Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rage: part of the post-traumatic syndromes – and often identified in “secondary” PTSD

The Apostle Paul and Post-Traumatic Stress,
From Woundedness to Wholeness

In the newspapers last Sunday was an article about Germany attempting to dominate Europe once again. This time it is by imposing financial reforms. The author went on to write about Greek youths in Athens dressing up as Nazis as they protested having to live under new conditions.

A German-American I know was angry at these accusations. It seemed to me to be an example of anger as a specific, focused response to a stimulus, in contrast to a generalized, furious upheaval. The distinction is important in thinking about the characteristics of the post-traumatic distortion: anger has boundaries; rage has few limits.

The fury and recycling of emotions is often related to the rage associated with post-traumatic feelings. Once again this appears to be an example of “secondary” Post-Traumatic Stress – a process in which the original condition has been passed on to many members of the following generation. Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress has to be taken seriously if ever there is to be peace between peoples.

Rage, as one of the potential post-traumatic syndromes, can have several sources. One is from injustice, being victimized. Another is a sense of betrayal – particularly with the realization of guilt after having been led astray by trusted leaders; we likely see this in Veterans Against the War. Often, too, there can be another element: projection. This can come from injustice; an internalized response is externalized on a third party, dreading in them the very feelings the victim has. All too unforeseen, victimization has a vicious way of rebounding as that third party grows increasingly defensive.

The rage of the young Saul of Tarsus is a good example. He felt betrayed by leaders in Jerusalem, but he acted out against the Jews in Damascus. The guilt for deeds he committed in Jerusalem he now hurled in his preaching on the street corners in a different city. As so often, such aggression provoked a counter-response, as enraged as the original accusations. 

Rage, it seems to me, needs to be attended to first among the syndromes. It can be acted out against others, but it can also be enacted against one’s own self. Destructive rage is a flip of the coin, whether turned out or turned in.

A good way to begin is to realize we can best gauge the actuality we feel is by how we perceive others. The way we regard our neighbors is, in a real sense, a mirror held up to our own eyes.

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