~Victim Of Rage~

by Kristen Rabe

May 3, 2001


Link to Report 2 Instructions:






Table of Contents
Self-Witnessing Observation 1
Self-Witnessing Observation 2
Self-Witnessing Observation 3
Final Thoughts









I'm sure we've all been guilty of acting out in a rage at some point in our lives. Yelling at other motorists on the road, kicking a piece of machinery that doesn't work properly, or just thinking about bringing harm to something or someone are all acts of rage whether we actually act upon it or simply think about it. My first report entitled Annotated Bibliography on the Age of Rage describes some of the different types of rage. The report includes information about: Air Rage, Sports Rage, Surf Rage, Cell Phone Rage, Snow Rage, and Work/Desk Rage. It provides descriptions of these types of rage, samples/statistics/images from varying websites about the rage, and a personal opinion on each type of rage.

Upon completion of Report 1, I have come to realize that rage is all too common in our society. No matter how great or how minute a situation may be, someone out there will have their button pressed the wrong way and become enraged. How are we to explain what's happening with rage? People seem to be more 'on the edge' these days and resort to mental, verbal, or physical harm when faced with frustration. There may be conflicting statistics as to whether or not rage is on the rise, but I feel as though it's becoming harder for people to control their emotions particulary their negative emotions. What we need to do is learn how to control our emotional flare-ups so that we may prevent these acts of rage.

An important technique that has been taught to prevent acts of rage is the self-witnessing technique in which we look at our own self and write/reflect on the different situations that seem to enrage us. To further help us 'fix' or prevent our problem of rage, we use the Three-Step Method which is to:

1. Acknowledge - recognize when you're experiencing a rage episode. "I'm having another rage episode" or "I'm raging."

2. Witness - becoming consciously aware of 3 elements of your rage episode:

a) Sensorimotor behavior - behavior that is visible to others

b) Cognitive behavior - what you're thinking

c) Affective behavior - what you're feeling

3. Modify - consciously modify all 3 elements of your rage.

(i.e., fix your face, control breathe; interrupt/contradict thoughts of rage; invoke a higher affect or motive)


The following is my attempt to apply this self-witnessing technique to my three self-witnessing observations of rage by utilizing this Three-Step Method.


-Back to Table of Contents-




Self-Witnessing Observation #1

First of all, I decided to report on this particular incident because I can clearly remember the details of the incident and the amount of rage I felt. Because I am able to remember the details clearly, my observations may be looked at as reliable.

One Monday afternoon I went to the drive-thru of a particular fast food restaurant and ordered lunch. The employee had a strong accent and had trouble with my order. I had to wait at least 5 minutes for him to repeat my order again (and again and again) until he finally got it right. At that point in time, I did not get too upset and remained calm and collected. I received my food, but not the water that I ordered, but I let it go since it wasn't that important anymore. As I was leaving, I waited to turn right to enter the street (entrance and exit is the same area) because I saw a van and a small car following behind coming down (to the left of me). I waited and then saw the right blinker of the van go on and then the right blinker of the small car indicating that both the van and small car were going to turn into the entrance, which means that they'll turn before passing my car. As the van was turning in, I double checked and saw that both the van and car had their right blinker on and I made my turn into the street. As I straighted out, I heard a loud honk. At first I didn't realize that it was directed towards me until I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the small car with its blinker on. The car had not turned and the girl honked at me! That's when I became infuriated. I acknowledged, "I'm going to rage. I know she didn't honk at me." Then I said outloud, "Idiot! Why did you turn on your blinker if you weren't going to turn?!? So stupid!" I knew she couldn't hear me since my windows were up, but that's what I felt like saying to her face. I slowed down a little and stared at the girl by looking in my rear-view mirror. The strange thing is I did not tense up in my arms or hands, so that I gripped the steering wheel, instead I felt tension in my neck and in the temples of my head as I frowned. I also felt my jaw tighten and my teeth clench. I just kept staring into my rear-view mirror while I was stopped at a traffic light. A minute later after the light turned green, I began to drive and tried to relax the tension in my neck and jaw muscles by taking deep breaths. I thought in my head, "Just don't look at her and you'll be fine." But did I listen to that? Not really. I took one last look at her as she switched into the lane next to me to take a right. It was not until after the girl was totally out of sight that I could really become calm and allow my rage to fully dissipate.

