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Do You Remember What You Say When You are Enraged?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
July 21, 2014

Discover why any kind of engaging when someone is angry is a waste of energy.

"Rage can…shut off the hippocampus [linked to memory], and people with out-of-control anger may not be lying when they say they don't recall what they said or did in that altered state of mind." Mindsight, P.155 Daniel Siegel, M.D.

Have you had the experience of someone being enraged at you, and then when you try to talk about it after things have calmed down, they deny what they said? It's definitely a frustrating experience!

Or, have you been very angry and later not remember what you said in that state?

A major problem with out-of-control anger is that there is no loving adult on board. When we get triggered into rage, we are operating from our lower brain where our wounded self is. Not only that, but, as Dr. Daniel Seigel says, the part of our brain linked to memory is also off-line.

This is why it's not ever a good idea to try to discuss anything with someone who is very angry. What's the point? With no access to their loving adult, and their ability to remember off-line, there is no way to get anywhere. This is why I always recommend lovingly disengaging whenever you or the other person is angry.

Also, trying to talk about what was said when things have calmed down is often fruitless. People say many things they don't mean when they are enraged, and then they forget they said them. The best thing to do when someone is very angry, is to take loving care of yourself and keep your heart open, so that when they are done being angry, you can reconnect. Let go of trying to resolve anything, since there is really nothing to resolve. Their anger is not about you – it is likely about them blaming you for their own feelings of helplessness over something, and not lovingly managing their feelings.

If you consistently disengage as soon as someone is angry, then they won't be able to continue the pattern of blaming you – because you won't be there to blame. Of course you want them to learn to lovingly manage their painful feelings without dumping on you, but engaging with them while they are angry is never going to make this happen. The best chance you have of helping them learn to manage their feelings without blaming you is to not stay around when they start to blame.

The same thing applies to you when you are angry. Anger is generally a cover-up feeling, a way of avoiding the deeper feelings of loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, grief and helplessness over a person or a situation. Learning to compassionately manage these feelings rather than cover them up with anger and blame is vital for creating a loving relationship.

If you tend to get overly angry with your partner, you might want to encourage your partner to lovingly disengage from you when you are angry. When you are in a sane place – not the insane place of rage – encouraging your partner to disengage from your anger can greatly help your relationship. Be sure that when your partner disengages, you don't follow him or her around, trying to re-engage. It may take some practice to accomplish it, but if your partner consistently disengages and refuses to respond to you when you are angry, you might begin to find ways other than anger to manage your painful feelings.

I also want to encourage both the angry person and the person who disengages in the face of anger not to blame yourself or blame the angry person once the anger is over. Blame only fuels the painful feelings and helps nothing. Compassion is what is called for – both for yourself and for the other person.


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