Is There Such a Thing as Justifiable Anger for Victims of Child Abuse?

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anger and child abuseI posted the following quote on EFB Facebook and I was a little surprised by the response it triggered.

“Abusive, controlling, entitled people and the people who are afraid of them will say almost anything to get you to shut up. They will label you as angry, hateful and unforgiving if you decide to stand up to them and the ways that they regard you. I want to shout at them and to the ones that defend them ~ “What do you think I am angry about? Anger is justifiable in this situation!” Darlene Ouimet

The quote came from one of my recent blog posts about spiritual abuse when the name of God is used to Guilt and Shame victims of abuse, and I wrote it in the context of explaining the abuse tactic of being told what God would expect you to do or what would make God proud of you according to what abusive controlling, manipulative people want you to do, which has nothing to do with God OR his/her expectations of you.

For many of the readers, this quote was validating. But for others it was upsetting. As I read through the comments it became clear to me that the word “justifiable” was the primary culprit that triggered so many reactions. Apparently, the idea of “justifiable anger” upsets a lot of people.

Some people believe that justifiable anger is dangerous and inappropriate. This quote is about standing up to abusive people and how those people reacted to me standing up to them to and the control tactics that are used in abusive relationships to keep a victim in the web. As most of you know I have a passion for the topic of parent abuse which seems to be an even bigger hot button. The quote exposes spiritual abuse, and the controlling and manipulative people I am referring to, happen to be my parents. BUT as soon as I mentioned “justifiable anger” the meaning of the quote was lost to some of the readers. The meaning of the quote lost its purpose and its importance because a “fear belief” was triggered.

The people who reacted in fear over that phrase “Justifiable Anger” jumped straight to the conclusion that everyone who is angry will act out inappropriately with that anger and they started lecturing about those inappropriate actions as though it was for certain that anyone who feels they have a right to BE angry will do something with their anger that will cause harm.

People disagreed with my quote as though they thought I was saying that people who get physically violent are justified although I would never advocate for abuse of any kind. And it is interesting to note that when people jump to the conclusion that all anger leads to physical violence it for some reason reminds me of other arguments where people have validated a parents right to be physically violent with their children which puts the whole concept of this post into a different context.

It is also important to note here that standing up to someone or confronting someone to address their abusive, controlling or discounting behavior towards you ~ ISN’T abusive.

And then the topic of FORGIVENESS entered into the discussion! These commenters told everyone to skip over the anger and jump straight to forgiveness. This is exactly what happens in toxic dysfunctional family systems; the victim of the offence isn’t even allowed to be angry, but the perpetrator of the offence gets to DO the offence, and then gets forgiven for it without ever acknowledging what they did or even expressing any remorse. When does the target of their nasty behavior ever get a say and why are we told that we don’t get a say? Just thinking about the TRUTH about this concept makes me angry because it causes so much harm.

One of the roadblocks that I encountered on the healing journey was that although I didn’t realize it at a conscious level, I believed that ‘anger’ was ‘bad’. I believed that anger was dangerous and that it was wrong and would ultimately only lead to the wrong path.

It was really important for me to take a closer look at the issue of anger especially in the context of emotional healing. In order to answer the question “is anger justifiable?” I had to take a look at a few of the facts and details. My belief system didn’t change until I looked at why it was the way it was.

First of all, I looked at what I had been taught about anger. Growing up I had seen a teacher get angry and emotionally abuse and humiliate children in front of the entire class. I was one of those children and the way she communicated to all of us was that HER anger was caused by our doing. So I learned that I caused her anger. I accepted the blame for HER anger and I was also told that I was to respect my teacher. Her anger at me was validated by the adults in my life.

I also learned that there was a consequence to being angry. I didn’t want to be ‘like them’ so I stuffed my anger.

Then there was my mother; when she got angry the leather strap came out and there was a beating to follow. We also got banished (rejected) to our rooms where we were segregated from each other. Like the teacher my mother also communicated to me that HER anger was caused by me and again I learned both sides of anger; I tried NOT to make anyone angry because of the consequences of doing that, AND I tried not to be angry because that would make me ‘like them’. At the same time I trying to cope with living with all those mixed messages about why they had permission to be angry but for me it was a sin?

The message that I got about anger as a child was actually; don’t make anyone angry no matter what because the price that I paid (when someone else got angry) was way too high.

