‘I was so incredibly angry after my surgery; surges of rage would come out of no-where, over the smallest thing, exploding into the room, shocking everyone in my wake. Just as suddenly, the anger would fall. I’d feel exhausted afterwards. And embarrassed. I’d never known rage like it.’
Words to this effect fell from the mouth of someone I love dearly last week. They were describing an uncontainable rage that visited them in the aftermath of life-threatening surgery some 10 years ago.
They say it took them years to whip this rage into manageable form, shoved inside a tenuous cage. Finally, they sought psychological help.
They learnt they were not alone.
They learnt this is an experience common to many who undergo unexpected, life-in-the-balance surgery. They learnt that sometimes, following the sheer relief of having survived, comes a monster in the form of WRATH, roaring like an avalanche down a once-serene mountain.
From where does this RAGE arise?
I’m still on the hunt to find out more but so far, this is the information I’ve been pulling together:
The Reptilian Brain.
That part of our brain right at the back of our noggins, including the brain stem and cerebellum. If we subscribe at all to the concept of evolution, this is the grey matter we were apparently kick-started with; the same area that holds our unerring drive for survival.
This is where we are triggered to REACT, in fight, flight or freeze mode. The Reptilian Brain is what led us through a labyrinth of charging mammoths, giant hungry felines, and poisonous berries…
This is also the centre that gives form to our most primitive emotions. Emotions like RAGE.
Rage can be really useful if our very self, or the life of someone from our brood, is under threat. Rage is what makes us bare our teeth, emit blood-curdling screams and lunge with swiping intent to do whatever it takes to protect our tribe; “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”
In the days of negotiating territorial boundaries with other Hominins and ferocious predators, an injured animal would literally ‘get nasty’ if they felt under threat. This nasty-mask kept predators away and gave the animal time to lick their wounds and recuperate.
And so the theory goes that in the aftermath of a serious accident or injury (including surgery), and in the weeks, months and sometimes years that it takes to recover, our hard-wired lizardian response can come to the fore.
And perhaps the injury to ourselves doesn’t always have to be ‘physical?’ We may be walking around with echoes of emotionally-wounding ‘stuff’ that has occurred in the past. ‘Stuff’ that at the time, threatened our sense of self, including our entire concept of what it is to be safe and secure. Those moments can lie like imprints in our psyche, triggered at the unlikeliest of times…
We get ANGRY because our brain has sensed peril.
We use heat and ferocity because we can’t evade as quickly. We spit and snarl because our Reptilian Brain perceives a threat.
In this modern world, a ‘threat,’ on the surface, can seem very small; it may be as simple as a jab at our intellect, a question of our ability to provide and survive, or the poor reception or misunderstanding of an idea we’re trying to communicate as important…
How do you manage the rage? More on that next week… but in the meantime, I hope this small exploration has been useful (particularly for anyone visited by wanton RAGE, either themselves, or with their spouse or loved one…).
Until next week,