I’m Angry, But I Can’t Be
5 Ways To Constructively Deal With Anger During Deployment
by Elise Moore
You feel the tension grip your already fatigued muscles. The frustration rising, wanting to scream but knowing you can’t. You’ve just been told he’s not coming home for another month. You think to yourself ‘this can’t be happening,’ while knowing there is nothing you can do. Thoughts of being selfish dominate your mind. The anger gives way to guilt along with the familiar weight of sadness and loneliness. You try to remind yourself the sacrifice you and your serving member are making is for the greater good. Although these words are meant to fortify you, they only make you feel worse.
Does this sound like you or someone you know?
Some military spouses feel the need to suppress their feelings of anger. They can feel like anger is somehow ‘unpatriotic’. Some feel the need to be a ‘home soldier’ and feel they can’t be angry. In many ways they are a home soldier, but they are also allowed to feel angry. The deployment journey is complex and anger is a normal response to a challenging situation.
Partners Elsewhere’s principal psychologist, Emma Rice, talks about five ways to deal with anger both compassionately and constructively.
1. Separate the Emotion from the Behaviour: The first tension point is thinking that anger is somehow a “bad” emotion. The emotion of anger is not bad, it’s what people do with their anger, their behaviour, that can be negative. If others are being physically, mentally or emotionally hurt as a result of your anger then that is not ok. On the other hand, the emotion of anger is a normal part of life. Feeling angry from time to time is also normal and an expected part of the deployment journey.
2. Remember Anger is Normal: The second tension point follows directly on from the first. If people get caught up in feeling as though anger is bad they can feel as though they need to fight against it. Consider accepting that anger is a normal emotion that will come and go from time to time. Also consider allowing it to be there while you get on with your day. To do this, see if you can picture what physical sensation the anger creates in your body. Then see if you can allow the physical sensation to be there while you move through your day to day routines.
3. Be Both Angry and Supportive: The third tension point can come from feeling as though you can only be either angry OR supportive. But, what if there is room for both?
I’m angry because this is hard and I miss him;
I’m also proud of what my partner is doing for our country and for our family.
Anger can often be one part of a complex set of emotions. When anger is acknowledged within the context of other feelings it can serve to communicate what’s at the heart of the emotion such as missing your partner or needing extra support.
4. Talk About it Constructively: A fourth tension point making anger difficult, is feeling like you will burden your deployed partner. This may actually be the case, especially if you tell your partner “I’m angry” without giving them more details to ‘work with’. To overcome this, consider expanding the idea to include what is causing the anger and what you need that they can realistically provide. For example, I’m angry because I feel lonely and I miss you, I need to be reminded that you love me. Or I’m angry because I feel overwhelmed caring for the children on my own, I need to think of some ways I can get help. Notice that talking about it constructively takes blame out of the conversation and instead focuses on what is happening for the individual.
5. Highlight what you Appreciate: The fifth tension point is not wanting to be negative for what limited time you have to talk. If you are discussing feeling angry with your partner ensure you and your partner complete the conversation with voicing something you appreciate about the other. This means that talking about anger doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Rather it can be productive and something that leads to reinforcing resilience and resolve within the relationship.
If anger can be accepted it can help ease the stress of deployment. The bottom-line is, anger is a normal emotion that everyone is entitled to feel. It’s how the individual responds to the anger that can influence the impact it has on them and their loved ones.
Let us know what your experience has been like during deployment.