in the grocery line might speak up and say "can't this line move a little faster"? They might take on a body posture to non-verbally communicate their displeasure, such as standing with one hand on the hip and glaring at the cashier. Maintaining a rational state of mind.


  • Anger -- Raised voice with a more aggressive tone. More aggressive body posture. Struggling to maintain a rational state of mind. Some physical acting out to displays of dissatisfaction, such as slightly slamming a door, striking coffee mug down on the desk. Becoming slightly irrational.

    The person stuck in line at the grocery store that has allowed themselves to elevate to the angered state would be using a raised voice to the cashier, and maybe once the person gets to the belt the person places the items on the belt a little harder than normal, kind of slamming things down.


  • Rage -- Using the highest levels of aggression to remove the source of dissatisfaction. Screaming and the most aggressive body posture and non-verbal communications, like getting directly in the face of the individual, shaking fists, and screaming, all with the sole goal of putting the subject into flight mode. Physical acting out such as throwing things at the subject, hitting, kicking, etc. Pretty much a complete loss of rationality.

    The person stuck in the grocery store line that has allowed themselves to elevate to rage would be screaming at the cashier, taking magazines and candy bars from the checkout stand and throwing them at the cashier, maybe even reaching across the belt and smacking the cashier.




All three levels of this emotion are normal and healthy -- even rage. What determines if it is healthy emotional regulation is what the circumstances are that sparked the level of emotion. In my examples above, it is normal to get annoyed when you are stuck in a long line. It might even be healthy to vent that a little by politely asking the cashier what is the delay if the line is halted -- maybe they are waiting on a price check. It wouldn't be healthy for a person to allow the situation of being stuck in a checkout line to escalate to anger or rage.

Anger might be appropriate when a person has done, or is in the process of doing, something that has some dire consequences. If an account manager mishandles a customer and loses a big account, it is probably normal and healthy for the boss to be angered. Calling the person into the office and using a slightly raised voice to say "I can't believe you lost that account!' while throwing their hands in the air. Then gaining composure and explaining to the subordinate exactly where the person mis-stepped and having a discussion around that. I think that would be a normal, healthy, appropriate display of anger.

Rage might be appropriate when a person is in the process of doing something that has severe dire consequences or is life threatening. For example, if a stranger is approaching you with a knife, it would be appropriate to employ rage to make that person re-think their plan. Rage is pure "fight" mode.

So just because at some point in our lives we have raised our voices, maybe even yelled at someone, that doesn't necessarily mean we have a "problem". What determines if there is a problem is looking at the situation and the consequences of whatever displeased the person, and determining if the persons emotional reaction was appropriate. It probably isn't appropriate to enter a state of anger over being stuck in a grocery store line. Certainly not rage. The consequences are not dire -- its just a minor setback in the day.

Another thing to look at in determining healthy regulation of these emotions is being aware of how you progress through the levels of this emotion. If you progress quite quickly from being annoyed to being angered, there is probably some negative thinking at play that actually accelerates your elevation through these emotional states, rather than positive thinking that would help you remain at the lowest emotional state to suit the circumstances. And no human being is perfect. We all have times when we let our emotions get a little out of control.

BPD's enter the state of rage almost instantly for reasons that would cause most people annoyance or maybe not even any annoyance. For example, I had a BP rage at me because I bought a $2.99 lint brush because I needed one. Full-on yelling, screaming, face in my face, fists clenched, very aggressive body posture and movements, but no physical violence on that occasion.

Another thing that is important in healthy emotional regulation of anger is to be able to recognize when you yourself have played a part in what you are displeased with, and use that cognitive thinking to control the anger. For example, going back to the situation of being stuck in the grocery line -- a healthy person will tell themselves "well, I shouldn't left the house a little sooner, so if I am late for my appointment it is partly my fault"

BPD's don't do this at all. They fail to recognize their own part in the situation that displeases them. Blame, blame, blame, and as they do that they become more angered, angered, and finally enraged. And typically, their chaotic lifestyle is usually a big factor in what they are upset about.
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2009, 09:44:34 AM »

Don't want to get too technical, but I just learned recently in a management class (for work) about personality traits and the function of the amygdala ("the stress gland". This is an almond-shaped/sized gland in the temporal lobe of the brain that pumps cortisol (the chemical that excites us & triggers the "fight or flight" response) into our bloodstream.  As we become excited (fear, threat etc.), it pumps cortisol at increasing rates.  Eventually, we reach at threshold beyond with there is no return and we lose control of our actions, or rage (some to more of a degree than others).  This, of course, is the repsonse for non-BPD's, and it's why even we non's often feel pushed beyond our limits.