I think I did a pretty good job of modifying my sensorimotor behavior by relaxing my muscles and taking deep breaths. About modifying my cognitive behavior, I don't think I did that well because for the most part, I kept thinking about how that girl shouldn't be on the road because she doesn't even know when or how to use a blinker. The thought of "I shouldn't think like this" didn't even cross my mind. As for modification of my affective behavior, I didn't do too well in that department either. Instead of thinking, "Thank God I wasn't hit by her or that we didn't get into an accident," I just thought about how I could retaliate--either by slowing down or staring her down. If I'm in a similar situation like that again, hopefully I'll be able to better utilize the modification aspect of this method.


-Back to Table of Contents-



Self-Witnessing Observation #2

I came around to choosing to report on this incident because it has happened repeatedly throughout this semester and each time it happened I tried to do a better job of modifying my behavior. My observations are pretty reliable since it's happened more than once.

Ever since around a month into school, I've noticed a pattern that happens with a particular student in my religion class. She shows up around five to ten minutes before class, takes her seat and opens her notebook ready to take notes. While we're waiting for class to start, she patiently sits there or calls someone on her cell phone. Now that doesn't really bother me because class hasn't officially started yet. What bothers me is what happens after that. As soon as the teacher walks in (and sometimes after the teacher begins lecturing) she packs up her things and leaves the room while talking on her cell phone. You must be thinking, well that's not too bad--at least she's going outside to talk on her phone. The thing that gets me so annoyed and in a rage afterwhile is the fact that she does that every single time she shows up to class (except for exam days of course). Towards the latter days of the semester, she's been bringing a friend and they both do the same thing and leave before the class even starts. Why? Who knows.

In the beginning, it didn't bother me that much, but by the 5th time, I was pretty irritated. In my head I acknowledged, "I'm going to feel rage again because of this girl." Whenever I saw her getting ready to make her 'exit', I began to tap my finger on my desk, my facial expression turned into a frown, and I could feel my heart beat a little faster. Sometimes she sat in the same row as I did, so I would have to move for her to pass through, which got me more enraged. There were many thoughts (some in the form of questions) that ran through my head whenever this happened such as: "Why do you (the girl) even come to class if you're just going to leave right when the teacher walks in? Are you even in this class? You might as well not even show up." Everytime this happened I felt like asking her these questions and telling her how annoying and disturbing it is not only to me, but others as well.

Modifying my behavior in this situation has been improving as the semester goes on. Now, I am able to successfully modify my behavior by preventing any form of rage in the sensorimotor form (i.e., not frowning or tapping my finger on the desk) whenever this situations occur. I am able to remain calm, and if I do feel like my rage is returning, I think (cognitively modify), "Don't get upset or irritated because it shouldn't be a surprise that she's leaving again. You should be used to it by now." The way I modify my affective behavior now is to invoke a higher (positive) goal, which is to stay focused on doing good in the class and to not let petty irritations interfere with that goal. Thus, I am glad to say this Three-Step Method has worked in this situation and I am now able to laugh it off whenever the girl leaves.


-Back to Table of Contents-



Self-Witnessing Observation #3

I chose this situation as my third observation because I find it to be reliable since it happened not too long ago and also because I couldn't believe what this lady did after what I had done for her.

