Slaying the Dragon of Trauma: Anger
Have you been asking yourself questions about why you seem to feel angry about how something has impacted you and your life? Or maybe, you just find yourself on edge, quick to anger and snapping at others more than you like. After experiencing a traumatic event, it is very common that those individuals to feel angry.
Sometimes that anger is targeted at how the damage of a trauma exposure has affected them and their plans financially or in relationships. They might even feel angry about the impact it has had in changing the direction of their lives or how they can’t even interact in their day-to-day lives without some influence of trauma showing up. Other times anger may not be quite so clear in where it is coming from or what it is angry about. All of these forms of anger can be a response to trauma.
Anger is a naturally occurring emotional response in the human body. If you are a human, you can and should feel anger on various occasions. In fact, anger is our injustice meter. Just as fear alerts us to risk or danger, anger tells the body that there is something unjust or not right about the situation. Connect that to trauma exposure, and it actually makes a lot of sense as to why anger is a common emotional response to trauma. Trauma is not fair. It is not right. Trauma is not justified. It just happens and we are left with the consequences and impact.
While we understand why anger may be present for those who have experienced trauma, for others it may be harder to control anger. Anger may show up in the form of outbursts or in places or settings that are not the source of the injustice. I want to help you understand ways to assist with managing your anger while you are navigating all that comes with your experiences.
Tips on Managing Anger:
Self-Management – The intensity of your anger can impact your choice-making skills and how you communicate with others. When you notice becoming angry, take a break. You can go for a 5-minute walk, use the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique or pull out your journaling phone app to vent it out.
Name the Injustice- remember that anger is out injustice meter. So if you are wanting to understand your emotional response, we have to name the message that the anger is communicating with us. What feels unfair or not right in the situation?
Communicate – Communicate with the individual you may be angry with. Keep in mind, if you need to wait until your anger is at a manageable level then make sure you take time to process your thoughts before speaking out of anger. Speak with purpose on why you feel angry and avoid blaming statements such as using words like “always” and “never.”
Problem-Solving – Consider your specific situation and see about changing the environment or factors that may be contributing to your anger. Look for alternatives that might relieve stress for you.
When I get passionately upset or angry about something that has affected me or I truly care about, I know that I may not be thinking rationally. In fact, the cognitive processing portion of our brain can go offline and we can lose the ability to problem-solve for a bit. I know from my experience that I need time to process my thoughts and sift through irrational statements or impulses I could make that might cause more harm and not be beneficial to relieving stress in the end. Take time to learn your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to anger and seek out options to help you manage your anger.
And for longer-term healing and relief from both trauma and uncontrolled anger, there are options.
Get connected to a support group with others that have experienced a similar situation that has caused your anger, practice mindfulness with stretching or yoga, visualize a calming place and create a routine of healthy habits to positively alter your anger. And, lastly, if your anger is stemming from trauma exposure, treating the trauma with an evidence-based trauma therapy intervention is one of the best ways that you can reduce and relieve those anger responses that you are experiencing.
If you would like to reach out to a professional to assist you with learning other coping mechanisms that work for you or participate in evidence-based trauma therapy methods like EMDR therapy or DBT therapy, we are here to help. Salyer Group Counseling we are available in person at our Arlington, TX-based therapy office and virtually for online therapy options whenever you are ready!