For most of us, it takes some time & effort before we reach rage levels. I believe that BPD's arrive at this "no return" or "rage" point much sooner than non's b/c they process things so much differently.  So much seems to them to be about them, so they can't pause to consider that other factors or perspectives may be at play before raging.  They go straight to the rage (sort of a "cortisol dump", and when they DO go off, "fight or flight" is often our own natural reaction.  Those of us who are more evolved (not me!) are able to rein ourselves back in to keep our amygdala from being over-stimulated before it's too late, and we experience a "cortisol dump" of our own.

Don't how much of this perspective makes sense to most, but it's helping me learn how to better keep my own response in check - and NOT be drug into battles i never wanted to fight!
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2009, 12:41:34 PM »

I want to give a slightly different perspective.

I actually believe that anger and rage and not on the same continuum. In other words, the difference isn't merely one of degree it is qualitative.

Anger is definitely an aggressive emotion that it helps you express your needs and get your way. That can often be very healthy.

Rage on the other hand is aimed at humiliating, hurting and controlling someone. It really has a different flavour to it.
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2009, 07:41:40 PM »

I think it is "diminished executive function" - that part of the thinking process that acts to limit our impulsive reactions for our greater good.  Executive function is what tells us that going ballistic on the boss for a bad performance review might be how we feel, but it is not in our best interest to do so.

People suffering from BPD have a double whammy.  1) they are very sensitive.  2) they have dimished executive control. 

It's very messy.
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2009, 08:53:46 PM »

I've wondered about this rage piece--and how or if it fits with my stbxh and BPD.  He isn't a yeller or vocal with his anger, though his body language and looks can turn a room cold.  I have felt raged at by him--in his silent way--though it didn't fit what so many here have shared.

I asked my T this week if she considered my H abusive and without hesitation and nodding, she said yes--his anger was abusive (along with his control and manipulation.)  She saw and felt his quiet anger in a few sessions and said it filled the room and was powerful.   So, rage is not always loud and showy---it can be silent and threatening in a very real sense.   
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2009, 09:07:22 PM »

I've wondered about this rage piece--and how or if it fits with my stbxh and BPD.  He isn't a yeller or vocal with his anger, though his body language and looks can turn a room cold.  I have felt raged at by him--in his silent way--though it didn't fit what so many here have shared.

I asked my T this week if she considered my H abusive and without hesitation and nodding, she said yes--his anger was abusive (along with his control and manipulation.)  She saw and felt his quiet anger in a few sessions and said it filled the room and was powerful.   So, rage is not always loud and showy---it can be silent and threatening in a very real sense.   

Yes, the silent anger can be very scary as well. The tension when he was in the house and like that was unbearable. Perhaps because he had the massive violent tear- the-house-apart rages as well. When it's silent anger it's like being locked in a cage with a tiger, that's just sitting there all contained yet malevolent. < sounds a bit dramatic but that's how it feels Laugh out loud (click to insert in post).
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2009, 10:56:21 PM »

I'm a non, but had a temper when I was much younger. Hairbrushes and rear view mirrors were my only victims. I took a graduate level management class that introduced me to Zig Ziglar's "Top Performance". Totally changed my life. Took awhile to make the adjustment but I learned to respond differently to triggers in everyday life. A lot of people would call this maturity or emotional evolution. Things don't trigger me the same. People cutting you off in traffic, lost luggage, all handled with almost no visceral reaction. A learning process I think a BPD could never make. We mature. They will be 5 year old tantrum throwers forever.
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« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2009, 04:25:30 AM »

When someone rages (outwardly) there is a clear distinction of what is normal expression of anger and absolute rage.  This is waht i would see during anger and rage:

Anger: Talking quickly, slightly raised voice, flitting between refusing to listen to me and asking me to explain and listening.  Always tried to look like he was being diplomatic, but still had trouble actually listening to me and understanding.  Would, at times end the conversation in a half normal way and say he would speak to me later.  Usually came out of this relatively quickly or could be spoken round in some way.

