Just like we have triggers that activate our PTSD symptoms, we all have triggers that activate our anger. This is true of everyone; it is not unique to people afflicted with the soul wound of PTSD. But in the world of PTSD anger remains a real problem.
People, who before surviving trauma, use to be calm, patient, and fun to be around, are now found to be angry all the time, short-tempered, and unpleasant. We need to remember that the PTSD-Identity wants us to be angry all of the time. That way we can ruin our relationships even faster.
- What is Anger? Anger is our normal reaction to a real or imagined grievance or injury. We become angry under the following conditions:
– when something occurs that either is not right,
– or it offends our own sense of identity, our personal honor.
The first item helps me evaluate what I can do to help heal the situation. If I want to heal the problem, then there is less chance that this is all about me. It also means that I must acknowledge there are things I cannot fix, solve, or heal in any material sense. That does not mean I cannot pray for their healing. If I know it is not all about me, I am less likely to become trapped in unending, pointless, anger.
The second item is the one most crucial to us in terms of the soul wound of PTSD. If my anger is the result of my feeling insulted or demeaned, then it is because I perceive an attack on my sense of self. In traditional terms, my “honor” has been insulted. I feel as if I have been dehumanized. Generally, we are better served, as are our loved ones and society are better served, if we don’t allow ourselves to become easily angered. If we are angered, especially when we feel our honor is at stake, then terrible things can result and the innocent can be harmed.
Anger Can Lead to Honor Killings
In traditional terms, if I don’t respond with anger, then I am considered smaller, less of a man than I used to be, a person without honor. In immature societies this results in duels and honor-killings, which still go on today.
In these intense honor-shame societies, women and girls are frequently attacked, raped, insulted so as to cause harm to their father’s (and at times their brothers’) sense of honor. In a twisted logic, the honor solution is solved by having the daughter/sister killed by a member of her own family. Like I said, it’s a sign of an immature society. This is difficult material to cover. If you are interested in learning more about the atrocity of honor killings, see the International Campaign Against Honour Killings website for a start. Fair Warning: some of the material is difficult to grapple with.
Note, that this is not a “Muslim Problem.” Rather it is a fundamentalist problem that is exacerbated by the insecurity of men in patriarchal honor-shame societies. I have seen similar reactions amongst so-called Christians in the United States.
- Self-Righteous Anger:
We all know what it is like to experience someone else’s self-righteous anger.
– It is whiney and unreasonable,
– inflated and exaggerative,
– relies on very few facts, and
– refuses to be informed of any mitigating circumstances
– may involve shouting and aggressive physical gestures
– encourages “Ends Justifies the Means” thinking
– seeks to “win” or to destroy, not to fix or heal
– they feel they have been somehow dishonored
– they feel persecuted, no one understands but them
– they tend to endorse violent solutions, e.g., death penalty, torture, abortion, war
– they moan about, “That’s Not Fair!”
Self-righteous anger is worse than merely having a strongly held opinion. If they bring in either religion or politics, then it really gets bad.
Unfortunately, self-righteous anger also implants a notion that we need to take extreme action: The End Justifies the Means. This sort of anger will often focus its actions on vengeance and not justice. In this way we may then justify something really stupid and selfish on our part, because our anger was so righteous.
The self-righteously angry individual will engage in the same actions which angered him or her in the first place. They usually miss this hypocrisy or will say, the other side did it first or otherwise try and justify atrocious behavior. Since they feel their identity and honor are at risk, they will not back down. Fully controlled by the PTSD-Identity, they just make things worse and give other people PTSD.
In the next installment in our series on Understanding PTSD Anger we will examine how anger can disable us and make us less than human.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z