This ALSO explains why I was trying so hard to avoid my own anger. Just think about it for a minute; anger, all the way around, was dangerous! I was afraid of anger for many reasons. So how could I believe that anger was a necessary emotion? How could I have ever seen ‘anger’ as justifiable? If I justified anger for me, how could I not justify it for the people that were taking their anger out on ME? I had to sort through the truth about all that because my false belief system, the one I had been brainwashed and groomed to believe was the truth, had to be overcome.

So ~ Setting ALL of that information aside, I looked at what I had to be angry about and left them and all their rules that applied to me but not to them ~ out of it;

Here are a few quick facts about my life starting in childhood and progressing into adulthood;

~my childhood was full of fear; fear of being sexually abused, fear of being hit, fear of being rejected, ridiculed, shamed and inferior.

But it wasn’t just the fear of those things ~ those things were my reality. That was ME those things happened to and I was being told that anger was wrong and that I had no right to it. The word ‘justified’ was banished from my vocabulary if it was linked with the word ‘anger’.

Growing up with all this brainwashing, abuse and neglect at the hands of my parents taught me that I didn’t have the same rights as other people and then my adulthood consisted of me being a servant to everyone else’s desires. In childhood I was trained to put my own wants and needs aside in order to serve the wants and needs of others and deep down I was frustrated that those ‘others’ were never expected to put aside any of their wants or needs, at least not when it came to me. There was no equal value or equal regard for me at all. Those ‘others’ somehow had a different set of relationship rules than the ones that they assigned to me and there is nothing that makes sense about that but due to the grooming process and brainwashing ~ I didn’t know how messed up that system actually was. No one communicated through the actions of REAL love, true respect, or real fairness.  It was up to me to see and validate the real truth.

I have a right to be angry. I was a kid, I was a person, I was a woman, I was stripped of my childhood and my right to equal value. I was harmed, I was not protected from harm, and people targeted their frustrations and anger at me. I was not permitted to have feelings. My parents invalidated me as well and they defended abusers. I think that being angry is understandable. I think that in cases like this, anger IS justified.

So you tell me ~ is there such a thing as justifiable anger? What do you think about this? Please share your thoughts. The subject of anger is a really big one when it comes to healing from trauma or childhood wounds but facing the truth about this opened a whole new path to healing for me!

P.S. I received a boat load of email over the blog post that this quote came from (Spiritual Abuse; When the Name of God is used to Guilt and Shame) from people who I suspect didn’t even bother to READ the post, but wanted to ‘save my soul’ by enlightening me about the ‘true meaning’ of forgiveness. Some people believe that if I want to write about forgiveness while exposing abuse and abusers ~ then I must NOT have forgiven and I must not understand what forgiveness actually is. I sincerely hope that this doesn’t happen with this post as well. Thanks in advance for reading this post and the one the quote is referring to, before you comment against my point. My salvation is not what’s in question here.

Looking forward to the discussion on this one!

Exposing Truth, one snapshot at t time,

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

Related Articles~ See the links in bold throughout the article

186 response to "Is There Such a Thing as Justifiable Anger for Victims of Child Abuse?"

  1. By: Beth Posted: 15th February 2015

    Yes, there is a such a thing as ‘justifiable anger’! Any anger that we feel, which is stimulated by a cause, is justifiable.
    It is essential that children are allowed to be angry and taught how to express that anger, otherwise it will damage them and the others around them. I wasn’t allowed to have any feelings at all that were ‘not’ okay with my mother. I was not allowed to be angry. So, I bottled it up, suppressed it, and stuffed it way deep inside! Eventually, my anger erupted in rage, I acted out inappropriately, or I ran away from home.
    There is much to be said for the feeling of anger. It is a feeling and like every feeling; it is a part of us and it belongs to us. We should be permitted to have it and taught how to express it.
    The people who did the thing that caused the anger should take heed, apologize, and make amends. We should not be made to feel that, ‘they are the good guys’ and ‘we are the bad guys’ for ever getting angry with them. That is just not fair!
    Justifiable anger over years of abuse is completely appropriate! We are now the ones who govern ourselves and must choose to allow it. Anger is not rage, anger is not acting out, anger is only a feeling. If we can learn the ability to feel and allow our anger without being destructive or self-destructive, we have learned a valuable skill. It could be a skill that will lower our blood pressure, ease our anxiety, and contribute to a longer healthier life.
    Also, after justifying my anger to myself, I govern it and it no longer governs me! It is a reasonable response to unreasonable abuse! ~ Beth

  2. By: Hobie Posted: 15th February 2015

    The thing I am most sick of is the assertion that no one can make you feel anything; that we can choose what to feel at any moment no matter what is happening to us.

    A person who is acting aggressively toward me is going to make me afraid, hurt, and angry, and maybe a few other things either all at once or in sequence. And someone who is behaving compassionately toward me is going to make me feel calmer and probably happier.

    Anger is a feeling, that leads sometimes to behavior, but that can be within our control when we can recognize and acknowledge that we feel anger. What kind of control can we have over something we aren’t allowed to identify?

    The thing I’ve noticed is that abusers will say “YOU made me angry!” as if they are entitled to their anger and their behavior and it’s YOUR FAULT, while they tell YOU that you can’t be angry and they have no responsibility for your feelings.

    It took me the longest time to recognize that.

    Yes – there is such a thing as justifiable anger. It’s also perfectly appropriate to say “I get angry when I’m treated like I’m something less than you, and I don’t want it to happen again.” Then it’s in their hands to either try not to repeat the behavior or live without the relationship.

    It’s not an easy process – but that’s pretty much what it boils down to.

    Hobie

  3. By: S1988 Posted: 19th February 2015

    Hobie and Beth,

    You two took the words right out of my mouth.

    It was weeks ago when I realized that I have anger avoidance as a result of the mixed messages I received as a child. I could be yelled at for stupid stuff, but if I expressed anger, I was “having an attitude”. Yet, I was also expected to stand up to bullies in school. I couldn’t do that because I was taught that being angry meant I was a “bad girl”, and was easy pickings for them. Then, I was scolded or blamed for being picked on. I told my mother this and her only answer was to get therapy. Hmm, hurt someone and then tell them to seek help without apologizing for the inner scars. Nice.

    I still struggle with assertiveness and being angry without feeling guilty. I would’ve been the perfect sex abuse victim or abused spouse because of my passive nature. Thank goodness I never had those experiences. (I don’t plan to have a mate anyway, and I was just extremely lucky not to be in a molestation situation.)

    Yes, healing takes time. Better late than never.

  4. By: Lynne Posted: 12th August 2015

    Hi Darlene,
    I have read almost all of your posts since I discovered your blog and they have helped me so very much as I try to come to terms with my situation and honestly face just how rotten my mother treated me. I went NC just about three months ago. It has been an up and down journey and I realized, only yesterday, that I have not allowed myself to get angry, really angry at what she chose to do to me. I also realized that I have been holding an unrealistic hope that she will change, which, of course she won’t. So that being said your post about anger resonates with me big time. Anger is not only justifiable but it is necessary to the healing process. How can forgiveness come if we don’t deal honestly and head on with our situations? Anger does not mean that we will act on it. No, that would be exacting revenge which is altogether different. For me, getting angry is my way of facing what she did to me and that she did it because she wanted to and because she could. How can I not be angry at someone who intentionally wanted to hurt me? And she being the one who was supposed to protect me? How could I not be angry with the biggest betrayal ever? I have no intention of seeing her again because that would only give her the opportunity to hurt me again. I have given myself permission to be angry with her because it is absolutely justified! I am so mad at her for willfully wanting to hurt me. Thank you so much Darlene for all you do, for putting yourself out there. In turn I relate and hurt for all the folks who comment and share their situations. All of you have helped me too, thank you so much. There was a time that I thought I was alone but now I know that I am in good company of good people who have been harmed by those they should have been able to trust above all others. May God bless us all.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 12th August 2015

      Hi Lynne
      Anger was one of the last things that I faced in my healing journey. I avoided it for a long time. I was afraid of it and for good reason. Finally embracing my anger was amazing and freeing! Once I felt it and validated it and acknowledged that I had something to be angry about, a whole new world of healing opened up. I don’t have the intensity of those feelings anymore at all. They sort of ‘dropped away’ when I really validated that I had a right to be angry. What happened to me was wrong! I am glad that I stayed in those feelings long enough!
      Hugs and thanks for sharing,
      Darlene

  5. By: Lynne Posted: 12th August 2015

    That is encouraging to hear. I too have avoided feeling anger but I am beginning to get mad, some days more than others. I realize that by avoiding it I am continuing to believe what my mother always wanted me to think; that am the one who is wrong, but I know that I am not wrong and I never was.

