One thing I have realized in coping with PTSD is that the people who don’t have it have no idea how difficult it can be to live with. My anger seemed to lurk just below the surface, and it seemed like almost anything could set it off. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want things to be that way – it was my reality. I worked constantly, trying to suppress my anger. It took a long time to realize that I am reacting. That’s important.
In most instances, I couldn’t have told you why I was angry. I know now that anger isn’t a primary emotion; it’s a secondary response. In my case, anger most often followed on the heels of my being afraid or extremely frustrated. That means that to prevent my anger, I had to allow myself to experience the primary emotion and react to that rather than becoming angry. It’s a more honest way of living and I like the sound of it, but actually facing my emotions is not as easy as it sounds. My anger is part of my defense system, and I have used it most of my life to hide from what’s really bothering me.
So, how do I control my anger at this wise old age? I try to make a sincere effort to see behind what’s making me angry. Am I yelling at the guy in the passing lane because he’s an idiot who drives like he got his license out of a Cracker Jack box, or, am I afraid he’s going to slide into me because he’s going too fast on the ice? Are his wheels really slipping, or is it my car that’s slipping on the ice? If all I need to do is slow down more so that I’m not so afraid, then the anger never surfaces.
The other thing I’ve learned about anger is that it feeds off itself. By that I mean that if you allow yourself to get angry, it builds and can easily get out of control. If I stop the anger before it takes hold and realize I’m not really angry, but what I’m really experiencing is fear, then the anger never surfaces. I can then evaluate whether my fear is legitimate or not and either acknowledge I’m just being a ‘fraidy cat, or I can get out of Dodge before I get hurt. Either way, anger never becomes a factor.
I’m better now at controlling my anger than I was five years ago; much better. That’s encouraging because I think that in another five years, I might even be further along. That means I’m making headway, and that makes it worth the effort!