Like every week, yesterday I met with a group of Vietnam Veterans in the New Mexico area. The group is conducted by a counseling professional. I need to say, every week it is so refreshing to meet with them. The group is very uplifting. There are only two OIF/OEF Veterans in the group; all others are Veterans of the Vietnam War. Most of them are living with Post Traumatic Stress that resulted from their experiences in combat. The Vietnam Vets have welcomed and embraced me, regardless of having fought different wars. They always have great advice. I always tell them that they are great mentors because they already walked the path I am walking today. I thank God every day for putting them in my life!
Yesterday, we had an awesome discussion on anger and managing it. It seems that anger is common amongst Veterans of all wars. In the conversation, we addressed those things that trigger anger. Amazingly, most agreed that on of the biggest triggers seeing people in the communities that act like they are the center of the universe and disregard those around them. For example, those people at the grocery store that leave the shopping cart in the middle of the isle while they go read labels or browse products. Yes, those folks are irritating. Some mentioned the way of how others drive brings anger in them. The trigger that stood out was seeing others behaving disrespectfully, selfish, and discourteous.
After the military, anger is a feeling that I personally deal with. I do not drink, but I can see how alcohol can blur judgement and affect how someone reacts and manages the anger. My advice to those that do drink alcohol: if anger is present, stay away from alcohol. The consequences can be long lasting and in some cases can be catastrophic.
Some thoughts shared were how the feelings of loneliness or worthlessness can put an exponential to the anger we may experience.
How to cope with it? During the group session, we discussed on ways to manage anger.
1. Try to withdraw from situations that trigger anger.
2. Try to put things and experiences into perspective.
3. Recognize that we cannot change everything or everyone.
Some situation are difficult to put into perspective because of our structured way of thinking and because of the military experiences. While in the service, as leaders we fix or raise a flag when we see wrong things or misconducts. Outside the military, it is not as such. Most times, we cannot engage on situations and we cannot correct people the way we used to do in the military. Maybe that sense of feeling impotent can bring anger.
After a Traumatic Brain Injury, the management of emotions becomes harder. Abstract thinking may become a problem. I am a witness to it. We may take things the wrong way, we may take it with meanings that were never intended. This may result in a reaction that is out of line or totally incoherent with the situation at hand. Remember, always try to stop, think and gain awareness on what is happening. In my opinion, being aware of our surrounding and our emotions is fundamental in order to control our reactions.
Bottom line is: we are going go get angry, and probably more often than somebody that has not been in a combat situation. Combat experiences may exacerbate emotions. Whatever the situation try to apply common sense. The ultimate goal should be to manage our feelings and to stay out of trouble. Remember, our behavior and reactions will affect our relationships and our well being.