За любой агрессией стоит боль, — психолог
How adapt to peaceful life after the horrors of war?
Pain is behind every aggression: psychologist Psychologist Liza Nepyyko and ATO veteran Yuri Mykhalsky tell how to adapt to peace realities after the horrors of war, and how to win over aggression within yourself.
Serhiy Stukanov: Liza, what is the nature of aggression? Where does it originate?
Liza Nepyyko: It is multifaceted and is given to us from the animal world. Aggression is needed to defend territory, solve issues but there are constructive and destructive aggressions.The reasons may be very varied.
Serhiy Stukanov: Can aggression play a positive role for the socium? In which cases?
Liza Nepyyko: Aggression in a group is caused by frustration, by a necessity to solve a conflict issue. If aggression leads a group to a solution it may be positive. It is closely linked to boundaries.
Natalya Sokolenko: Yuri, can you tell us about your situation, when aggression is an obstacle in peacefu life?
Yuri Mykhalsky: I can’t tell you about anything specific, there was a lot of such situations. I was brought outside myself by people around not fully understanding that we have a real war.
Te word «ATO» has become trite, they don’t realize even now that there’s war. When I watched people’s reactions, especially when they asked why one should go there at all, there were direct manifestations of aggression, physical clashes. This lasted for no less than half a year, I could not calm down for a long time.
Serhiy Stukanov: Ths means that yu realized that aggression should be tamed but you had not managed to do it when there was a provocation?
Yuri Mykhalsky: I did not try to restrain myself as tolerance often leads to more negative cases than aggression. I do not think I was wrong. For me, boundaries exist in the direct sense of the word: state borders.
Defending these borders is possible only with aggressive methods. 2014 was a hard time for our battalion. Politics and the battalion’s actions were aggressive, this was the only way to act.
Natalya Sokolenko: This chronology of events, when only after half a year the psychological condition becomes balanced, does it work?
Liza Nepyyko: If a person is in a stressful situation for a long time, th coming out of it is twice as long. Half a year is good. When a person comes back from war they see a totally different life here. Understandably, an aggressive reaction will be the main reaction with a person who saw blood and losses.
Serhiy Stukanov: Freud called aggression a protection mechanism. Is this really so?
Liza Nepyyko: Manifesting aggression may be a way of self-regulation: to enter a condition habitual for this person. In some cases, manifesting aggression may be better than suppressing it. Suppressing and storing aggression leads to cardiovascular diseases, nerve stem diseases, depression. It is normal to manifest aggression, you have to look for adequate and harmless forms of its manifestation, for yourself and for those around.But this relates to cases when aggression is adequate.
Natalya Sokolenko: How to define whether a level of aggression is normal?
Liza Nepyyko: The adequacy of manifestations is imortant; there are many tests for defining it but those who have a clearly manifested aggression should not be made to undergo them. Natalya Sokolenko: Can relations in the family be a test, when wife gets under a hot hand?
Liza Nepyyko: Of course this may be a signal. People who suffer most because of aggression are close people. In such cases, a specialist should e consulted. Aggression is positive if it helps growth but if it goes into destruction, things should be clarified.
Serhiy Stukanov: Had your situation changed after this half of a year? Yuri Mykhalsky: The situation in my conscious had not changed much, new victims were added. I drew conclusions for myself. I can’t say that aggression disappeared. I changed from an ATO fighter into a «sofa fighter» and it is in this direction that I behave sometimes even in a too aggressive way. I began to display my emotions in a more controlled way.
Liza Nepyyko: You simply found a work for you which is connected to defending borders: legal issues. Maybe this helped you cope with aggression.
Yuri Mykhalsky: Yes, I think the best way of displaying emotions is physical impact at war. My rehabilitation period still lasts, I don’t know whether I will manage to return to the frontline. The only option is a gym.
Liza Nepyyko: In Israel, people who come from combat action are given recommendations about what they rather should do. When we are in a stress reaction for a long time, we have a massive outbreak of adrenalin and we can decrease its level only through physical activity. The problem is that there’s no physical possibility when there is a massive outbreak of adrenalin. Burning out begins. This is why sports is one of the most efficient methods.
Serhiy Stukanov: Buddha said that anger should be defeated with calm.
