Ask Dr. Conte: How Can I Deal with My Anger Over Little Things?

Ask Dr. Conte: How Can I Deal with My Anger Over Little Things?

Dear Dr. Conte,

Things like repetitive noises, traffic, and situations where I am powerless and have no control make me have outbursts of rage. It seems to go beyond normal anger, and sometimes I scream and punch the wall or myself because I am so angry. When there is no escalation and I just go straight to “rage mode,” how can I manage that?

— Alexandra*

Hi Alexandra,

Thanks for your question. There are different types of anger and rage that people experience (I teach about them in my video, Getting Control of Yourself: Anger Management Tools & Techniques). It certainly sounds like from your question that you might struggle with what Ron Potter-Efron has described as “Impotent Rage.” Impotent rage occurs any time we become enraged when we realize that we have no control over a situation (like traffic or other situations you described). 

Thankfully, understanding what type of anger and rage you are experiencing allows  you to find the best antidote for it. The antidote for impotent rage is to learn to let go. Although that is much easier said than done, the reality is that it can happen.

The first step is to become mindful of your self-talk when you are in those types of situations. The more extreme your self-talk (e.g., “This shouldn’t be happening!” or “I can’t take this!”), the more enraged you will likely become. The second step is to practice eliminating your extreme self-talk.  Like everything in life, mastering your self-talk won’t likely happen overnight. It can, however, absolutely happen with practice. 

Sending you all the best and much peace,

Dr. Conte

*Names have been changed for privacy.