The media and the courts' knee-jerk inclination to force-feed traditional 12-step treatments to addicts may be facilitating violence and in fact encouraging, and not suppressing anger.
With each day seeming to bring new sound clips of actor Mel Gibson's unbridled rage, we are caught up in a vortex of anger that feeds something within us that may be best discussed in a future blog. This blog however seeks to identify why we are addicted to rage, and how our own substance addictions fuel instead of drown out the expression of anger.
All of us have had episodes of anger, rage and violence. Just look back a little further into childhood and you will find it. Anger and rage and even violence often gives us a temporary feeling of empowerment and control, much like alcohol or other drugs. This feeling can be very, very seductive.
In the entertainment industry with its inherent extremes -- extreme highs, extreme lows, and the enormous levels of stress -- controlling one's rage can be as daunting as controlling a substance addiction. We must recognize that there is a big difference between suppressing our angry feelings versus merely coping with them. Coping with them is defeatist. Prisoners learn how to cope with the habits of their jailers. Terminal cancer patients learn how to cope with their fate. We must do more than cope with our anger, especially when that anger has the potential to wreak havoc with our lives and the lives of others.
Anger is bad enough, but when it is fueled and enabled by a substance abuse, it becomes an even more formidable opponent to one's well-being. A recent study in the journal “Addiction” suggests that drunkenness increases the risk for violent behavior, as you might expect, but only for individuals with a strong inclination to suppress anger. The study's authors elaborate on this conclusion: "Only a tiny fraction of all drinking events involve violence (rage) and whether intoxicated aggression is likely to occur seems to depend on the drinkers' propensity to withhold angry feelings when sober."
In the example of Mel Gibson, unbridled fury and loss of self-control that is verging on madness is what everyone hears. What we don't hear are the underlying causes that if remain poorly addressed, can lead to a tragic ending of an impressive career. It is probable that Gibson will be either self-remanded or forced by a court to attend a 12-step program.
He'll be classified by the media as a "classic rageaholic" that needs to be in "a program." Unfortunately, the courts do not recognize alternative and in some cases more successful modes of treatment for the alleged addictions that haunt Gibson.