I began to Feel Anger By Susan Kingsley-Smith

Emotional Healing from Anger
Susan Smith

I am pleased and excited to have guest blogger Susan Kingsley-Smith sharing a piece of her story with us today.  Susan is my friend and fellow truth seeker, as well as the author of her own Website and I’m also blessed to have her as a frequent commenter here on Emerging from Broken. As always, please feel free to contribute by adding your own comments and feedback ~ Darlene Ouimet

I Began to Feel Anger by Susan Kingsley-Smith

I was not born an angry child. Yet as I grew and became a part of the bigger world this is how people would describe me. I often got comments like “you seem so angry” or I would be told to “stop being so angry” as others expected me to make them feel better by not having any feelings of my own.

As a teen-ager I took pride in not having any feelings, in being tough, unshakable. As an adult, the face the world saw was the one that smiled and said everything was fine but inside I felt dead and fake; I was going through the motions of life, but I was not living. 

I’d learned from early on that my feelings didn’t count.  The thing I remember the most about my feelings was that they didn’t matter. To anyone. I became invisible in an attempt to avoid being bullied and shamed for existing, for complaining about siblings that were cruel, for not liking being forced to stay indoors on a beautiful summer afternoon or shoved outside the morning after a blizzard in my thin winter coat and cloth gloves that were soaked and would freeze around my fingers. I had learned to silently tolerate being unheard, physically violated and to try to blend into the walls so no one could see me, to keep quiet, to deny that I was angry and accept that the abuse and neglect was my fault; that I was bad, dirty and ugly.

And throughout my journey as I turned to the common resources like the church or the mental health system for guidance – my history of abuse was not the issue, my anger was most often the focal point of many conversations. I was frequently admonished to “not let the sun go down on my anger” and to “forgive” those who had offended me by pastors and friends in the church. In the mental health system my anger was a “symptom” of a disease and would require lifetime medical management. And family and friends would tell me to just “get over it” and “why can’t you just be happy?

The result of all this “stuffing” of my feelings – my anger at the way others treated me – was that I began to use other ways of dealing with my feelings by “acting out” and “acting in”. This was the pattern of coping skills I’d developed to deal with my feelings since I was not allowed to express them appropriately. Acting out was typically those behaviors that could be classified as outward expressions of my pain; as a teen-ager acting out was running away, drinking, drugs; risky behaviors were common.

As I got older and those behaviors were no longer acceptable I turned more to becoming a care taker and trying to find value and worth in rescuing others and being so wrapped up in everyone else’s issues that I didn’t have to look at my own. Eventually though, I physically and emotionally shut down and could do no more.

My coping became more internalized in behaviors like depression, anxiety, dissociation; mostly anything that would simply allow me to check out to avoid the deep pain that I lived in for many years. I felt completely powerless to change how I was and I had no hope; I’d already been told that I had a disease and that I would be “sick” for the rest of my life; that this was the best I could hope for.

But it was when I finally began to put the pieces together and break through the lies that the abuse was my fault, that I deserved every bad thing that had happened to me, when I started realizing that my thoughts, my feelings, my choices, opinions, my dreams and desires DID matter that I began to see something happening in myself. I began to feel something besides an intense self-hatred. I began to feel anger.

And while it took some time to learn how to let the lid off the kettle bit by bit what I discovered is that by allowing myself to feel my anger I found the door to grief and the tears that would set me free from the anger and at the same time open the door to joy.

Susan Kingsley-Smith

Susan’s Bio: “I am a trauma survivor…but I no longer live only to survive. In 1992 after a lifetime of trauma’s ranging from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as a child to two violent marriages, I entered the mental health system seeking help where my lifelong history of trauma was dismissed. For over 15 years I was given a variety of “diagnosis”, numerous mind altering psychotropic drugs and a routine of weekly “talk” therapy. In the fall of 2007 I was abruptly taken off of the drugs I’d been prescribed all those years and began to reclaim both my mind and my life.

Today, I no longer accept any labels for myself and live the life of my choosing, following my dream and passion to share a message of healing and hope as I write and speak about this journey that has been my life.”

Susan Kingsley-Smith

 Susan on Facebook

46 response to "I began to Feel Anger By Susan Kingsley-Smith"

  1. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 15th December

    Lisa, when I posted last night about my gratitude for finding this community of women, I didn’t see your post. If I had, I would have addressed it immediately. Maybe there is a delay after the time we post, before anyone else can see it?