Rage: Absolutely out of the blue screaming/shouting, calling me extremely nasty things in a really nasty voice, telling me repeatedly how much he wanted me out of his life (usually F*** O** thrown in there) no listening to me whatsoever and i mean, not a single word, simply screaming over me.  At one point he actually screamed a question to a third party who was not actually there!  Crying hysterically, throwing things, hitting himself...  This would go on anywhere from an hour to two hours and sometimes he's stop, then carry on raging at me the next day out of the blue again...he could not be spoken out of this in any way, no matter what i said or did, it was blind rage.
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« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2009, 07:04:22 AM »

This topic really caught my eye because everything I had been reading about borderline behavior mentioned 'rage'...and my borderline husband has never really 'yelled' at me, but it's the constant annoyance he displays, the eye rolling, head shaking, and the whining and nagging that  he has displayed ever since I've known him. 

So now I know, that is a type of rage as well.

Thank you for educating me!
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2009, 09:20:04 AM »

My understanding is that not all BPD "rage" - many BPD don't throw "tantrums" in terms of outward expression. 

Many internalize it - and they are the ones more likely to self harm or even commit suicide.

It's helpful to remember that there are 256 possible combination of symptoms that can be labeled as BPD.

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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2009, 03:01:19 PM »

What is the best way to handle someone that goes into a rage?
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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2009, 04:53:07 PM »

 When you are with someone who is truly raging, the first level of concern needs to be your own personal safety and that of your children or other dependant folks, including pets,  around you.

When we are speaking of someone in a BPD rage, there is little you can do. The person is "dysegulated" and needs to calm down.

Will the person harm you or others? Get out or call 911

Are they threatening to harm themselves? Call 911

Are they throwing a tantrum? Leave. No need to provid an audience and often, these blow ups dissipate due to lack of interest.

You cannot regulate a person in this state..and it takes huge amounts of energy to try to do so..and it isnt going to work

So..

Safety first

Call 911 as needed

Leave the area

remember that only they can truly calm themselves, despite their pleadings otherwise.

Steph
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« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2009, 05:53:27 PM »

I concur with Steph; your first order of business is your safety and any children or other living creatures that are within the crosshairs.

Here is something I learned from a Radical Forgiveness coach. I learned it after the break-up of my relationship and only was able to use it once but I did notice a change in her raging behavior for the short time I was able to put it into play. (Alas, one of my lessons is to stay centered and not be reactionary)

This is the technique - Visualize a rose directly between you and the person, make it as real as possible. There are different variations on this. Visualize yourself sitting in and surrounded by a rose, or visualize many roses around you. Bend your knees slightly, breathe slowly and regularly, don't stare at the person but look slightly to the side. In essence you are softening yourself but also protecting yourself emotionally. I believe that this along with some of the communication techniques talked about in SWOE and I Hate You, Please Don't Leave Me, and other places can be effective for the short term. My limited experience showed me that this needs to be practiced before it is needed. In the heat of the moment it was hard for me to call on this rather than old entrenched ways of dealing with attacks and conflict.

However, with this being said, if the person is not willing or capable of recognizing that they have a problem or of seeking help well we need to remove ourselves. If there is nothing to rage against it will defuse. I think it is like Aikido or Tai Chi one should not act in direct opposition to force but move aside. 


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« Reply #16 on: April 13, 2009, 08:11:59 AM »

Anger is an emotion we feel inside of us. It has no real target or need to hurt others. It just grows inside of us, fed by our thinking and judgments. It doesn't need an audience. If correctly identified and addressed, it will quickly pass.

Rage seeks to draw blood, or it's emotional equivalent. It needs to cause damage before it can start evaporating. Rage looks for an audience and a target. If allowed to escalate, rage can destroy and kill.

**** There is no way to stop a rage but to exit the scene ****

Knowing you should leave the area when being raged on - and following through on that action - are two different things.

Why do we tolerate such abusive behavior from someone?

Many of us stick around and listen because of the fear part of the FOG. We are more afraid of leaving and the price we will pay for that, than we are of experiencing the hurt of the moment. Think about that - we fear any future pain more than the pain of the present... We keep hoping that our loved one will suddenly "hear us" or calm down if we are good enough.

Learning to take a time out is important, and learning to do it in a loving fashion is even more important.

Our loved ones have a deep fear of abandonment, so if we attempt to leave in anger and to punish, then we inadvertently trigger them.

If our leaving is done out of love for ourselves and respect for the other, then we can do it in such a way that while they still may be triggered, the damage hopefully won't be as deep.

The difference is in our intent and how we deliver it.

"I'm ___ing out of here!" is vastly different than "I'm going to take a time out for things to calm down here. We can discuss this again later if you wish."

Learning to love ourselves enough to take care of ourselves - instead of hoping - will have a better long term impact. You will regain your self respect, and your loved ones too.