Liza Nepyyko: Let’s not confuse calm with lying on a sofa. If a person thinks that they are calm but in reality they are torn apart and do nothing this is not good, Calm can be reached thanks to a favorite work, family, friends, physical activity.
Serhiy Stukanov: Yuri, how do you redirect surplus energy?
Yuri Mykhalsky: I do push-ups, do physical exercises. And when the body is a bit exhausted thn you may go in for your favorite pastime.
Liza Nepyyko: There are also self-regulation exercises helping to calm down. For instance, you may breathe, and delay breathing for eight counts. We simply distract ourselves in this way. Meditation is very useful: this is concentrating on somethig. You can simply concentrate on yur breathing. Even if you concentrate on something for a minute a day. Ten minutes is a very cool result.
Natalya Sokolenko: Oleh Ivanov is on the phone with us, an ATO veteran, now in a hospital in Chernihiv. Oleh, tell us about your experience of aggression in peaceful life.
Oleh Ivanov: Yes, very often. Even a question, repeated twice, leads to aggression.
Natalya Sokolenko: Do you plan to consult a psychoologist?
Oleh Ivanov: No, I started myself. But later assistance, prompts, answers are needed. You find them in conversations, you begin to regulate the pain within you yurself. Now I have more time for avoiding conflict and not causing more destruction.
Natalya Sokolenko: Liza, what can you say? The person had understood the technology on their own.
Liza Nepyyko: He was irritated when there was no understanding. The person found people of their own who understand the importance of what this person were doing. So it is easier for him to come. One of the manifestations of aggression is getting irritated; when you begin to be among your own people you stop feeling this.
Serhiy Stukanov: To which degree the aggressive reaction is linked to a habit? How difficult it is to acquire a habit not to react in an aggressive way?
Liza Nepyyko: What matters is th habit of reacting in an adequate way. Aggression as a trait may be incorporated within the structure of personality. Aggression may be acquired, it can be a PTSR symptom. a symptom of certain traumas but all this is worked out. Becoming aware is the first step.
Serhiy Stukanov: Yuri, how do you react if someone calls upon you not to display aggression?
Yuri Mykhalsky: There were such cases. Some factors impact on this: whether this person is close; how they would do it; and the situation as well when a person cannot know everything and try to calm you down, And this is not going to work. Besides, there are people who acquired aggression at war. And there are those who have always been aggressive. When coming back from war, they behave in the same way as before. They don the uniform, badges, medals; they think they have the right to aggression. Very often such a person had seen nothing at war.
Serhiy Stukanov: And if you are being asked not to react aggressively not at the moment of the conflict? How do you react then?
Yuri Mykhalsky: If this is supported by argents I react in a normal way. Aggression is situative manifestations of your character. In this case, a person can analyze their actions and draw conclusions.
Natalya Sokolenko: We will now listen to a piece about a resettle who spent two weeks in the «LNR» captivity and tells of how he was able to overcome his aggression.
[Package: «I used to have attacks of uncontrolled anger: resettle after captivity»]
Andriy from Luhansk is a military reserve officer. When the war conflict started he did not hide his political views. And this was the reason why he found himself in captivity of the so-called Kazaks. He spent two weeks in the cellar and was rescued by a miracle. With his family, Andriy fled to Kharkiv, but it was not right away that he found peace in a peaceful city. He says that for the entire first year he felt both physical and psychological tension: «It was hard. I could not feel myself relaxed. I was always tense. This is from one side.
From the other side, there was an unbelievable desire to start taking revenge, kill, cut, destroy, break. And this led from time to time, under some circumstances, someone had said something, someone had done something, it seemed to me that this was wrong, this was not right. I used to spring up. I had attack of uncontrolled anger. I could hit a person». War is a juxtaposition armed with aggression.
This is why aggression is there in all the issues related to was, Maryna Kekhter, a volunteer psychologist, thinks: «Generally, war biologically was in no way planned by nature. This is why we call combat action and other actions and circumstances related to it abnormal life circumstances. And when we talk to the guys on the PTSR problems we tell them just this: ‘All the manifestations related to traumas during war are a normal reaction to abnormal life circumstances’.»
