Anger After a Brain Injury
Anger is a stage in the grief process. Many times when we experience loss, or trauma, we experience anger, irritability, frustration, or even frequent annoyance. Anger is a healthy emotion, one we don’t necessarily like, but it’s not wrong to feel angry. Experiencing anger doesn’t say anything negative about us. We feel like just about anything could be the “straw that breaks the camel's back”.
Anger is a common emotion most of us are familiar with, prior to injury. We frequently pretend we have control over it. After the injury, we recognize we may not be able to control it.
Why do we have anger?
Anger can cause us to do, or say, things we don’t mean, we later regret, and can’t take back. Anger isn’t the problem, it’s what we do with those feelings that matters. Anger can cause us problems, but anger is also beneficial.
Anger frequently protects us from feeling other negative emotions we don’t feel prepared to feel at the time. Granted, we don’t ever feel prepared for the underlying emotions, such as sadness, hopelessness, guilt, jealousy, inadequacy, and disappointment. But, eventually, when the anger subsides, we are ready to work through the other feelings.
Anger doesn’t have to make logical sense. You can be angry at people: yourself, doctors, coaches, God or other Higher Powers, your parents, the person who injured you, or anyone really. You can be angry at things: the timing of it all, the weather, laws, the failed brakes, the way you responded to the injury, something someone says, your new limitations due to the injury, or anything else that may come up.
You may be explosive with your anger and “blow up” or you may feel constantly, mildly irritated. Give yourself time! Leave the situation, if at all possible. Take some SLOW, deep breaths. Imagine yourself in your favorite place. Think of people you love, carry their pictures with you. Write your thoughts down in a journal. Take a walk. Watch a funny YouTube video. Take a time out. Self-soothe. Take the time to feel better, and calm down. This may take 30 minutes or it may take an hour. Having strategies to help you process anger can really empower you.
My favorite activity to do, when I’m feeling upset and out of control, is to throw rocks. It changes nothing. But, I get my frustration out, and I do it without hurting anyone or anything. It also gives me time to think about what’s really happening, and recognize my underlying emotions.
Bringing Awareness to the Source of Your Anger
Ask yourself – Why am I so upset?
Then work to recognize what FEELINGS are causing the anger. After you’ve calmed down and taken time to recognize underlying emotions, you’re ready to communicate with those that care about you in a more healthy way. How we communicate our emotions, including anger, can be just as important as recognizing the emotions are present.
To learn more communication skills, see our blog titled Communication RULE.
Our emotions are just that; emotions. We can feel them, acknowledge their existence, then work through them and let them go. We get to choose when, or if, we let them go. That choice is powerful. When we acknowledge and let go, we then have a say in what happens next. Our emotions don’t control us, and anger doesn't have to control us either.
If anger seems to be an ongoing concern, seeking support from a mental health counselor or therapist can also be a huge help. You’ve got this!