Conquering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
By Past Commander Mulzim R. Fidai
Abu Hurayrah relates that a man said to Prophet Muhammed, “Counsel me.” The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Do not get angry.” The man repeated this request many times, but the Prophet (PBUH) kept saying: “Do not get angry.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
What Triggers Anger?
Anger is a normal emotion with a wide range of intensity, from mild irritation and frustration to rage. It is a reaction to a perceived threat to yourselves, your loved ones, your property, your self-image, or some part of your identity.
Anger is a warning that tells you that something is wrong. This emotion plays an important role for human beings. It signals that your interpretation of a situation in a particular way, resulting in emotional motivates through certain behaviors.
We’ve talked a lot about anxiety being a part of our alarm system response to perceived danger, as it gears the body for fight or flight in response to a threat. Anger is a response to perceived harm. It follows an automatic thought that someone is trying to hurt or mistreat you.
Notice that when we talk about anger, we say perceived mistreatment. All of your emotional reactions are responses to the way you interpret events, whether that interpretation is accurate or not. It’s the idea opened for discussions.
Anxiety or sadness can sometimes be a response to an automatic thought that isn’t accurate. Because fist interpretations can be misguided, it is very important to take time to evaluate your perception.
Why Do People Like Anger?
One of the most important – and briefly satisfying – aspects of anger is that it is an energizing and empowering response to a challenge.
Anger activates the same physiological alarm system as the one triggered by anxiety, including the fast sympathetic adrenalin response and the slower cortisol response.
These physical changes prepare you for action – the fight or flight response.
Your breathing increases to bring in more oxygen, your body starts converting stored energy into glucose to raise your blood-sugar level and your heart starts pumping to move that oxygenated blood and fuel to your muscles.
But unlike anxiety (or most other emotions), anger also creates a sense of strength and control. Instead of being helpless, misused, or weak, you are the one on the move – defending yourself, confronting your attacker, insisting upon fair treatment, righting a wrong, indeed, when people are angry, they feel righteous and justified in their behavior.
Sometimes this is an appropriate stance, but often involves misinterpreting other’s intentions. No matter what the reality, anger is often experienced in the moment as positive, because you feel empowered and protected in your response. Yet, anger can often disguise what is really going on with you.
Because Anger Feels Empowering, It Often Masks Other Feelings:
Anger can hide feelings of vulnerability – and no one likes to feel vulnerable. If you just broke up with someone, it’s so much easier to get angry than to feel sad about the breakup, which would be natural.
If your spouse tailgates another car while driving, you will feel more powerful if you yell at him or her instead of simply saying that his or her driving, you will feel more powerful if you yell at him or her instead of simply saying that their driving is making you anxious.
When you get angry, you have the sense that anger will get the result you want, though this usually isn’t true. There are vulnerable feelings underneath the anger not being displayed.
Those feelings are emotional pain related to not feeling loved, and anxiety about whether you will be able to make the relationship work.
Anger between people in close relationships usually surfaces around issues of feeling rejected, criticized, or ignored – in others words, not feeling respected or cared about. It’s better to talk about these deeper feelings, which shift the focus to you (how you are feeling) and away from the other person (the blame game).
Anger can also be an expression of anxiety, which is why it’s so often associated with the symptoms of PTSD. When you faced a sniper attack during combat or threatened by a spouse, remember the same physiological alarm system is activated for both anxiety and anger.
Sometimes you may have to stay and fight, defending yourself if you can’t escape.
Men may be more likely to react to a threat with anger rather than anxiety. Even in less frightening situation, the physiological symptoms of anxiety can cause people with PTSD symptoms to become more irritable and explode much easer at others.
What Are The Costs Of Anger?
In the moment, anger may feel better than sadness, hurt, anxiety, or even shame, but there is a higher cost. Your relationship suffers, your real feelings and needs never get addressed or met, and your health could be compromised, at a great loss to you personally.
The most obvious downside to anger is the way it damages relationships. Anger rarely achieves it goal of setting something right or getting a need met. Instead, it creates the opposite reaction and blocks any hop of collaboration.
You know this from times when you’ve been the target of someone’s anger: Instantly, you’re on the defensive, which makes it very difficult to listen and work through the problem. So when you’re acting angry, you can be sure the other person isn’t listening to your point of view.
What you want from them – understanding, reassurance, and reconnection – is not going to happen if you are yelling or criticizing.
Angry that is not managed constructively is also harmful because it generally sets off an escalating game of blaming, criticism, insults, and character assassination. At its worst, anger can drive couples and families apart and undermine trust and good will.
Although anger can make you feel powerful, many people find that they cross the line into going out of control. For veterans, anger has been an inherent part of combat operations, providing motivation to do battle and helping them to survive. Anger was adaptive in war; at home, it is not.
Anger can also have significant health effects, raising blood pressure and increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Anger is associated with headaches, muscle tension, increased pain, and stomach and intestinal problems.
Muslim American Veteran Association’s MAVA Natl. Past Commander
P.O. Box 891
Martinsburg, West Virginia, 25401
Phone (304) 283-3156