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What You Can Do Before Anger Becomes Violence

When I heard about the violent attacks in Las Vegas, my heart sank. Why does this keep happening and what can we do to prevent it from happening again?

Awful things are happening with much more frequency. The sense of powerlessness with each tragedy can feel paralyzing. What can we do? Blaming and crucifying the perpetrator doesn’t stop the violence. 

There are things that you can do. While you cannot control or prevent another person’s behavior you can help. First, pay attention to anyone in your life that’s really struggling. Check in with them and listen. It’s not your job to assess their mental state but notice what’s happening. Not everyone suffering is in crisis, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you have concerns, share them with their family. Don’t stay quiet.

Look for the person who seems isolated and alone, or doesn’t have any friends. These people are living like islands totally remote from the rest of us. Every time I hear of another violent incident, I can’t help but wonder what pain that person struggled with that created such a devastating result. I wonder what difference it would have made if they felt heard and supported, like their pain really mattered to someone. Could I have been that someone?

Everyone feels anger at some point. Whether you realize it or not, it’s there. You can choose to stuff it, explode with rage or make sarcastic comments but anger eventually shows up because it’s trying to tell you something.

When anger isn’t honored and witnessed by a loving, nonjudgmental person, it grows. It becomes a silent rage that leaves you feeling unseen. You start to feel separate from everyone else. Eventually you can’t hold it in anymore and those feelings turn into hate.

When that pain is ignored those feelings fester. Rigid thinking, a tendency to catastrophize situations, feeling resentful and taken advantage of are associated with hidden rage. Being misunderstood triggers a sinking feeling of isolation. No one understands and this leads to hopelessness.  

What if the perpetrator tried to tell someone how he felt but was dismissed or made to feel wrong? Silently thinking that he might be crazy made him isolate even more. No one understands them, so life is no longer about connection. It becomes about survival and getting even.

According to New Scientist Magazine (October, 2015) there are five major signs that help predict mass violence. Most incidents are precipitated by a painful event such as a job or relationship loss. Other warning signs to look out for include:

  1. Any indication of researching, planning, or implementation an attack
  2. A preoccupation with a person or cause that triggers an angry response
  3. Identifies with a solider or warrior mentality or with previous attackers
  4. An act of violence that appears unrelated to the person’s typical behavior
  5. Evidence that the person thinks there is no hope or other alternative

If you recognize any of these warning signs, please call the Disaster Distress Helpline, the Nation’s first hotline dedicated to delivering disaster crisis counseling at 1-800-985-5990.

It’s understandable to react in hate initially, but the real solution lies in doing what you can to support those people suffering in silence. Support them in getting the help they need by being a part of the solution.

Take the time to reach out with a smile, a touch or words of encouragement. Talk to their loved ones about professional treatment options. These acts of kindness can mean the difference between someone feeling connected and someone sinking further into despair.

What You Can Do Before Anger Becomes Violence

Michelle Farris, LMFT

Michelle Farris is a marriage and family therapist who specializes in helping people with codependency and anger management. She shows others how to be more authentic in relationships by setting healthy boundaries and improving self-care. In her early twenties, she fell in love with the process of personal growth. She is a therapist who “walks her talk” and loves supporting others towards positive change. She writes a blog called Relationship Rehab that offers helpful tools to create healthy and happy relationships. Michelle also offers online classes on anger and codependency for additional support. Signup for her FREE 5 day email course on anger.

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APA Reference
Farris, M. (2018). What You Can Do Before Anger Becomes Violence. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 4 Oct 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.