April 1, 2009

Combat Rage and What We May Do With It

I want the reader of this post to know that I am writing about the combat veteran with a severe form of PTSD. Not every combat veteran will fit this category, as a matter of fact most combat veterans do not fit this category. Even though most combat veterans will not experience this degree of symptomology, many will feel several of these symptoms and feelings.

To put a finger on what combat rage feels like and the disconnection between the veteran is problematic in that the separation from such disables the feeling of this affect. Try and imagine a time when you felt an extreme distance to your own feelings and envision, then expand it to a gulf. Now, the anger or rage we all have in us takes a matter of triggering by an extreme stress situation to disengage and embark on evolutionary defensive mechanisms; a survival fight or flight defense. Suppress the flight part and you are coming closer to the realization of fight or die, this switch goes off and now the training kicks in and you become guided by your warrior self, a world of black and white, a dichotomy of kill or be killed. Fueling this fire is the consumption of rage, anger multiplied, like an electromagnetic coil holding the boiling and broiling plasma of fear, rage and humanity in such a precise way as to be utilized to do what needs to be done. Kill or be killed without consideration of another's life other than yourself and your squad.

Now remove this person from the battlefield and look through his/her eyes and tell me of the total ambiguity and discord in society you see and now feel the fight within self to let loose the rage and exterminate all that does not fit the afore mentioned narrow field of forgotten battlefield schemata. Now the real battle begins, fighting for your life when you know the simple rules of kill or be killed verses and weighed against societies norms, now you can do nothing but feel the rage, fear and your humanity. But what do you do with it? Where do you put it?

In combat you project it into the enemy and forgot instantly as you spray lead through the use of controlled anger, rage and fear into a 'combat othering.' Othering is simply the development of placing oneself above another, the mechanism of wielding the tools of oppression in society, or death and destruction in the killing fields. In combat we place the supposed deserving of hot lead into the enemy, we place upon them the responsibility of our actions, we wholly demonize them to save our battle buddies and ourselves. Back in society we no longer have that repository to dump into, we now turn this shell we call a body into the demon, we become the demon, we are the demon. Now we perceive many threats everywhere, including the demon hosted by the facade of me. This conglomeration of selves is inadequate and maladjusted in regular society and can lead to chronically dissociating from self, community and society.

With chronic cycling through anger, rage, hyperarousal, and fear by a misattuned self regulator within the person, we can find ourselves succumbing to the demon without knowing why or how. Our world has been turned upside down and in combat we surrendered to this perspective, but back in society we still have this perception of the world that looks and feels "wrong" and having already adopted this vision in the battle zone, we still operate from this intense sense of right and wrong which triggers in us the demon. On the surface where we now reside we see only the ripples of a foreboding tsunami of emotions. The momentum of such a wave sends us roiling along until we hit the shallow end of coping and then seemingly out of nowhere the hundred foot wave rises above and rolls out over everything and everyone.

The veteran battling this probably does not understand it themselves. With regards to the rage and anger, this disconnect happens on several levels. One level we can feel it welling up and the fear entangles with it, which we can suppress most of the time, except that our loved ones will notice a difference in our demeanor and behavior. A deeper level we feel it slipping, sliding off uncontrollably, succumbing to an even deeper level, where all emotions and affect leaves and we switch over to our combat selves. We have checked out, no longer in command of our facilities and we have returned back to the killing field in all sensory levels except in body. Our mind smells, sees, hears, tastes and feels the acrid pending doom of combat, we have left our body and given over to the demon.

Hope this helped, it seems that the best way to describe it was through metaphors.


  1. Mr. Lee, I completely agree with your statement. My personal story may very form another’s but I’m sure in many ways its related. I feel that the effects of “self medicating” I.E. alcoholic and/or drug abuse should have been brought up; it makes the pain stop… for awhile, then it only numbs and after time its only used to stay as sane as possible. I got so bad that I volunteered to leave my wife and 3 year old daughter for another deployment (my forth Marine Infantry deployment, 3 in Iraq and 1 in Afghanistan). I went to what I truly knew and felt comfortable, but to no avail… I came back worse than ever. The lack of sleep, always sitting at diners facing the doors, panic attacks from driving through underpasses or litter on the street. Since my first deployment during the invasion in 2003 to my last in Afghanistan in 2009 it has been a drunken downward spiral and its truly taken its toll on my family. I went for help at the V.A. and was told that I need deal with my alcoholism before “they” can deal with P.T.S.D. and I stressed that the problem was not from the alcohol but from my mental problems. I was sent to doctors, counselors and shrinks and I kept telling them I need to fight the pain in me or I’ll keep using the “medicine” I’m using. It seemed to me obviously redundant to fight one while ignoring the other. That being said, I was refused mental health treatment and ultimately left to fend for myself, and here I am… frustrated and alone.

    1. I'm so sorry that you have had to go through this, first you fight for our freedom, and then you are passed around, receiving no real help. My son has suffered greatly with PTSD, so I understand how hard it is for the family. Because I recognized what he was going through (not at first), I was able to help him, but it was extremely hard at first, because he would scream at me and I didn't know why, It was like I didn't know him. When I realized what was going on, it helped me and him to deal with it. He did not understand what was happening either. My son is better now, but I gotta watch the quick movements, and can not sneak up behind him or wake him when he's sleeping. I hope you don't mind if I pray for you and your family.

    2. Thank you for reaching out to this vet. They haven't replied since this comment in 2011.

  2. You must connect with someone, it does not have to be the VA. There are organizations that can help you, where are you located? My email combatptsdblogger@facebook.com, send me an email and I can hook you up with some resources. Nadia McCaffrey Foundation can get you into veterans retreats until you can get into a VA inpatient treatment center. Do this now brother, do not wait any longer. Reach out, we have been where you are and know how to get to the other side. Email me and I will give you my number.

  3. Frustrated & Alone -

    Scott is right that there are non-VA resources available... sometimes they take a little more "leg work" (but often in the end they meet the need better). He'll be able to give you some great options. Is there anything I can do to help your wife? I hear in your post that you're worried about her and your daughter. I'd be glad to talk to her. I, and many of the others who work with our organization, have faced what she's facing firsthand.

    -Brannan (brannan -at- familyofavet.com)

    Brannan Vines
    Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
    Founder of FamilyOfaVet.com - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

  4. Frustrated and Alone,

    Fov is our sister organization working with vets and their families, great bunch of people working hard to overcome the barriers you face today.

    Give and Hour for immediate therapy needs for free.

    My Suggested Guide to PTSD Management.

    Read up on Reintigration Issues

    Benefits, VA and Legal

  5. Very good Scott. But you forgot one thing. Terror and fear so bad you freeze solid. Your mind races a thousand miles and hour. You KNOW your about to die any minute.And can't do a thing about it. This happened to me 3 times in one 8 days battle against the 2nd NVA Regement.May 1970.Its left me with uncontrollable rage ever since.Or so it seems as I can't think of anything else that I went thru so bad.
    1/1 CAV
    Chu Lai VietNam

    1. You survived, now we figure out how to thrive.

  6. How are you? I may not be a Vet, but I have PTSD and OCD. I take trazadone and minipress. Just wanted to see how youre doing. You havent written in a while.

    1. Thank you for inquiring how I am doing. I'm still struggling. Looking for an apartment, living with a friend at the moment so it's a little stressful.

  7. It is. I found that moving somewhere unfamiliar and a distance away from everyone helped. However, holding a job is hard still.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee