In this essay we will examine how anger disables us from being fully human, how anger is a normal part of PTSD, and some ideas about managing anger. Additionally, we will offer some thoughts about breaking out of the Anger Cycle.
Anger Disables Us From Being Fully Human
Anger can take control of us, blank out our reason and our love and program us to do horrible things.
I was so angry I didn’t know what I was doing!
I was so angry I couldn’t think straight!
You have probably heard both of those phrases and many more like them. But note the form or structure of the statement. It has three parts:
Part A: Me and Anger are One
Part B: Disabled from
Part C: Rational Conduct
First off, I and my anger become one and the same thing (how demeaning!). When I am under the influence of anger I become disabled from rational conduct, whether that is rational thought or rational action. When I become angry, I have become disabled and stupid. If I allow myself to become angry I have chosen to be stupid. One can become addicted to anger just like one can be addicted to alcohol, and with similar results: Ruined lives and grief for everyone.
Anger Inside of PTSD:
The PTSD-Identity will encourage anger. Since it wants you to be isolated it will encourage self-righteous anger that alienates your relationships. Anger is a frequent symptom of PTSD.
If a person had problems with anger before their life-changing traumatic events, they may have even more of a problem now that they have PTSD. Having PTSD is like having a magnifying glass placed over my anger. It enlarges it, heats it up, makes it worse. It means when I am angry and having a fit that I am probably over reacting. And there it is:
If I become angry I need to calm down and ask myself if this is normal, justified anger, or if I am in the grip of PTSD.
Knowing that my anger reaction is really a PTSD reaction usually decreases the level of anger immediately. It does not eliminate the anger. But I now control the anger and it no longer controls me, disabling me, urging me to do something stupid that will alienate me from my relationships. The more I realize this, the easier and more effective it becomes to control my anger.
Managing PTSD Anger:
Learning to manage anger is an important life skill for anyone, and especially for the person who has survived trauma.
Acknowledging anger issues is the first step to healing that portion of your PTSD. If I have a compound fracture and the bone is sticking out of my thigh, I don’t deny that I have a fracture. If I am susceptible to anger and the anger is driving me to engage in stupid, alienating behaviors, then my soul has a compound PTSD fracture and it needs to be splinted. Acknowledging and naming the problem is crucial to ever fixing the problem.
You can use your anger to help motivate yourself to solve a problem: Not afix blame or point fingers, but to help heal an injustice.
You can use your anger to try and figure out if you are mad because you feel your identity and honor have been damaged. If it turns out that you are angry because of how it made you look, you may be too self-absorbed. So you can use anger to judge how insecure you are.
The more often I become angry, then the more insecure I probably am.
Ask yourself how you would view this behavior in someone else
Break the Anger Cycle: Anger feeds on anger. While I will be disabled from deeper productive rational thought if I get consumed by anger, the PTSD will help me dredge up ten more non-productive reasons to get angry. The more I dwell on them, the angrier I get. The angrier I get, the more toxic I become for others. This helps PTSD achieve its goals of ruining all of my relationships and driving me into isolation.
Our blood pressure goes up and increases our chance for a stroke the angrier we get. My blood pressure can also go up when I get good news or take part in a happy activity. But if I feel my pulse or heart pound and I am not in a happy activity, then I may be having a physical reaction to anger and cruising for another stroke. If I have a stroke, then my PTSD will be happy.
Wait 30 Minutes: Don’t make decisions when you are angry if at all possible. Decisions made in anger are usually decision we regret. If we are fully consumed by anger when we make our bad decisions, we may not even remember making them at all. The anger was in that much control over us.
My own personal rule of thumb is to not make any decisions for at least 30 minutes after I catch myself succumbing to anger. This can keep me from doing something stupid in my self-righteous anger and will also keep me out of jail.
Anger and PTSD want me to make fast rash decisions that will ruin my relationships. By waiting at least 30 minutes, I cool down and become more rational. And, I avoid giving the PTSD what it wants, which is to get me isolated.
Fast From Your Anger Toxins: Can you go on a fast from some of the things that make you angry like talk radio or certain programs or websites?
Talk radio wants to disable you with anger. It is almost as if PTSD said, what can I create that will keep people focused on their insecurities, stop being compassionate, but stay angry and self-righteous? And then PTSD created talk radio to help people spiral further into the anger cycle.
Maybe you need to fast from certain toxic people who only make you angry and unproductive. They usually enjoy doing this to you. It is not always possible to avoid all of our toxic people (some people have the misfortune to be married to them – Yikes!), but we can still figure out ways to minimize our exposure.
There is much we cannot control in life. The traumas that gave us PTSD were usually unavoidable. But at the same time, how we respond to stimuli after trauma ultimately is up to us. All of our anger triggers can be “talked down” from harming us and others. It is a hard road to walk, one that develops humility and compassion for others if we are successful at not being controlled by our anger.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z