FEELINGS OF PEOPLE WITH SPINAL CORD INJURY: ANGER

Another common, though not universal, feeling in response to spinal cord injury is anger, particularly for those injured in an accident or by violent crime. If your disability was caused by your own behavior, such as a one-car accident or diving into a shallow pool, you may be furious with yourself. If your injury is due to a tumor or disease over which you have no control, you may direct your anger at fate or at God. Or you may look for a cosmic reason for your injury, searching for the meaning of your survival rather than raging at destiny.Your anger about the accident or other event may last only a brief period, but you will be coming to terms with losses for a longer time. Anger is a normal response to losing something precious and to the frustration and dependence that you face daily as you struggle to perform what were once automatic and easy tasks.Unfortunately, many people consider anger an unacceptable, dangerous, or immature emotion. You may fear that anger will alienate the very people whose help you so much need. You may be concerned that anger is a sign of immaturity or weakness and fear having a childish “tantrum.” Or you may worry that your anger, because it feels so intense, will get out of control and become destructive.Tom broke his neck in an industrial accident. He was angry not only at the careless co-worker directly responsible for his injury, but also at the entire company for not better policing the plant. Tom was generally a friendly, easygoing man, and anger was an unusual emotion for him. He wished he could be forgiving. He felt guilty about his anger and thought his angry feelings made him a mean or bad person.Tom held in his anger for a long time, trying to pretend he didn’t feel it. This intensified his tendency to be depressed over his losses, increased his passivity and lack of initiative, and actually worsened his fear of losing control. He initially performed well in therapy, and the staff involved in his care had high hopes for his return to work, school, and social life. But Tom’s continuing inability to acknowledge and express his anger soon led to deterioration in his progress. He became extremely passive and apathetic and was unable to make important decisions. He couldn’t act on his own behalf to apply for financial assistance or stand up for himself in personal relationships.Tom’s biggest fear was that his anger would lead to aggression. Indeed, he harbored vicious fantasies of revenge against the person responsible for his accident. But he eventually saw that he was turning this aggression on himself by giving up control of his life, that he was undermining his own recovery and being emotionally used or abused by other people. Tom’s psychologist helped him validate his feelings of anger and rage and helped him see how he could turn this anger into constructive rather than destructive action.Tom gradually began to act more on his own behalf. He got in touch with his family, who lived out of state, and asked for their support. They responded with more frequent phone calls to his hospital room and praise for his progress. He called social service agencies and filled out applications for Medicaid, housing aid, and other benefits that he would need after discharge. He talked to his lawyer about suing his company for damages. He thought about his vocational plans in terms of what interested him, rather than what his counselor thought would be good for him. And he appropriately expressed his anger toward several people who had taken advantage of him or hurt his feelings during his most dependent and needy times.Tom felt a renewed sense of self-reliance and empowerment. He learned that anger turned into positive action and self-expression was not dangerous. In fact, his revenge fantasies subsided as he felt better about his own life. Getting the anger out in the open had helped him avoid depression, regain control, and direct his energy toward helping himself, and had prevented bitterness from setting in.Such disabling anger is common, but it can be avoided by expecting and recognizing anger as a normal response to spinal cord injury and by verbalizing anger openly, perhaps with fellow patients in informal gripe sessions. Anger is better expressed in words than by acting it out through hostility, withdrawal, or rebellion against the rehabilitation program.In the rehabilitation hospital, you can also get help in expressing your anger through therapy with a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist. Many spinal cord injury programs provide group therapy in which you can openly share feelings with fellow patients. Pastoral counselors may be helpful in dealing with anger at God. When possible, physical activity such as socking a punching bag, smashing a piece of clay, or bouncing a ball can be an outlet for anger. And like Tom, you can find ways to take control of your situation and turn your anger into positive action. You may need to call insurance companies and employers to obtain or maintain benefits. You may need to write to foundations for financial help or apply for vocational services. Acting on your own behalf to get the help you deserve is another way to transform your anger into constructive behavior.
*36/156/5*

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks

Random Posts

Comments are closed.