Due to a factor called an extinction burst, our loved one will most likely escalate their behavior in an attempt to regain control over us. Being prepared for this increased intensity can help you stay the course and stay strong.

Here is a workshop explaining it with a cute video to help demonstrate how it works in the real world.

US: what is an extinction burst and intermittent reinforcement

https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=85479.0

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« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2009, 09:54:47 AM »

Thanks United for now! This is the first I have heard of the extinction burst and it is the best explaination I have heard of my exuBPDgf's behaviors at the end of our relationship! The way she increased the intensity and the meanness of what she would scream at me was absolutly amazing and I am still smarting from it.

It is such a mixed bag of emotions that I feel after going through this experience: anger that someone felt it was ok to treat me in such a way, anger, saddness, and frustration that she will be doing to this to her daughter and I have not found a way to be of any help, and saddness for the ex and the prison that she is living in.
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« Reply #18 on: April 13, 2009, 09:58:53 AM »

I agree with the necessity of leaving the situation when a partner is raging at you. I tried to do this on a number of occassions, but she usually blocked the doorway, pushed me down (when standing from sitting, to leave) and changed tacks from raging to hysterically needy. We talked about this in counselling, and our counsellor supported her, saying I shouldn't be 'walking away', it only inflames her abandonment issues.

So, I stayed (in the fights) for a long time, and wore down to where I became a shell, a sounding board. Until it changed on me, then I was fearful of what I would do to her, I became very close to rage and violence myself. That was when I ended the relationship.

So, it is important to have a counsellor familiar with personality disorders, and the style of raging that goes on. I think the advice to stay was ridiculous, and dangerous.
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« Reply #19 on: April 13, 2009, 10:10:41 AM »

So, it is important to have a counsellor familiar with personality disorders... .

A lot of truth to that.

I would add that it is important to establish the walkaway as a boundary... discuss (solicit) in a time of calm, removed from any incident, the importance of separation when these things happen and try to get agreement (or at least understanding) as to what you are doing.

It helps when the time comes that you need to step up and leave.

Rage needs a stage - take the stage away.

What about the "silent rage" that is talked about here... what works there?
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« Reply #20 on: April 13, 2009, 12:29:21 PM »

Those who suffer from BPD seem to be able to separate their stuff into specific areas, as one of our senior advisors just wrote about. They don't allow their mental thoughts or anger to bleed into other areas of their life.

The begging and pleading and trying to get them to talk to you makes it worse.

People do what works and what gets them a response.

Those who like to "punish" will do whatever they can to get a reaction, so if they know you are hurt by it - they will do it even more.

Living your life as normal as possible is the key, in that it gives you a sense of control and power that your loved one is trying to take away from you.

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« Reply #21 on: February 23, 2011, 07:21:26 PM »

Since I am relatively new to this disorder with regard to knowledge of I have a question.  

Is passive aggressiveness part of this disorder?

Can it be the predominant method of acting out or is raging the more dominant trait displayed?
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« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2011, 02:20:28 PM »

I totally agree with your percetion on this.

My BPDw alternated between passive and aggressive not to mention push and pull.

It does not take long ...one or two sentances of what most people would call normal coversation and she is in full on RAGE at me.

It is pretty scary when you first see it. Her family saw it at Christmas and were shocked. They thought that it was a one off.  It happens any time I am in her company for more than 5 min (but usually not in public).

If you were a stranger you would think butter would not melt in her mouth.

There was a time when she woul;d lash out and shortlyu after be the peace maker. ...interestly although she would come back to me I generally got the blame!

You have got to love the scale of their denial.


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« Reply #23 on: March 03, 2011, 03:51:32 AM »

Hi Twister,

I cannot give you a general answer to this, but in my experience with my uBPD relative, I have seen one form of passive-aggressive behaviour. In matters that concern the family she will sometimes avoid making decisions, even when she is told in no uncertain terms that she must voice an opinion. No matter how hard I press her on simple decisions she will answer vaguely, and so in effect she leaves the decision to the rest of us. That, of course, leaves her free to rant and rave against us no matter what the outcome -- which I sometimes feel is what she wanted all along. This may not be deliberate on her part, but it certainly is a clear pattern that I have experienced many times. I have taken to pressing her even harder in situations like these, as I refuse to have more abuse thrown my way for making necessary decisions that she has refused to take part in.

Regards,

Trillian
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« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2011, 11:05:11 PM »

While a particular person with BPD might be P.A., this is not part of the BPD definition.
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