    Your story touched me deeply. Although my childhood traumas were different, the feeling of powerlessness, of being so alone and so small and helpless, is exactly the same. When you are completely at the mercy of someone who has no mercy…

    I can’t even begin to find the words to express what is in my heart.

    I was struck, too, at how you apologized for your story being “long.” I always feel compelled to apologize for that, too. And, also to apologize for the sadness/horror of my story, for any discomfort my story may cause the reader to feel. I’m thinking now that this is just one more indication of how conditioned we are to always put other people’s comfort first, ahead of our own.

    For the past few years I’ve been living in New Mexico, in an area surrounded with Indian Reservations. I’ve gotten to know some “Native Americans,” and I’ve read several novels written by local authors that have brought their different cultures alive for me. In the Navajo way, they don’t apologize for a story being long… they expect it to be long, for they traditionally start at the very beginning, which may be several generations back. To tell a story in its entirety, often requires going way, way back, so that the listener can understand the full meaning of the story.

    Even a full introduction of who you are/what is you name, in the Navajo way, takes a lot of words and a lot more time than just simply saying, “My name is Lynda Robinson.” The traditional Navajo introduction includes the mother’s clans and the father’s clans, and the paternal and maternal grandparents’ clans… something like this: “My name is Lynda Robinson. My father was Ronald Robinson, and his father was Frank Robinson, from Kentucky, and my father’s mother was Nellie Eisenhour, from Missouri. My mother was Barbara Holt…” etc.!

    We spend hours of our time every week, watching mindless tv, playing useless video games, etc. But, take a little time to properly tell a story in its entirety, and we feel we have to apologize.

    Sorry if I strayed too far from the point… I just want to say, Lisa, that in my opinion, your story deserves all the time and all the words that it takes for you to tell it.


  2. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 15th December

    Oh, Lisa. My heart is aching for the hurt little girl you were. I want to hold her in my arms and make all her pain go away.

  3. By: Susan Posted: 15th December

    Inuka; you are very welcome and I’m really glad you are here. 🙂

  4. By: Susan Posted: 15th December

    Lynda…this truly is the beauty of social media and core to self discovery and this healing journey; having a place to belong. The things that makes trauma so difficult very often is that sense of aloneness, being different, isolation that just zaps our inner strength. Here….those issues are overcome as we begin to see that to see ourselves as normal and our experiences abnormal, the aloneness fades away as we connect with others traveling this path and the isolation no longer keeps us prisoner. Thank you for being a part of this community and sharing your truth with us.:)

  5. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 14th December

    I am ovecome with a feeling of deep gratitude to have found this blog, and you beautiful women.

    After feeling so ALONE for most of my life… more than half a century… this almost seems like a beautiful dream.

    I had so much on my heart that I wanted to say, after reading and re-reading these last several posts, but I’m too overwhelmed ~ in a good way! ~ to find the words.

  6. By: Inuka Posted: 14th December

    Thank you Susan. Within a few weeks he was dead but I have always felt good about my last conversation with him and do not wish I could have done anything different!

  7. By: Lisa B. Posted: 14th December

    This post might turn out to be a little long – sorry in advance.

    I did not know I was angry. I thought I was just fine. I thought that my sexual issues – such as they were, I avoided it at all costs, even when I wanted it – would resolve themselves with enough time and prayer. My mom was my best friend.

    Then I went to an “inner child” retreat. During a lovely guided meditation on the first evening (of a 7-day retreat), the facilitator was urging us to “meet and say hello” to our inner child. I had the sudden urge to get up and punch a wall. Literally punch a wall. Then any humans that might have been handy. Then my mother. Maybe not in that order. I was stunned and horrified by this reaction. I wanted to leave. But I wouldn’t have gotten a refund, so I stuck it out. Turned out I had a little bit of anger after all. I spent the week learning when my “inner child” (me) stopped trusting her (my) mother.

