Monday, December 15, 2008

PTSD & Anger, Part 1: When We Hate Happy People

There’s been a big debate in one of the PTSD online support groups in which I participate. It all started around the Thanksgiving holiday. It began like this: S. asked,

Has anyone been through this? I mean, seeing everyone happier than ever (of course, it doesn't mean they are) while you are struggling at ground zero.
I've been through minor but several traumatic life events which accumulated to a greater sum and my coping mechanisms failed after the last event. It's been now more than a year and my soul is still not at rest.

It just seems to me like everyone around me is achieving everything they want and ask for contrary to me who lost almost everything. Is this jealousy normal? It is extremely painful and instead of concentrating on myself I examine other's lives and can't take myself out of it. And seeing people happy makes me misarable and leaves me with the unanswerable question, "Why?" I believe maybe it is a way of keeping myself out of the original problems, I don't know.

There ensued a lot of agreement from the group that, yes, they do feel jealous of people who do not have PTSD, and they are angry at others for not suffering, and angry for the things others have achieved and angry for… the list went on and on and on. The discussion became heated as people vented their frustration in increasingly vehement @$&%! terms.

And it got me thinking, what if everyone took that angry energy and used it for something positive? What if, instead of railing against those ‘happy’ people (or, as I used to do, the unfairness of fate), we harnassed that energy and used it for our own good? When we manifest pure anger all we do is drain ourselves of good energy, literally.

I started researching this whole idea of anger and found an interesting article by Kathy Wilson. Entitled, ‘Anger: The Greatest Motivator of All’ she talks about ways to channel angry energy. Actually, what she says is,

When you experience the emotion of anger, you create one of the most extremely powerful energies that we humans have been given to work with.

Although powerful, the energy of anger isn't bad or good. It simply exists as energy. What you choose to do with it determines if it's bad or good. As with any energy, you can choose to use it in harmful ways or in beneficial ways.

This idea perfectly illustrates the point I made in the group, which was this:

What about looking at the whole topic another way? Instead of being angry, how about thinking about how much we deserve to be as happy as they are? How about getting angry that we aren't happy and deciding to fight as hard as we need to in order to achieve a happier, healthier life?
I used to be angry at my own PTSD suffering. I used to be angry my trauma happened in the first place; no one shielded me from harm; no one could stop the horrific event from continuing over a period of weeks.

On a bad day, I could add to my already deep depression with a powerful dose of anger and then -- watch out! I was really a sight to behold. That depressive anger I usually turned inward came out with a ferocity that flayed anyone around me. I feel sorry for the people I directed it at, particularly my family.

But two years ago this new year's eve I decided to take that angry energy and use it in a positive way: I decided to pursue joy and ... it worked! All of that antsy angry energy spilled onto the dance floor and out of me. I became more peaceful, more tolerant; less angry, more... well... happy.

Being jealous of others is useless. Being angry at them is a total waste of time and energy - time and energy that we really need to be channeling toward healing. Using that energy on ourselves can bring relief, so we shouldn't so easily give it away. Don't you agree?
(Photo: Amir el Mayordomo)


Anonymous said...

I feel envy when I am depressed and anxious and I so want to be happy, laugh, and be carefree like other people. Getting to know them I realize they have sometimes worse problems than I do, just don't seem to be aware of them or their coping mechanisms are different than mine. I get tired of just a knock on the door startling into my heart racing. Even a phone ringing sometimes drive me up the wall. I walk away from it dreading even answering it. Yep, I'm nuts but at least I know I am. I pity the people that seem happy and laughing but live in truly abusive realtionships. I want to protect myself by censoring ALL violent or movies on TV. I cannot stand to hear or think about people being hurt. Sometinmes I am normal at least for me, but I struggle with it. Would love to be able to go with the flow.

Anonymous said...

RAIN is the Rape, Abuse and Incest Network. Your sentence didn't include the full name.

Eventually, the process becomes less about the trauma and more about developing *you*. Keep plugging away.