On Anger and Rage

My mother smoked a pack of cigarettes and washed down the tar with a pot of coffee every single day of her pregnancy with me.

My eighth birthday party ended when I ran around screaming into all of my guests’ faces freaking everybody out and crying for absolutely no apparent reason.

Are these two facts connected?

According to my dad, William Fleeman, the founder and CEO of Pathways to Peace, Inc., a not-for-profit education and training corporation on anger management:

People with anger problems use anger like a drug, to change feelings of powerlessness into feelings of power.
That belief of his comes from experience. From the Pathways to Peace Founder’s Story (available in its entirety here) :
I got in my first fistfight when I was eight. It happened at school. Another kid made fun of me because he knew I didn’t have a father. From early childhood I felt worthless and alone, powerless and afraid. That’s how kids feel when their fathers abandon them. The kid’s remarks hooked my feelings of abandonment and pushed my self-esteem even lower. I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach; then I shoved the kid down the school steps.
Watching the kid tumble down the steps, I felt my first “anger high.” The other kids who cheered me on added to the high. The high lasted only an instant, but for that instant I felt a sense of power I had never felt before. I felt confident instead of afraid, accepted instead of rejected, strong instead of weak. What I felt, felt good. The kid was not hurt. Neither of us suffered bad results. The teacher who broke up the fight merely talked to us.
Later that day the high went away, and all of the negative feelings I felt about myself came back. But that fight on the school steps changed me. The change lasted most of the rest of my life. A new part was added to my character: a part I could not seem to control, a part I was not even aware of, a part that would continue to seek the rush of power I felt when I shoved that kid down the stairs. Over time that part would grow big and strong. Finally it would run my life. Later I would find out what it was. It was anger and rage.
That fight on the school steps caused me to form another new belief: anger is power. That belief influenced my behavior for the next 35 years.
I can relate, of course. He’s had more time to calm down, also of course. I’m 27. I still get these rushes of adrenaline once in awhile for no apparent reason. I generally don’t freak out anymore. Instead, my voice takes on a new tone, though I don’t scream and yell. My eyes start smoking, and I have to look away from the person I’m with, or else I’ll give them a look they won’t quickly forget. I’ve been told I have an expressive face, which doesn’t make it any easier to conceal my anger.
It’s rare. I’m glad I’ve calmed down. I look forward to calming down more every day. Whether the problem is genetic or learned, I still think the only way to deal with it is to get to know it, and then to sincerely try to solve it. The following workbook might help you if you have anger problems of your own:

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