This incident happened on a work day for me. I was on my lunch break and took my usual stroll to Jack-in-the-Box. As I was about to enter, I noticed a young child and his mother yelling at him behind me. This mother seemed a bit harsh and I felt sorry for the child. I guess he was walking to slowly for the mother, so she was yelling at him to hurry up. I held the door open for awhile until the son and mother entered. She did not say thank you or didn't even seem to acknowledge that I was holding the door for them, but I didn't mind and didn't get upset because I knew she was probably too frustrated with her son at that point. I went to stand in line as the mother stayed in the back off to the side, asking her son in a very loud and harsh voice as to what he wanted to eat. I waited in the line for a short amount of time before it was my turn to go and order. Just as I was about to walk to the worker to order, the mother comes from behind and zooms right passed me and begins ordering! I was shocked at first. The first thought that popped into my head was, "Okay. What just happened here?" Then, after a about a second or two my mind acknowledged, "I am going to rage!" I could feel my head getting hot. I crossed my arms across my chest and I probably looked pretty upset because I had my sunglasses on along with a big frown on my face. I stared at the mother, and although she couldn't see my eyes, she knew I was looking at her because she glanced at me, but continued to yell at her son to tell her what he wanted. The main thought that crossed my mind is, "I open the door for you and you don't say thank you, but I excuse you for that, and then you have the nerve to cut me off in line?! What the heck is that?!" I felt extremely upset and felt like making it known to her that I was in line and that she cut me off. There have been times when I've said things out loud to make it known to the person, although, this time I ended up 'sparing' the mother.

While waiting for my turn (again) I tried to modify my sensorimotor behavior first by removing the frown on my face and not crossing my arms. As in other situations, I tried to relax by taking in a couple of deep breaths. In order to modify my cognitive behavior, I tried to interrupt my rage thoughts by thinking of what I was going to order. This in turn led me to 'somewhat' modify my affective behavior by focusing on the goal of getting my order taken and finally eating lunch rather than focusing on retaliation (or being the 'victor' in a duel). By the time it was my turn to order, I was somewhat rage free, yet I think the fact that the mother was having a hard time ordering with the worker made it even easier for me to not be so upset. I ended up getting my food before her, which made me feel a bit better, so I guess I did not fully modify my affective behavior since I did sort of feel like I was the 'victor' in this situation.

Although I was very angry in this situation, I was still able to utilize the Three-Step Method to the best of my ability at the moment and modify most aspects of my rage.


-Back to Table of Contents-



Discussion on...


Self-Witnessing Observation #1


In my first self-witnessing observation, I became upset at a driver for what I took as her placing blame on me by honking her horn when she was the one who used her blinker in the wrong manner. I did not control my belief about this driver in a positive way. According to Dr. Driving, a belief about a driver's ability (or inability) may be attributed to several elements: 1) the driver's disposition -- thinking the person is inconsiderate, incompetent, stupid, dumb; 2) the driver's appearance (i.e., race, age, gender, ethnicity); 3) the traffic situation -- you might think the car is old or malfunctioning or the driver is a student driver. The first two elements are called "distributional attributes" while the third is known as "situtational attributes". In this case, I made a dispositional attribution towards the driver by calling her an idiot and stupid. Dr. Driving states that when people make a distributional attribution, they react with negative emotions. On the otherhand, when people make a situational attribution (something that I did not do), they are positive and feel more tolerant. Dr. Driving also says that one has a choice as to whether to make a dispositional or situational attribution. In this case, I made the wrong choice.


Self-Witnessing Observations #2 & 3


The frustration-aggression theory may be used to explain my rage in my second and third self-witnessing observations. This theory says that frustration stems from the perception that you are being prevented from obtaining a goal, which will increase the probability of an aggressive response (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 466). In my situation with the mother cutting me off in line, I became enraged partly due to the fact that she prevented me from my goal of ordering my food and eating lunch. My goal of learning and being educated by taking lecture notes was somewhat prevented by the student who would leave in a matter of minutes after showing up. The fact that she did the same thing whenever she came to class resulted in me frowning and tapping my fingers rapidly on my desk in frustration.