    I specifically remembered a particular incident. (First, I should mention that my “sexual” abuser – the one I remember – was my brother. He is five years older than me and was still a child himself, so the blame, shame, forgiveness piece gets really fuzzy. He was also a bully and I remember being more scared of him for THAT than the sex.) Anyway, the particular incident that I recalled during the retreat happened when I was in 3rd grade. I woke up sick (throwing up). My mother was a nurse and didn’t coddle us much when it came to being sick. So when she told me it was okay if I stayed home from school (with John), I’m sure she was shocked when I told her I wanted to go to school. Besides, after throwing up, I felt a bit better. So she told John that he had to do the laundry while he was home (why he wasn’t going to school I don’t remember). She dropped me off at school and went to work. I made it through two hours before I got sick again and was sent to the nurse’s office. She called my mother. Mom told me to go home (I was close enough to walk home). I said no. I’d rather stay at school until she could come pick me up (which would have been many hours later). She said no, I should go home. After all, I was sick.

    So I walked home.

    When I got there, John smirked at me and told me to get in the kitchen and do the laundry. (We had one of those under-the-counter washer-dryers that were very popular in the 70’s. It had to be pulled out from under the counter and blocked the kitchen when it was in use.) I told him I was sick and I was going to lay down. I got half way to the bedroom when he grabbed me by the hair and flung me into the kitchen. My head bounced off the washer and I fell on the floor. I threw up again on the kitchen floor. He made me clean it up with my uniform jumper and throw that in the wash too. By this time, as you might imagine, I had the dry heaves and I was terrified. I started running the water in the washing machine. He went back into the living room to watch TV. As the water was running, I climbed on top of the machine to reach the telephone on the wall so I could call mom.

    It was a rotary dial phone so it took forever to dial. She finally came on and I told her (between sobs) what was happening. She told me to put him on the phone. So I did. She started screaming at him about all the things she was going to do to him to punish him when she got home. Even I didn’t believe her. He was already taller than her and she was afraid of him even though he had never been violent with her. So he agreed that he would let me rest and apologized and hung up. Then he told me to do as I was told because there would be hell to pay if the laundry wasn’t finished by the time she got home from work (and there was a lot). So I did the laundry. When I was finished, he “apologized” by cuddling and molesting me.

    When my mother got home from work, I was sleeping peacefully and the laundry was done. So she accepted his story about what happened and I never contradicted him. But the child – me – never trusted her again. Never. Even now.

    Now my intellect, and even my heart, can forgive her for everything she ever got wrong when we were kids. She was a single mother and her mother (who lived across the hall at this time and later lived in the same house with us) was an abusive bitch herself. There was never a time that I didn’t KNOW that my mother would stop loving me if I ever got angry at her. (The one time I did, I was in high school and she laughed at me and told the story as a comic tale for years afterwards, but that’s a story for another day.)

    Anyway, ever since the retreat (which was about ten years ago), I have been angry. Angry almost ALL THE TIME. I don’t remember a time since then that I have not been angry. But the anger is all mixed up and confused with what I’ve been taught about forgiveness and “she did the best she could” and all the other excuses I can make for her. And the example above (even though it is ridiculously long – sorry again about that) is only one example of many that I could pluck out of my memory at random. This site is helping me remember those things.

    But I still don’t know how to appropriately deal with my anger. And it’s destroying me. I don’t know how – or if I should – cut ties with my mother. We don’t live near each other but I still feel the obligation to be “there for her” whenever she needs me and to tell her every detail of my life. And she feels entitled to those things too. Obviously I have a boundary problem.

    Anyway, thanks for “listening”…don’t know what I accomplished by all this rambling. I’ll stop now.

  8. By: Susan Posted: 14th December

    Inuka; I’m really sorry to hear that your father abandoned you like that – and then when you found him he pretty much repeated that abandonment. I’m glad to hear that you found a way to work this out for yourself. Take care…thanks for sharing your story with us. 🙂

  9. By: Susan Posted: 14th December

    Hi Judy and welcome to EFB and A Journey! I’ll be sure to thank Amy for sharing!

    This is the magic of social media I think…we can finally see that we are not the “only ones” and we can learn from one another by the sharing of our stories. Its good to hear, Judy, that you’ve gotten connected with a therapist that can guide you in this understanding that our issues are not the issue…its what happened to us that is the core of our anger and other symptoms of distress. Thank you for dropping by and thank you for sharing a bit of your own journey with us:)

  10. By: Judy Posted: 14th December

    I want to thank you all for sharing your stories. It’s so freeing to find out that it’s not just me. The more we keep our anger stuffed, the more damaging it is to us and those who are close to us. I am just now beginning to truly understand this.

