I have a few more questions from spouses, and this is a really important one.
The answer is pretty straight forward: PTSD is basically the fight/flight/freeze reflex gone into overdrive, and anger is part of the “fight” part of that reflex. You might remember that we discussed anger in this post.
Well then… that would make for a really short blog post, wouldn’t it?
If you’re reading this, then anger has probably had an impact on your life. I’m going to talk about it in more detail below, and that might be hard to read.
So – don’t go any further if you’re having a bad day and don’t need to be reminded of how anger has made life worse. Save it for another day. Otherwise, find a nice quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Set aside time to do a relaxation exercise when you’re done reading this – here‘s one that I’ve posted previously. Here‘s another.
Gee, I’m being a little bossy today, aren’t I?
If you’re just waiting for me to tell you to go pee before you read on, don’t worry. I’ll restrain myself.
If you’re a spouse, then you need to know where the anger does NOT come from: it doesn’t come from you, or what you said, or because you’re making the wrong thing for dinner. It’s not coming from the kids playing too loudly. It isn’t your fault. It’s easy to lose your confidence and start to blame yourself.
It’s also easy to get frustrated and blame your spouse – the anger is not coming from him/her either.
Look – you didn’t marry an idiot. (Well – if you did, then, this blog can’t help you with that…)
But – if you didn’t marry an idiot, then your spouse didn’t just magically become an angry jackass overnight for the fun of getting under your skin. PTSD makes a person feel like they’re under attack all the time, and anger is part of the reflex of reacting to threat.
PTSD is an injury. Anger is one of the ways that this injury hurts. It hurts anyone who might be on the receiving end of that anger – spouse, kids, random clerk at the grocery store.
It hurts the person with PTSD; they don’t choose to act like this, and a moment after they say something hurtful, scream at someone, or put their fist through the wall – they feel terrible about it.
As the spouse, you feel caught between trying to understand that this is an injury, but also feeling frustrated and angry that they can’t just cut it out.
Understanding is the first tool in making things better: the person with PTSD needs to understand that their anger is coming from their PTSD, and not from anything you did. So the solution is to manage their anger, not manage you. And as the spouse, you also need to know that their anger is coming from their PTSD, and not from them being a jerk. So the solution is to help them manage their anger, and to take care of yourself, because this is a lot for you to deal with too.
How’re ya doing? I warned you – it got a little heavy. If you feel a bit like this post punched you in the gut today, please take a minute to look after yourself. You don’t even have to scroll back up to find the hyperlinks to the relaxation exercises – here‘s the woods. Here‘s the water.
I’d love to have you share your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you do post a comment, please don’t give specific details of your trauma – these may be triggering to another reader. If you’d like to offer criticism, I’ll take it – I know I’m not perfect, and I’m always willing to learn. If you do offer criticism though, I’d really appreciate it if you could do so constructively (ie., no name-calling, please). Thanks…
You can find me on Twitter and on Facebook.
~ Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.
*Fine print: Please feel free to share the link to this blog wherever you think it might be helpful! Reading this blog is a good start, but it’s no substitute for professional help. It takes a different kind of courage to admit to yourself that you’re struggling. PTSD is not a sign of failure – it’s a sign that you’ve been through a lot, and have tried to stay strong for too long. If you need help – you’re in some pretty great company. Reach out, and give yourself a chance to feel better.
**Really fine print: The content of Coming Back Home is copyrighted; please feel free to share the link, but do not copy and paste content. Unless otherwise noted, all original photography on Coming Back Home is copyrighted. The photo gracing today’s post was taken by Murray Chappell, and I’d like to thank him for generously allowing me to use his work. Please do not copy photographs from Coming Back Home without permission.
6 thoughts on “Spouses want to know: “Where does the anger come from?””
I really like this post. It is the reality that we live with every day. But separating the person from the behaviour can make all the difference. Thanks Dee.
You’re welcome Polly – and thank you for the kind words.
Great read. Has anyone looked into ptsd and affairs?
I lost my husband to ptsd in 07. I just recently lost my husband to an affair which resulted in a baby on the way – with the other woman.
Hey Dee, I just want to let you know how much I enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the good work! You are doing a fantastic job!
If people knew how much I beat myself up when I do “lose it”, my apologies for losing my temper I cannot control it but I am doing everything I can to try
This is an excellent article.. But I do have a few additional thoughts…
I think there are a few other reasons for the anger. He/she works, breathes, eats and lives a very strict, very proficient way of life while they are in the military. They are trained to jump at every command, and live with those around them doing the same. Once they are out of that life, and back into our society-things don’t work the same. Chores aren’t done the same, civilian life goes a lot slower (just waiting on the phone for a customer agent-who can’t seem to help must feel like agony)
Adapting to the slow paced, lacidasicl life that we take for granted, can (and from my experience with my fiancé), seems a slap in the face. Many times they are dropped back into the life they had before.. It must seem very alien. The hard part is not being able to relate to those around all of a sudden, when he/she was surrounded by everyone who could understand a bad mood without not knowing why.
Ptsd is definatly a cause, but I believe the loneliness, and the alien world are triggers. God bless all who served and those who love them.