Some Things to Do if You or Your Child is Experiencing Anger

Posted on October 23, 2013, in Grief and Trauma

Anger is a normal response to trauma. Anger actually helps one feel powerful and less vulnerable - but this is only temporary. Life is definitely not fair. What has happened is likely to cause many changes and challenges that were not anticipated. Life is disrupted and anger is a normal response. Anger, however, can become very destructive. It can keep you stuck in the trauma, stuck in the pain. If you seek revenge, then you become like the very perpetrator who caused you so much pain.

Becoming a survivor is not easy. But as a survivor, you and your child will once again enjoy life. Your child will never forget what happened, but if your child remains angry he will not be able to let go and will remain stuck in the trauma. By remaining a victim life will get more difficult.

Yes, anger is a normal response to trauma. It is okay to be angry, to talk to a trauma specialist about your anger. It is not okay or healthy to act out your anger. Nor is it healthy to allow any family member to act out their anger. In trauma this is not always easy to control. That anger gives you some sense of power, but it is false power. The power really needs to come from being a survivor, not a victim of that anger. You need to take control of it and not let it control your life.

Sometimes people talk about the importance of forgiving. Although forgiveness can be important it is not a necessary step to get past anger, or to become a survivor. What is most important is to learn to think as a survivor, not a victim.

How to Relieve Anger

NOTE: The anger being dealt with here is trauma driven. Trauma driven anger is triggered by an overwhelming sense of powerlessness created by the traumatic experience. The recommendations made here are not intended to resolve issues prior to the trauma or those problems created by inappropriate behavior since the trauma.

  • Do you or your child wonder,”If only I had done things differently.” If you do, you are still feeling like a victim - powerless. You cannot change what happened, you can only change what you do with your life at this time. What is it you need to do for you now? What is needed to make this happen?
  • If you believe your anger is trauma driven, you may need to change your focus. Review the Survivor Checklist listed on the "Help" page. Go through the entire list. This can re-empower you, remind you of the choices you have. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process. Trauma anger will show itself at different times. It is best to have several ways to respond to your anger before it causes you to act in ways that create more problems for you. Of the responses in the survivor list of thoughts, which does you or your child need to help him with his anger?
  • If your anger involves others, let that person know the following: “Right now I am really angry. This is not the best time to talk. I just need to take care of other things. When I am calmer, I will talk to you.”
  • Do not let yourself use the pronoun “you” when mad. Once you begin with, “You should have...” or “You always...” the other person will feel attacked and defend themselves. Before you know it, you’ll both be in a shouting match. You need to use the pronoun “I.” “I am mad. I am really ticked off.” Keep the focus on yourself.
  • Before speaking, do one of the following:
    • Take 10 slow, deep breaths
    • Rub a tense part of your body for 30 seconds
    • Get a cold glass of water, juice, pop or milk and drink it slowly
    • Stretch for 30 seconds
  • If, after following the steps above you still need to vent your anger it is far better to take a walk, to exercise or work out in some fashion rather than to explode.
  • Do you have a legitimate reason to be angry? If so, can you be calm enough to communicate that reason without losing control, blaming or being hurtful? If you cannot be calm, then it is to your benefit to try to “cool off” at this time.
  • Your greatest power comes from being in control of your anger, so when others respond they cannot weaken your position by making you angrier. So pick the time to deal with what is upsetting you when are calm.

If your child continues to lose control contact TLC for a possible referral.

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