I had a tough time with anger. I had problems with feeling anger. I didn’t think I felt it. I denied to myself that I ever had it. I didn’t want to feel it. I was proud that I wasn’t an angry person.
And the truth is that I totally misunderstood anger in the first place. I had a different kind of anger problem.
I related anger to self pity. I thought that if I was angry with someone who treated me badly that I was just feeling sorry for myself. I detested self pity; I had been taught that self pity was the “worst” emotion, so I certainly was not going to engage in it. I believed that anger WAS a form of self pity; therefore I didn’t allow myself to feel anger.
Because of the way that I had been raised, my belief system was all wrong. I had love mixed up with obligation. I had respect mixed up with ownership and compliance and the list goes on from there. In the same way that I had the definitions of love and respect mixed up, I also misunderstood my own emotions, labelled them as “other emotions” and dismissed the real emotion. That was part of how I survived.
Labelling certain emotions as other emotions was how I dealt with many emotions, not just the emotion of anger. Like my definitions of words like “love”, “respect” and “relationship” I misunderstood emotions like anger and self pity and traded them for other emotions so that I could shut them down.
Anger would not have been safe for me to feel or express and in my mind self pity was pathetic, so I could deny anger, quickly identify self pity, jump straight to “oh Darlene you are pathetic, get off the pity pot” and that was how I effectively avoided the whole anger problem thing.
I could get angry for other people. That was okay. I sometimes briefly wondered WHY I could feel anger in relation to someone else’s life, and why that was different, but I didn’t think very hard about it. If someone told me they had been sexually abused, or beaten or sold for adult amusement, I could feel all the appropriate anger; I could feel hatred for the people who had abused them and disgust towards the people who had let them down; I could defend them and tell them that what happened to THEM was wrong. I knew it was wrong and I could passionately express my feelings to them as long as it was about them. But when I looked at my own life, I disconnected because anger (like so many other emotions) was not safe for me to feel in relation to myself. Today I realize that getting angry for others didn’t put me in danger, but when it came to my own life I had to stay in “survivor mode”. Anger was too dangerous.
Think about it. What would have happened to me as a child if I had screamed or expressed in any way that I was ANGRY because someone was sexually abusing me? How would it have gone over if I expressed my anger that my mother hit me? She was already in a bad mood. I was already getting hit. What would have happened to me if I had screamed my anger at the teacher who was emotionally abusing me when I was ten years old? I don’t think it would have gone well for me. I had been taught to submit. I had been taught by the events in my life that I had no rights. So I suppressed it. I stuffed it down and I never felt it, never faced it. Anger was not something that I was allowed. And I learned to deny anger the same way that I learned to deny all the rest of the emotions and feelings and human rights that I had.
Since I had been taught that self pity was pathetic, and I believed that lie with all my heart, it is easy to understand that if I could convince myself that anger was self pity, I could move off it so much quicker.
I didn’t think I had a RIGHT to be ANGRY. When I was a child I didn’t have a right to much! I was constantly told how to act, how to feel, how to dress, to smile, to say hello, told that I was NOT sad, that if I cried that I would be given something to cry about, accused of being an exaggerator and overly dramatic. I had no reason to think of myself as an individual with valid thoughts OR emotions. Why would that change just because I got older? The beliefs that cement themselves within our own minds do not necessarily change because we grow up.
When I finally realized that what happened to me as a child actually happened to me, I also began to realize that it was really wrong. As I began to understand the lifelong effect that it had on me, I began to feel ripped off. I began to realize how much of my life that I had lost. I began to realize that I was not loved or protected and that I had been objectified as a person. I realized that I had been mistreated and devalued by people who never thought about me long enough to realize that I not only a person, but a CHILD! And then I began to get angry. I began to feel anger. And at first it scared me. I had to give myself permission to feel it. I didn’t like it. I felt like something BAD was going to happen if I allowed it. I felt wrong and I felt dirty. But I knew that it was time for me to face anger. It was part of the self validation that I always talk about.
I have a right to be angry. Anger is not evil. My anger is justifiable. And in my mind even just writing that I want to duck! I was taught as an adult that Anger is NEVER justifiable. I had that all mixed up with the “lack of self control” For me, skipping the anger was the same as how I tried to skip straight to positive affirmations before I did the work involved in order to facilitate my emotional healing. I owe my emotional healing and personal recovery to the efforts that I made not to “skip those steps” anymore.
Anger is healing. Until I acknowledged my anger and until I felt it and affirmed my right to it, I could not let go of the past.
Please share your thoughts about Anger.
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