    I am lucky to have found a wonderful therapist just about a year ago, who has helped me see that my “issues” are not self-created but are the result of early abuse which I thought was my fault because I was “bad.” From the comments i can see we have many similar experiences but these lines really struck a chord: “I felt like a coiled spring ready to ping or a pressure cooker just about to blow it’s top. I was afraid of everything and everyone. I was always one explosion away from losing the plot. But still I smiled.” Thanks for writing that.

    Also, thanks to Amy Eden at Guess What Normal Is because through her blog I found Susan’s blog and now this great place. It takes a village!

  11. By: Susan Posted: 13th December

    Lynda ~ Of course you may share from this post and while I can’t speak for others, you are welcome to also share any of my comments….it’s good to hear that you are blogging your way in this journey too:) Thank you for asking!

    I think its common for many going through this process to have that knee jerk reaction to apologize for this, Lynda; I know I did when I first started telling my story and like you – I also had that need to speak about what had been unspeakable for such a long time. I’m glad that you are finding your way to tell your truth and find your own healing journey.

    Isn’t that something how when we know what to look for that these things just start to make sense? I’m really glad that the idea of connecting your anger to that feeling of powerlessness was helpful to you. And while it seems as though we want to try to find a way to “fix” whatever the issue is with others, like with my own relative that I wrote about, this became one of those things that I had to use wisdom to recognize that what others do and say is beyond my control. Even when I felt badly for the abuse she had suffered herself…at some point I had to recognize that she was now an adult and was choosing to treat me badly. This I think is part of the “hard work” – and that was in grieving of those relationships that I would choose to let go. As much as I wished I could do or say something to have a relationship with her and my other siblings at some point like you, I realized that there was nothing I could do or say right enough to make them love me and treat me as though they cared about me. And the letters…there did come a day that I mailed one…but that was after many many other letters that contained the heat of my hurt had gone into the box. 🙂

    Lynda – this work is exhausting…and like any wound, it takes time to and energy to heal. In time I learned to allow the time I needed to do the healing part of this work. Rest well…and thank you for your notes; I’m really glad you are processing your own anger.

  12. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 13th December

    Susan and Darlene,
    I have recently started a blogspot, entitled “Behind the Face of Complex-PTSD.” I was diagnosed with Complex-PTSD a few years ago. My symptoms of this malady go all the way back to my childhood, but psychiatry didn’t know anything about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in those days.

    Would either of you mind if I post part of this article, and some of the comments, on my blog? I will wait to hear from you both before I do anything.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th December

      It is also fine with me if you share parts of this article on your blog as long as you include a link back to this blog post. I will check out your blog when I get home from Vacation! Thanks for being here!
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Inuka Posted: 13th December

    Generally, the church has expectations of us and does not show us the way . . . to truly forgive as opposed to just saying it; to love unconditionally, those who hurt us and who continue to wish us harm; to be generous and have faith even when the walls around us are tumbling down. We are supposed to intuitively have these enduring skills of perseverance and insight!

    I come from a faithful grandmother. She coached me. Sent me as a young child to feed the lame and shut in. Rebuked me when I made fun of the blind, forgave me when I did things she did not like and demonstrated in a silent patient mode complete certainty that the way of Christ was the way to peace.

    Some years later, a lot of water under the bridge, I heard that my father had had a series of strokes. I met him for the first time when I was 24 years old. He had abandoned my mother, brother and me in the Caribbean and had another family in England. By this time he had retired in Barbados with his wife.

    We chatted for some moments before he told me to hang up the phone, that he would call me right back. I waited and waited. Phone did not ring . . . so I returned the call but this time I had a mission. He explained that he did try to call and that the phone rang and rang, that I did not answer. I did not argue with him. I said simply: I called back to tell you that I am grateful to you for giving me life. I am so grateful and thankful to you for that!

    My mission was accomplished. I honored him. I sent him unconditional love. I truly felt that. He was stunned. I was clear about his intention.

    I was not about to help him succeed!

  14. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 13th December

    CORRECTION to my last post: it’s 45 years later, not 55 years later.

  15. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 13th December

    Susan, thank you so much for your kind, caring, insighful, and affirming reply.

    Right after I posted my comments, I felt as though I should apologise for telling my horrible story, for inflicting it on anyone who may happen to read it. I feel so sad when I see the commercials put on by the Humane Society, showing the pitiful animals who have been so horribly abused and neglected. I love animals, and can’t bear to watch those commercials. It hurts me to think of any creature, so innocent and helpless, being subjected to such cruelty.