Psychologist Maryna Kekhter calls aggression defense. Everybody has defense of their own. Where ATO fighters and people who saw horrors of war are concerned, the uncontrolled flashes of emotions are oftener reaction to something: For instance, cases are known when minibus drivers refuse to carry ATO veterans free of charge, so there are flashes of aggression.
Ore, for instance, when someone says that Putin is a good person. A person who was in captivity, a person who lost his comrades there all of a sudden hears from a worker of some institution, uttered in a casual way, «Putin is a good guy» and all the rest. Naturally there will be a flash of aggression. Uncontrolled emotions sometimes flared up in the former prisoner resettler Andriy.
«There were such moments when in a throng of people who came from Luhansk Region in order to register for pensions. While registering my documents I faced a person who said that militia are good, they touch nobody, they kill nobody, they don’t rob or rape. I grabbed him by his throat. And I came to when they were already unsqueezing my fingers and tearing him away from me. I realized that this was bad, that this was in the way, and that something needed to be done.»
It is not always that fighters splash their aggression out on those around. Oftewner it sinks into themselves and rests there as another traumatization, bitterness, offense and non-understanding. Psychologist Maryna Kekhter thinks that Ukraine should create a camp for transitionary period prior to the war veterans’ return to the socium: «For instance, when you are being shot at, when people die right before your eyes, an immense quantity of energy rises within you, as well as an immense quantity of fears, and aggression, and many other feelings, and it is unrealistic to digest all this simultaneously.
This is why your psyche delays this for some time. In such cases, when I talk to fighters, I say: ‘Builds a sort of a «shed» for himself and stacks away there for a time’.» Returning to peaceful life, a combatant has to restructure. A word, casually said by a person who had not seen war, can cause a flare of aggression. This is why people who suffered from the war conflict do need psychologists’ help, Mariya Kekhter thinks.
«When I tell them about our ‘shed’ where what was not possible to process is stored I say that we will visit this ‘shed’ and take bit by bit and process this material. If the shed is not visited it may explode. Because what we lived through leaves a trace in the form of energy stored on our barks of brain which are not conscious.»
There are many methodologies of psychologies now. They may and should be used to transform aggression and traumatic energy into growth and progress. Andriy, who was in captivity, has lived through his trauma and transformed it into experience. Now, he helps other people who suffered from the war conflict.
Serhiy Stukanov: Do you agree that fighters have to undergo adaptation before finding themselvwes in the society?
Liza Nepyyko: I think not everybody will come back traumatized,
For many, the war became a way of discovering themselves in a new way. Fighters should not be treated as ill people, this is the Ukrainian mentality. But I see tough guys who are capable of defending borders in peaceful life as well. Aggression holds an immense quantity of energy, it could be used in a more constructive way.
Yuri Mykhalsky: I also support this position. Not everybody meeds rehabilitation and a psychologist. There are two reasons here: not everyone was at the very front, there are something like 20 percent of those.
Also, a great number of people can cope on their own. But almost all the people who need help deny this.
Liza Nepyyko: People try to avoid talking about traumatizing situations, and this is a problem for rehabilitation. Those who really need help would not go in a file. He can go into destruction not talking this over.
Natalya Sokolenko: How should people around fighters behave in such situations?
Liza Nepyyko: Don’t attack them with calming them. If this is a close person there’s a need to try to talk, to arrive at a contact. There is pain behind any aggression. We can always dig out what really pains them. But there is a need to be very delicate with questioning, and this is a matter of upbringing.
Yuri Mykhalsky: Non-interference. Observation is also important. We will yet face the situation when after the war there will be suicidal cases among ATO veterans. They are already happening. This is why it is necessary to observe very carefully and consult only professionals, and convince fighters to seek help.
Цей матеріал було створено за підтримки International Medical Corps та JSI Research & Training Institute, INC, завдяки грантовій підтримці USAID. Погляди та думки, висловлені в цьому матеріалі, не повинні жодним чином розглядатися як відображення поглядів чи думок всіх згаданих організацій.
This material has been produced with the generous support of the International Medical Corps and JSI Research & Training Institute, INC. through a grant by United States Agency for International Development. The views and opinions expressed herein shall not, in any way whatsoever, be construed to reflect the views or opinions of all the mentioned organizations.