I am a licensed clinical social worker, and in my memoir published four years ago I addressed the issue of human character, including anger and rage.

Chapter 15 of the book begins, “As a social worker and a human being, I rejoice in the imperfections and fallibility of my fellow human beings and their penchant for hurting themselves and each other.

Their lack of tolerance, their anger, rage and impatience are balanced by their compassion, capacity to love others, their commitment to principles, ideals and their civility and respect, which all combine to create the human character.”

Our self-image and self-concept go through numerous metamorphoses in the process of growing through childhood, young adulthood, adulthood and older age.

It is healthy and mature for people to have positive feelings and relationships with others in our environment as we traverse through our lives.

However, reality will determine that we will have disappointments and negative experiences as we grow and mature. These experiences will inevitably produce anger and even rage in some instances.


So, how and why does severe anger and rage occur?

As human beings who live with other human beings in a myriad of capacities and relationships, we grow up typically in families with parents, siblings and some sort of extended family relationships. We experience relationships with peers at an early age and on a continuing basis throughout our lives.

The recent and popular phenomenon of Facebook, along with email, provides easy opportunities to express emotional issues to both strangers and friends. The expression of angry and critical feelings, as well as positive or complimentary feelings, are common and typically elicit negative or positive responses.

It is true that there are innumerable ways that people can express their anger; some may be appropriate and some less than appropriate. Most of us, however, are likely to express anger from time to time and we may regret later what was said. Hopefully, we will be mature enough to express our regrets — it is not difficult to say “I am sorry.”

There has been much discussed in the media in recent years about mentally ill and/or psychotic patients who have committed violent acts. This is true, of course, but the statistics reveal that less than 5 percent of mentally ill patients commit these acts. In my experience, most truly violent patients are fearful of human interaction and prefer to be socially isolated.

However, it remains a problem and I have been supportive of an “outpatient commitment law” which would require that mentally ill patients in the community take anti-psychotic medication supervised by a psychiatrist if they are considered dangerous. Unfortunately, there are only a few states that have such a law.


Another issue is that most states do not have adequate treatment facilities for the mentally ill. There are too many of our mentally ill living on the streets, in shelters or incarcerated in jails without appropriate treatment.

There are no mysterious secrets regarding the management of anger and rage. However, the positive influence of parents, family, relatives and friends on growing, developing children cannot be overestimated.

Parents must be serious and vigilant regarding the prevention of psychic and physical trauma during the early lives of their children.

Those individuals who grow up without adequate parenting, perhaps from broken homes or spending time on the streets, and without consistent parental affection will be subject to anger and rage later in life.

However, trauma may occur during the life of any child. So what should family members, or other adults, do in the event of unexpected trauma?

The child must be loved and protected from further trauma. Medical assistance should be provided if appropriate. The child should be encouraged, but not forced, to talk about the traumatic event. The child should be reassured that they will be protected to the extent possible.


Having accomplished that, the child will stand a much better chance of becoming an adult who will not likely be prone to experience out-of-control anger or rage.

We have a great capacity for doing harm to ourselves, our neighbors or loved ones, even society at large.

Despite that proclivity and potential for aggression, destructiveness and violence, we human beings have this wondrous potential for change and maturation by adjusting our attitudes and mindsets, achieving insight and wisdom and, yes, even achieving redemption.

Ronald Melendy, LCSW, MSW, worked for 50 years in clinical social work. He has taught and supervised social work students and is the author of his memoir, “Social Work, My Life — My Career.” He lives in Auburn.

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