    I think that caring people must feel something similar when they read, or hear, my story. So when I tell my story, I feel bad for making other people feel bad. And yet~ I feel a strong need to tell my story… it’s as though there is a blood-curdling SCREAM buried deep inside of me, a scream that needed to come out when I was 12 years old, but it couldn’t, and now it is stuck there, still inside me, 55 years later.

    Susan, in your reply you wrote: “Denying our anger can often lead to a rage that seems as though it could be all consuming…although what I’ve found is that when my anger is fanned into rage it is usually connected to a feeling of powerlessness. I’ve learned to ask myself what it is that I”m feeling powerless over – AND identify what I can do about it; what CAN I control about this violation vs the learned helplessness of the years before when my anger didn’t count.”

    YES. As soon as I read that paragraph, I asked myself, WHAT am I feeling powerless over? And immediately I knew. My mother set about to systematically destroy my reputation within our family, from the time she burdened me with her horrible secret, and she never stopped doing so, ever. She forced me out of the family home when I was 14, a couple of months after she had married my wonderful stepfather, telling me “no house is big enough for two women.” She kept saying that I was a woman, and I was still very much a GIRL. I developed early physically, and I was uncommonly pretty, and my mother was jealous of me, that much was obvious, and particularly jealous of the fatherly attention my new stepfather was showing me. He never, ever, not in the slightest, most subtle way, was anything but properly fatherly toward me… but that didn’t matter, my mother still couldn’t stand to see him so much as talking to me, and she let me know that. So she forced me out of the house when I was 14, and ever since then, has justified her behavior, by telling horrible lies about me to everyone.

    I married at 16, and moved completely out of the state when I was 21. Other than brief visits that I have made to the family home over the past several decades, no one in my family of origin really knows who Lynda is, they only know what my mother has been saying about me since the 1960s, when she made me her literal scapegoat, and projected all her “badness,” on to me. Not knowing anything about the psychological phenomena of projection, I was thoroughly baffled by the many times that my mother made accusations about me, of things that were true of HER, but not true of ME! Talk about crazy-making!!

    With the advent of the internet, and facebook, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know some of my now-grown, much-younger siblings, and for them to get to know me. It was wonderful, being able to exhange posts and jokes and comments with the two sisters who joined facebook a few months after I did, and accepted my friend request. But then, a couple of months ago, one of my sisters posted some things that she apparently wasn’t internet savvy enough to realize that I would be able to read. She was posting a reply to a comment of someone who is her friend, but not my friend, without realizing that the post would show up on my feed. In this post, my sister said, in an off-hand way, that her older sister, Lynda, is “weird” and, “no big loss.” Then a neice of mine, the daughter of another sister who is not on facebook, posted that she would not friend me, because I give her ‘bad vibes.”

    I was SO HURT ~ so TRIGGERED. Here I had been feeling such hope and JOY at the prospect of having a relationship with my beloved siblings, at long last. When I read those off-handed, denigrating comments that they were posting about me, it was like loosing my family all over again. But what has me so ENRAGED is knowing that their prejudiced opinion about me, is all due to the lies that my mother has been telling the whole family about the daughter she threw away in 1967!

    Yes, Susan, I do feel powerless… how do I tell my 6 younger siblings, and my neices and nephews, the truth behind all the lies… and be believed? AND, what would be the point? If they did believe me, then what would change?

    I like your way of writing letters to the one who so badly hurt you, and putting them in a box. I want to do the same, I want to write a very long letter to my mother and tell her EVERYTHING that she has done, and said, and not done, that has wounded me so deeply over the years. But I don’t want to just put it in a box, I want to send it to her.

    Whew. I don’t know what to do. I did feel better after writing my earlier post here, emotionally I felt relief. But physically, I became very ill, with stomach upset and a low fever and diarrhea, and I went to bed and napped for hours, then woke up feeling dehydrated. NOW, I just feel TIRED.

    Thanks for reading, thanks for replying… and, I’m sorry for inflicting my miserable story on you and your readers! REally I am!