Self-Witnessing Observations #1, 2, & 3


Upon reflecting on the three self-witnessing observations, I've found that there is a similarity in how I reacted externally in these 'rageful' situations. When dealing with my sensorimotor behavior, in all three situations my facial expression transformed into a frown and in two of the situations I stared intensely at the person. In this instances, I tended to express my rage directly to the person in a nonverbal manner more often than in a verbal manner. Nonverbal communication is communication using body movements, gestures, and facial expressions rather than speech. According to Macionis, facial expressions form the most significant element of nonverbal communication and that eye contact is a crucial element of nonverbal communication (159, 160). Aronson, Wilson, and Akert further explain that two of the the primary uses of nonverbal behavior are expressing emotions (i.e., narrowing eyes, brows lower, staring intensely, your mouth set in a thin straight line--you're angry) and conveying attitudes (i.e., eyes averted, body turned away--"I don't like you.") (107). They also go on to say that "Eye contact and gaze are particularly powerful nonverbal cues" (110). Thus, the strength of one's rage may not only be verbally expressed, but also nonverbally through eye contact and facial expression.

Although only one of my situations dealt with road rage, the principles stated in Dr. James' book Road Rage and Aggressive Driving, may be applied to all three of my rage incidents. Dr. James states that the outcome of a potential rage event may be dependent on the symbolic value we attach to the event. If we attach the event to our self-esteem, we may go down the road of rage, feeling insulted, demeaned, disrespected, wronged, and thwarted from our legitimate goal. Apparently, I attached all three events to my self-esteem. In my first observation, I felt I was wronged by being honked at for the driver's own driving error. In my second observation, I felt wronged and disrespected not only because I was cut in front of in line, but also because that happened after excusing the mother for not saying thank you after holding the restaurant door open (for a while) for her and her son. By her cutting, I also felt thwarted from my original goal of ordering my food. In my last observation, I also felt thwarted from my goal of taking notes, so that I can do well on my exam. Dr. James goes on to write that when we do feel our self-esteem threatened, the emotional, reptilian old brain takes over and leads us to emotionally challenged behavior like retaliating (in some shape or form). Although my 'retaliation' may not be as severe as others, I still responded negatively in one way or another.


-Back to Table of Contents-



Final Thoughts

The fact that we will experience rage at one point in time in our lives doesn't mean that we should give into it whenever the situation arises. We can do something about it, and one way to effectively reduce the amount of rage episodes we involve ourselves in is to utilize the Three-Step Method (acknowledge, witness, modify). This Three-Step Method allows us to tap into the important aspects of emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence as "the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships" (317). One dimension of this concept is self-awareness, which according to Goleman is "knowing what we are feeling in the moment, and using those preferences to guide our decision making" (318). By becoming aware of what feelings (i.e., anger, rage) may be built up within ourselves and by knowing what situations trigger those feelings, we are able to prevent and control those feelings of rage by learning the second dimension of emotional intelligence, which is self-control. Goleman states that those with self-control stay composed under stress and remain calm, confident, and dependable in stressful situations (41). In otherwords, having self-control means the ability to keep your feelings under control to prevent any acts of rage.

Overall, rage in the personal observations I mentioned may not be at such a high degree as in other situations, but any kind of response in a negative manner intended to hurt someone whether emotionally, verbally, or physically is still considered rage. We need to examine ourselves in order for us to make a change towards becoming emotionally intelligent. Goleman states that all emotional competencies (i.e., self-control, self-awareness) can be cultivated with the right practice (239). I consider the Three-Step Method as the 'right practice' when trying to overcome rage. By implimenting this method daily, I believe all the dimensions of emotional intelligence will fall into place and lead to less "Victims of Rage."


-Back to Table of Contents-




Aronson, E., Wilson, T., & Akert, R. (1999). Social Psychology

(3rd ed.). New York: Addison-Wesley Educational.


Goleman, Daniel. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New

York: Bantam Books.


James, L. & Nahl, D. (2000). Steering clear of highway warfare.

Road Rage & Aggressive Driving The Book [Online].


[2001, May 1].


Macionis, J. (1997). Sociology (6th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.


-Back to Table of Contents-



My Homepage

Report 1 (Annotated Bibliography)

15-Minute Oral Presentation

Psy 409b G14 Class Page

G14 Forum Discussions

Back to Top


Comments, suggestions, questions about rage...feel free to me!!!