Recently I read a quote about anger and how everyone should embrace it and all the reasons that anger is useful. I agree that anger is useful and that anger is often justified, but I had a pretty big problem with feeling any anger and expressing it was out of the question. I had to look at WHY I had that issue in the first place before I understood that anger was useful to me in any way at all.
First of all I looked at my experiences with anger.
When my mother was angry she hit. Picture a small child (me) being hit with a belt by someone who was three times my size and three times my weight. I was powerless. When I think about how I would feel today if I were beaten by a stranger in a dark alley, I am sure that I would fear for my life. I am sure that as a child I also feared for my life when I was being beaten with a leather strap by a raging adult who was over 3 times my size.
I learned that angry people were dangerous. I learned that anger is dangerous. I learned that angry people do scary things and that angry people can inflict huge amounts of pain.
It is logical to understand that I was focused on trying to make sure that my mother didn’t get angry. Since I was powerless, I believed that the only thing I could do to avoid getting hit was try to make sure she didn’t ‘get angry’.
I had also been reprimanded for my own emotions. I had been taught that even if I had an “unhappy face” I was unappealing and somehow unworthy. I was not supposed to be sad; I was reprimanded for not being happy and for not smiling.
Sometimes when I was happy and playing with my brothers I was criticized and punished for being too loud. These mixed messages were really confusing. I didn’t have a clear idea of why I was ‘in trouble’ at any given time.
I learned that the expression of my emotions was more about her mood than it was about mine and therefore my only option was to accept that the only way that I could hope to avoid punishment was to figure out how to make sure that I didn’t upset her or make her angry.
“I” was more about her than I was about me.
As a teenager I recall my mother being impatient with me when I was in a good mood. And deep down I feared that my good mood might trigger my mother’s anger. And I NEVER wanted to do anything that might trigger her anger. How does one learn how to ‘be’ under those circumstances?
Having these mixed and conflicting messages about anger is confusing and causes a kind of spin around the emotion of anger itself. There is ‘a truth’ at the bottom of this whole thing and I had to get to that truth in order to feel the emotion of anger without fearing the emotion of anger. I had to find the truth about how anger was perpetrated against me in order to feel and validate that I was justified in being angry but that feeling or being angry didn’t put me or someone else) in danger like it did when I was a child.
There is not one time in my childhood that I recall ‘feeling’ angry and I don’t recall ever trying to express the emotion of anger. It was by looking at the reason at the root of that fact that I was able to finally feel anger for the years of life that had been taken from me. I was able to feel and to BE angry for the way I had been discounted, falsely defined, dismissed and unheard. I was able to feel anger that I missed out on having loving nurturing parents. I was able to feel anger for the abuse that I suffered at the hands of adults. I was able to validate my pain on a deeper level when I realized that I had a right to be angry.
My experience with Anger is that it anger was taken out on me; as with all dysfunctional family system teachings, I learned that what is acceptable for some is not acceptable for others. I believed that anger belonged to nasty, abusive, scary people. Anger didn’t belong to me for 2 reasons; one, I wasn’t nasty, abusive or scary and I thought that NOT being or feeling anger proved it. And two, I was not allowed to have my own feelings OR the right to have my own emotions and as a child I didn’t even consider that I was allowed to have them.
I was also taught that hitting other people in the adult world was called ‘assault’ and assault is against the law. For some reason I never thought that being beaten as a child was against the law… and that was yet another mixed message.
~I was taught to accept their actions and their anger as ‘normal’ and even right. Anger was “their right” but over the years I learned that anger was not my right. I didn’t believe that I had any right to feel the emotion of anger.
~Couple that with the fact that I was deeply afraid of anger and I didn’t want to BE anything like the people who had perpetrated their anger onto me.
~I associated anger with being hurt both physically and emotionally. I didn’t want to hurt anyone the way that I was hurt and since I associated anger with that hurt, I didn’t permit myself to have that emotion.
In order to heal from trauma and the resulting depressions and issues, I had to sort this out. I had to see the truth and the false about anger. I had to understand what I associated anger with and what it meant to me because of what I was taught about it and all the mixed messages that I had received about it. I had to see the danger I faced as a child because of anger expressed by others and how I learned to survive it.
As an adult I had to take my rights back. As an adult and through healing from trauma and abuse I took my right to FEEL and have emotions back. Healing as an adult, I took my right to be treated with respect and equal value back. As an adult I found my rights to have boundaries and put them in place.
Today I live as an adult but I had to validate all the pain and dysfunction I suffered as a child before I could be who I am today. Today I understand that I have a right to be angry and that there is such a thing as justifiable anger.
Today I KNOW that ‘their anger’ was not my fault and was not caused by me, nor is it my responsibility to carry the burden of responsibility for someone else’s mood or their actions.
NOTE: when I finally validated my right to anger, when I finally expressed my anger at what had happened to me ~ the physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional neglect and abuse ~ I no longer felt angry. Although I was afraid that if I allowed anger to rear it’s ugly head I would be trapped in anger forever, that never happened!
Please share your thoughts about anger or any other emotion that was shut down. You may use any name you wish in the comment form.
Emerging from Broken is self-supporting and relies on donations to cover the monthly expenses ($200.00 per month) associated with keeping this website maintained and secure. Please help if you can! Donate button is on the right side bar.
There is freedom on the other side…
For related posts see highlighted links in bold print