  16. By: Susan Posted: 13th December

    @Fi – I really like the way you point out that it is in the telling of our stories that we are able to begin to make progress and live beyond the depression and anger that is often right under the surface. Part of the hidden issue is when we are told to “get over it” this so denies our experiences and our pain. You said “I was told me to put my past behind me without telling me how to” and this is part of the conundrum….folks don’t want to hear about it, yet it is in the telling of it that is the “how to” behind the healing.

    Thank you for sharing how telling your story helped you to live beyond the smoldering anger….thank you for having the courage to speak out and share your story so others can perhaps find theirs.

  17. By: Fi MacLeod exNicholson Posted: 13th December

    I too was told that anger was un-Christian and un-ladylike. From a tiny age I learned that good little girls smiled through everything. Bad little girls got angry and made a scene and punishment was always very heavy. So I very quickly became a good little girl who had no feelings to the outside world. But inside that good little girl there was so much confusion, hate and fear all seething around.

    As I grew into a young adult people called me ‘prickly’ like a porcupine. Yes, I was very angry but didn’t know it was anger, it was just how I was. I didn’t know how to express or process any feelings so I just carried on going through the motions of life, existing, going from depressive episode to depressive episode; from binge episode to binge episode; keeping people at a distance, emotionally shut down, never happy, totally miserable to be honest and never believing there was any other way to be. But all the while with a big smile on my face. I believed this was my lot in life, that I deserved it all and of course I was told so many times to never think of myself in any other way that I simply couldn’t think in any other way.

    I had no hope. I just spent my life trying my best but my best was never enough. I always fell short of what other people expected of me.

    People I turned to in the ‘church’ blamed me for not being ‘spiritual enough’, ‘not having enough joy, faith etc’ or not being forgiving and on and on I was told me to put my past behind me without telling me how to. No matter what I did nothing helped and nothing changed for 24 years. I felt like a coiled spring ready to ping or a pressure cooker just about to blow it’s top. I was afraid of everything and everyone. I was always one explosion away from losing the plot. But still I smiled. That was all I knew to smile my way through everything. But I was afraid of myself too. But somehow I held everything together but stayed totally miserable and hopeless.

    Then I reached the point where I couldn’t keep silent about my abuse anymore because I knew it was killing me.

    So I somehow found the courage to speak out. Only then did things begin to change. Speaking out all I’d get shoved down inside me liberated me and released the pressure in the pressure cooker.

    Speaking out the horrible secrets was key for me. Then I began to feel very strong emotions, I discovered tears, I discovered grief and loss. I saw anger and white hot rage there too. I’m learning to write out my anger instead of self harming which is a huge step. Somewhere along the way I realised punishing myself just wasn’t fair on me. I’ve suffered enough.

    That was the beginning. I found the more I speak out, the more I write, the more liberated I feel inside and the more calmer I feel too.

    Now people are discovering the truth I keep hearing but you’ve always had a smile on your face I’d never have guessed, are you sure that’s the truth? They have no idea of how that little girl came to wear a false smile.

    Now when I smile, it’s a true smile. But I’ve also learned to begin to cry and to express my hurt and anger safely.

    So much has come as a result of finding the courage to speak out.

  18. By: Susan Posted: 13th December

    @Lynda; you said that so well -“The focus was always on my obligation to FORGIVE, never on the PAIN that was being inflicted on me.”… this is the subtle message that we get; that our pain doesn’t matter and thus we don’t matter. Your comment “I am only just learning that anger is a signal that something is wrong in the way we are being treated” is precisely what this post comes down to. Anger is a part of our natural emotional/intuitive internal guidance system….anger tells us that something is going on that in self preservation we would take appropriate steps to protect ourselves, to set boundaries.

    Denying our anger can often lead to a rage that seems as though it could be all consuming…although what I’ve found is that when my anger is fanned into rage it is usually connected to a feeling of powerlessness. I’ve learned to ask myself what it is that I”m feeling powerless over – AND identify what I can do about it; what CAN I control about this violation vs the learned helplessness of the years before when my anger didn’t count.

    Your anger at your experience with your mother is completely justified and how horrible….to hear those things from the one who is supposed to be protecting and nurturing you. I am so sorry that this happened to you and I am really grateful that you can share this story here – telling of our experiences is such a large part of the healing journey.

