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Entries categorized "Anger"

Air Rage - Who Gave Permission for Such Bad Behavior?

By Elayne Savage, PhD

Canstockphoto53199705CanStock Photo / rogistok

What a disturbing nationwide trend air rage has become! And this latest incident is shocking –– someone didn’t want to follow the rules so she knocked out two teeth of a flight attendant.

A statement from Southwest says she had "repeatedly ignored standard inflight instructions and became verbally and physically abusive upon landing." She is now banned from Southwest flights for life. 

I’m fascinated by rages and over the last couple of decades I’ve written about and been interviewed on many types: air rage and road rage and movie rage and fast food rage and shopping mall rage, and birthday party rage.


My blogs about air rage date back to 2010:

Outbursts of Outrage – Where Is This Hateful Anger Coming From?

Does Air Rage Reflect These Outrageous Times?

Outraged, Enraged, Air Raged


Also some blogs about various other rages in the news:

One of my favorites is  Fear, Anger and Outrage


Far too many outbursts have resulted in serious injuries and deaths of innocent bystanders. Yet when I re-read many of the earlier incidents I’m stunned at what seemed outrageous a few years ago seems tame to me now –– when compared to the massive outrageousness of recent behavior.


This month, the Federal Aviation Administration warned air travelersthat there has been a spike in disorderly or dangerous behavior aboard passenger planes.


According to the FAA: ”In a typical year, the transportation agency sees 100 to 150 formal cases of bad passenger behavior. But since the start of this year, the agency said, the number of reported cases has jumped to 1,300, an even more remarkable number since the number of passengers remains below pre-pandemic levels.”

However when the passengers who refuse to comply with the federal mask mandate are added in, the figure reaches 2,500!  


The San Diego Union-Tribune observes: 

“Bad behavior on commercial flights is not a new phenomenon.

But now it has become a national concern.

Unruly and sometimes violent passengers have become more frequent, disrupting flights and injuring airline employees, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, longtime flight attendants and pilots.

That coincides with a pandemic-heightened contentious and politically divided society, where some people don’t merely question rules intended to safeguard themselves and the public at large, but believe they have the right to simply ignore them. 

The sense of entitlement is hard to miss. 

Many of the disputes erupt over requirements to wear masks in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 — whether on an airliner, in a restaurant or at a coffee shop.

Often bearing the brunt of customer anger over the rules are flight attendants, restaurant servers, store clerks and other front-line service industry employees who already are at greater risk of becoming infected by the coronavirus than other workers. 

Being abusive to people who a) didn’t make the rules and b) are trying to help get you what you came for or where you’re going is beyond unfair.

Then there’s the selfish disregard for potentially endangering the health of people nearby, never mind ruining their flight or meal, by being a jerk.

It’s hard to quantify these incidents involving masks because they aren’t all reported and there’s nothing to compare them to pre-pandemic. Certainly, amplification through news reports and social media can make them seem common. The reality is, most everyone does the right thing. The vast majority of people who fly on planes and eat at restaurants are game to follow the rules for the service they are getting.

Unfortunately, some aren’t.”


Getting Upset, Overreacting and Lashing Out . . .


I’m noticing I’m getting angry easier and lashing out more than usual with the stress of the pandemic and isolation. Colleagues, friends and clients are reporting the same kinds of stressful interactions. I, too, find myself easily irritated. I even yelled at my cat the other day. Well, no, actually I screamed at her.


Do you, too, find yourself becoming more reactive than in ‘normal ‘times?


Let’s take a look at overreacting. All too often we take something personally and overreact when something hurtful is said to us or we  feel blamed or slighted or personally attacked. We may get defensive when people don't see things our way, we might  see others as “wrong” and “bad” and we might tend to turn the situation into “us” and “them.” 


When we take something personally, it is usually because we are overly sensitive to what somebody says or does OR what they neglect to say or do. The bottom line is we feel disrespected in some way.


Feeling “dissed” can stir up hurt feelings which may turn into anger and resentment. All too often anger turns into rage. 


Rage is an oversized step beyond anger and I see an important distinction: anger is connected to the present, rage is rooted in the past. It bursts forth when a situation in the present triggers profound emotions — early hurts and resentments about a similar type of situation are bubbling under the surface. These experiences of rejection are most likely from childhood: siblings, parents, extended family, peers, teachers or coaches.


This is why I call rage “anger with a history.”


What Causes These Outbursts?


Screen Shot 2021-05-31 at 4.44.38 PMCanStock/ willierossin

Where do these potent emotions come from? What causes these outbursts, these lapses in good judgment? What causes rage to explode into out of control behaviors, even violence? What prompts us to react so desperately?


When new perceived rejection hurts pile onto old ones each hurtful remark opens old wounds. Anything in that stockpile can ignite. We get overwhelmed and unable to think straight. We overreact and lose control. 


Feeling disrespected includes judgment, criticism, condescension, betrayal, bullying and humiliation –– all are facets of rejection. 


When we feel mistreated, unsafe or threatened, we tend to defend ourselves. We restore our pride by attacking back. Or by seeking revenge.


Sometimes our rebellion comes from not liking to be ordered to do something – like obeying rules and wearing masks on an airplane.


Today’s news is filled with personal and cultural rage that is assaultive and violent. Our elected officials are increasingly at each other’s throats. Someone is an unwitting victim of road rage, air rage, fast food rage and birthday party rage. Sports rage produces melees on basketball courts, playing fields and little league games. A student is taunted by others and brings a gun to school. Someone feels slighted and disrespected and stalks and kills co-workers. 


We are at the same time victim and victimizer. 


A paragraph in the piece quoted above in the San Diego Union-Tribune describes the power of isomorphism: “Bad behavior on commercial flights….coincides with a pandemic-heightened contentious and politically divided society, where some people don’t merely question rules intended to safeguard themselves and the public at large, but believe they have the right to simply ignore them. The sense of entitlement is hard to miss.”


Isomorphism is a term from systems theory –– you may know it by the terms ‘parallel process’ or ‘social contagion.’


Isomorphism is where patterns repeat from one setting to another, including attitudes, moral character, values and temperament. I’ve noticed that the culture of each administration lappears to be  influencing  many people as it trickles down from Congress and the White House into our workplaces and personal lives. 


Isomorphism is a reflection of one situation by another. We pick up the mood or energy of what's going on with others, and imitate it – often unknowingly. 


I frequently hear this pattern described by my workplace consultation clients. The character and values of the leader trickles down to staff.  Sometimes the workforce is highly uncomfortable with it.

More on isomorphism: When Toxic Behavior Trickles Down (from 2017)


The experience of losing control and overreacting, and lashing out feels pretty yucky to most of us. The disrespect we are spewing onto others ends up splattering on us as well.


Trying to pause the interaction might help. Can you take a deep breath, maybe 4 or 5? Remind yourself you DO have choices – can you name one? What might  that be? Can you say it out loud to yourself?


Wouldn’t it be nice instead to start respecting ourselves.


© Elayne Savage, PhD


Until next month,


Elayne Savage is the author of ground-breaking relationship books published in 9 languages.
Both books are now available on Kindle!



You can use the articles in 'Tips from The Queen of Rejection'® as long as you include an attribution and, whenever possible, a live link to my website. I'd appreciate if you'd notify me where and when the material will appear.

The attribution should include this information: Elayne Savage, PhD is a communication coach, keynote speaker, and trainer, practicing psychotherapist and author of Don't Take It Personally! The Art of Dealing with Rejection and Breathing Room - Creating Space to Be a Couple.

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