How to Harness your Anger after Trauma
Feeling anger even rage after a traumatic event in normal and can be a sign that healing is underway. Learning how to channel it is a challenge.
Anger is a common symptom of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it can affect your relationship with people around you at home and at work. It can also affect your relationship with yourself and may lead to other problems with drug or alcohol misuse, impulsive behaviour, self-harming and even suicide.
Anger in itself is not a bad thing. It is a very natural human response to disturbing and overwhelming events. Such events may go back to childhood and involve neglect or abuse, or may be linked to a physical attack, road traffic accident or a terrorist incident. Feeling angry when you have been affected by or have witnessed trauma is your body’s way of communicating with you that it has exceeded its usual ability to cope and needs extra energy to respond.
Anger is part of your trauma survivor’s toolkit.
Trauma therapy involves exploring how you relate to your anger. How you tolerate it or not and how you manage it. If you bottle your anger up you are more likely to explode when you can’t control it any longer. It then becomes a destructive force. When it is used constructively anger can be transformed and become your passion for something, your fire in the belly that links you with your purpose in life and gives you your get-up-and-go.
In PTSD anger is often related to deeper feelings of being out of control, of being violated, of feeling the world is frightening and unsafe. It is a hyperarousal state where your fight or flight mechanism is constantly being triggered without you knowing and feeding you signals of danger and fear. It makes it difficult to form friendships, relate to work colleagues and form intimate relationships which all require trust.
When your body and mind have been violated your defences are like prison gates, wide open letting other dangerous people in or slammed shut, keeping your vulnerable self with all its latent qualities and potential, on lock-down inside.
You exist in survival mode, scanning your territory for threats, but you are running an old programme. Not every street is filled with danger. Not everyone wishes you harm. It takes work to install a new one, to permanently retrain your brain. Anger knocks it offline making you think, say and do things that are destructive. It’s a dark, dark space full of grudges, fury and revenge.
You can update the programme. You can make the most of your survival tool and learn to harness your anger and use it constructively by keeping it online.
If anger is affecting your work, your relationships or your overall quality of life do respond to it. It may be related to trauma. It takes courage to ask for help but it is better than living a half-life. It may even enrich you. Start now.
You can contact your GP, find an accredited therapist or call the Samaritans on 116 123 (24 hours)