    The rage you describe at receiving that card – sounds similar to some boundaries that I set with abusive family members and then hear from them anyway. While I can’t control what they do —- what I did was I had a shoe box in the closet where I put her letters. And I left them there until I was ready to choose to read them…months later. In the end …when I opened it – the note was horribly hurtful I saw at first glance. So I put it back in the closet and journaled about it…I wrote letter and after letter to her, describing the ways she had hurt me, violated me. I wrote pages and pages until my rage became less and less. Some days…I’d set it aside. Other days when the rage felt all consuming I’d write and write…and I never mailed the letters. They still sit – with her letter – in my closet. Today my anger is gone around this person and I’ve learned from past efforts to keep the door open to her that if she calls, it goes into voicemail. If she writes, it goes in the box. If I feel the anger again….I write letters but I now know that no matter what she does I don’t have to let her in my today.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Lynda:)

  19. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 13th December

    PS~ I have to admit, that I was the one who initially broke my resolve to never contact my mother again. when my wonderful step-father died earlier this year, I waited until I knew the funeral was going on, and then called my mother’s home phone and left a message on her machine to say that I was very sorry that her husband of 40+ years had died, and that he was the best man I have ever know… truly a gift from God to our family. I said that I regretted not being able to attend the funeral, and that I wished her well.

    My youngest half-sibling, who wasn’t even born when my mother was trying to gas us all to death, sent me a message on facebook saying that our mother had been very happy to hear my message, and she wanted to know my new mailing address. Feeling sorry for our mother as I was at the time, and also not wanting to look like a total heal in my little sister’s eyes, I agreed that she could give our mother my new address (I live almost a thousand miles away, and have since the early 1970s, when my youngest sibling was born.)

    SO I am also mad at myself right now, because this card wouldn’t be here in my house sitting on my dining room table, if it weren’t for me caving in, in a moment of weakness.

    I hate my mother. I care about her, too. I used to love her… but I certainly don’t LIKE her.


  20. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 13th December

    When I was growing up I was taught that anger was un-Christian, and un-Ladylike. The focus was always on my obligation to FORGIVE, never on the PAIN that was being inflicted on me.

    We all know that physical pain is a signal that something is wrong in our body. At the age of 57, I am only just learning that anger is a signal that something is wrong in the way we are being treated.

    There is a RAGE deep inside of me that scares me! Today a Christmas card came in the mail from my 70-something, newly-widowed mother. She was the primary abuser in my childhood, and her attitude toward me was no different, the last time I spoke with her, in 2006, than it was when I was a little girl with no rights, not even the right to exist on this planet. She tried to gas us all in our sleep, when I was 12, only she couldn’t figure out how to over-ride the safety shut-off valve on the whole house furnace. She tried this several times… I thought the pilot light was going out on its own, and that one of my young siblings were responsible for turning the thermostat up as high as it would go, because the house was cold. As the eldest, after waiting for the heat to come on, then getting up to find the thermostat at its highest point, then going to the utility room and seeing no flame where the pilot light should be, I then went and woke up my mother, and she would go light the pilot light. This happened several times…. then one day, my mother told me that she had to confess to someone, and she was afraid to tell anyone else, for fear she would go to prison and the 5 of us kids would be sent to 5 different foster homes and never see each other again. She told me this would happen, if I told ANYONE what she was about to tell me.

    With that warning ringing in my ears, she then told me that she had been trying to gas us all to death in our sleep. “I brought you all into the world, so I have the right to take you out of it,” she said. (OH how I HATE when people make that a JOKE about their kids.) “This world is so horrible, I believe I would be doing you all a favor by doing this,” she said.

    I lived in FEAR every day and every night after that. But that was only the beginning of my hell… because, from the moment she confessed her terrible secret to me, my mother treated me so horribly ~ it was as though she hated me, for knowing her secret.

    She was also very religious, and has at times sent me letters that are nothing but “Dear Lynda,” followed by pages and pages of handwritten Bible verses, ending in “Love, Mother.”

    She told me many times when I was a child that she loved me, she just didn’t like me. She would say this with a smug smile on her face, as though she were being so virtuous for managing to love the unlikeable. When I asked her WHY she didn’t like me, she said, “it’s just YOU, it’s just the way you ARE.” How do you fix that/

    Four years ago, after my last phone conversation with her, I resolved never to contact her again. But now she has sent me a Christmas card. I have no doubt that if I were to open and read it, it would say, “I am praying hard for you. Love, Mother.”

    R*A*G*E!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s what I’m feeling right now. What a timely article, Susan. Thanks!


  21. By: Susan Posted: 13th December

    Christine – You are so right. Folks have the best of intentions when they make those comments, I think; but – while these comments ultimately are to protect those saying them from the discomfort of having to face the realities of our experiences. These kinds of comments served only to remind me once again that my feelings did not matter, that I somehow deserved the abuse both as a child then as an adult when I married abusers and ultimately because I had not resolved these issues I was re-creating the abuse in my adult life. The thing I’ve learned is that anytime anyone – friend, family member, clergy or therapist – dismisses my life experiences and tells me something is wrong with me for having anger at being mistreated that this is one of the core issues of abuse….to dismiss and discount the victim. And while it may not be done intentionally – the effect are the same; shaming the victim into silence. I’ve learned to share my experiences with those who will validate my pain, my anger and my life experiences. This is where I find freedom from the anger that once consumed me.

    I’m grateful to know you too Christine and thrilled to be living this new life!

  22. By: Susan Posted: 13th December

    Hi Darlene! I know that we often discount ourselves as our abusers did and this can really inhibit asking for help. And while today things are turning around, and trauma issues are being more addressed in the mental health system, when I first sought help in 1992-94 I did report the abuse and it was dismissed while I was given labels and told that I had an illness.

    For many years I dismissed my trauma experiences as having any impact on me because while “trauma” was a part of my history, it was never a part of any treatment plan and instead all “treatment” was around the labels and diagnosis. It was in letting go of these labels and finally getting connected with a therapist trained in trauma recovery work that I began to look at how my trauma experiences had shaped the belief that I was powerless over my own life and that my anger at being subjected to the abuse was the core of my issues related to anger. Today anger guides my healing process rather than is something to be avoided, dismissed as unimportant or as the focus of my “work”. Today I can honor my anger rather than hate who I am because of it.

    I don’t believe that any of the previous providers of mental health services were out to cause me harm. When I approached the Psychologist who I’d been seeing for years why this kind of insightful work was not a part of my therapy his response was simply that he did not know how to do this with me. I believe that a therapist trained in trauma recovery work can be an invaluable support although I did learn that when the therapy being provided was not effective to not automatically assume that I was the problem and to continue to seek other resources and support such as EFB.

    I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying your vacation Darlene and look forward to seeing you back here again soon!

  23. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 13th December

    Hi Susan,
    Thanks for sharing this! This is the part that really got to me:

    “And throughout my journey as I turned to the common resources like the church or the mental health system for guidance – my history of abuse was not the issue, my anger was most often the focal point of many conversations. I was frequently admonished to “not let the sun go down on my anger” and to “forgive” those who had offended me by pastors and friends in the church.”

    Most of the people in that system have no idea how abusive those words are, but they are just as damaging. They just reinforce what survivors think already– that there is something wrong with ME.
    I fell for that lie for years and I’m so glad to be living in the truth and I’m happy that you are too!
    Hugs, Christina

  24. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 13th December

    Hi Susan,
    This post struck me a few ways. One of the biggest things for me was that I had been discounted and I believed that I didn’t count. I really bought it so when I went to the mental health system, I didn’t think that the abuse was part of it either ~ so I guess in a way I was not giving them any clues. I thought I had “issues” too. When I finally went to a therapist who helped me to realize that the “issues” I had were rooted in the abuse, that was when I finally began to recover. This is so complicated and I am not trying to discount what you are saying, as I know we had extremely different experiences with mental health, although before I met this one therapist, I had some really unhelpful therapists too. But what I am noting is that I went to therapists and discounted myself in the first place, and that is what so many of us do! One of the reasons that I write this blog is because I want to help people realize that most people who have issues ~ the issues came from somewhere and they are not something we did to ourselves. BUT there seem to be few therapists who understand that, or who are willing to “go there” as you say. They would rather apply labels to us ~ possibly because that is all they know how to do? but guess what, there are NO solutions in those labels. None at all.
    So I did what you did. I broke through the lies, and I also began to feel anger when I realized what the lies were and how long I had believed them. I finally was able to be angry that I was discounted, that my feelings were ignored, that I was less valued then I should have been and I was able to be angry about the abuse that I had endured and survived.
    Thanks so much for guest posting today! I am having a wonderful vacation ~ and if this comment seems a bit disjointed its because I am having a huge break from even thinking about any of this stuff! LOL
    Love Darlene

Leave a Reply to Susan Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.