  6. By: Light Posted: 12th August 2015

    I talked with my therapist about this topic, namely, once I started to believe that it wasn’t all my fault, the anger emerged. WOW. Very intense, and I explained to her that it was almost easier to hold the sadness and turmoil and pain and depression than to face the anger.

    The anger was strong, and also once I started to believe that it wasn’t all me, then that meant that it was about them and I couldn’t control their behavior, which meant I had to think about reducing contact, which is a sad and painful road…….

  7. By: Candice Posted: 12th August 2015

    Thank you Darlene for your posts everyday. you’re posts and book are helping me heal everyday. Like Lynne, I also went NC with my parents 3 months ago. I got tired of being the scapegoat every single year for something. My mother is the instigator and my father is the silent partner. I got tired of their passive abusive behavior and walked away. When Fathers Day came around I mailed a card. Because I didn’t call him on the phone my brother told me I couldn’t see my 5 year old twin nephews. He called me disrespectful and narcissistic, and posts quotes on FB about people that are stupid obviously directed at me. Luckily I know he’s just a flying monkey, and I ignore the abuse. But it makes me more sad than angry that my nephews are being used as pawns as if they are some property and that my parents condone this. But I don’t know why I expect anything else from these people. My brother says he’s tired of dealing this his whole life. I wish he’d realize it’s not me that always tries to be the center of attention, it’s our parents that put me there and his anger should be directed at them. But then he wouldn’t have anyone to watch his kids…

  8. By: Patrica Posted: 13th August 2015

    It’s totally okay to be angry. In fact, we need to experience and express those emotions or they just get hidden and stay there until addressed. I was a victim of abuse my whole childhood, in a seemingly normal home, and I had to stuff all my feelings and hide the abuse. I developed abnormal coping/defensive mechanisms and grew up with chronic depression, anxiety disorder, great unreasonable fear, and what appears to have been PTSD. I never acknowledged my anger and made mental excuses for the abusers. And being a Christian who turns the other check was drilled into me. It turns out that it was extremely psychologically damaging to me to hide my feelings and slap a bandage over my bloody wounds. All it did was fester and as the years went by I became an emotional and mental wreck shouldering the guilt and shame and blame on myself. Never knowing who I was, broken relationships, and lost jobs. A mess my whole life. Seemingly normal, but not at all normal. Basically because I stuffed all my feelings, couldn’t tell, and the abusers went on with their lives while I lived a life of emotional misery. It eventually became mental and physical misery. You have to face the emotions at some point and experience them. Not necessarily towards the abusers, mostly for your own self. If you hide the emotions, you invalidate yourself. You hide your true self because those wounds and emotions are a part of you. I could never sustain relationships because I had to hide those emotions and hide the wounds done by the abuse. I had to hide that my family did those things to me. You have to cry and be angry, just don’t take that anger out on others. Do it with a counselor or in your own home or other safe place. If at some point you want to confront the abuser, make sure you are emotionally and mentally strong enough and stable, because the abuser might not want to be confronted and will defend him/herself. To be human is to experience all your feelings, but anger can be irrational, so feel it and study it and heal and eventually move on from it at your own pace. Definitely at your own pace and for your own sense of well-being.

  9. By: Lynne Posted: 13th August 2015

    Candace,
    Like you, I have lost any contact or hope of Contact with my nieces as a result of going NC. Of course I included my sister in the NC because she is a clone of my mother and they have always worked together to invalidate me. My mother is the one who overtly hurts me whenever she gets a chance but my sister could never see what was going on, or so she said and has done so much to try and break up my marriage, which deeply offends her for some reason. Anyway I will probably never have a relationship with my nieces as both my mother and sister have waged smear campaigns against me. Still I won’t ever go back. This week marks three months and the beginning of my most sincere anger which I know will Help me move on. I look forward to the day that I wake up and go to sleep with no thoughts of this awful situation. You and I will beat this!
    Hugs
    Lynne

  10. By: Candice Posted: 13th August 2015

    Thank you Lynne. ???? Funny you say that, i just noticed its 3 months today since I went NC. we have a lot in common. It does hurt because my parents, my brother have smear campaigns with my oldest daughter about me. I have 4 other step siblings that don’t talk to me either. I will never understand how a mother can talk bad about her daughter to so many people to make me look like I’m a horrible person. But her mother did the same thing to her. She knew her mom did it and she swore she would never be like her, but when you tell her she is, she flips. I hate the fact that my poor nephews are being taken away from me, they love me so much. It’s going to hurt them. But if I were to stay and put up with my “family” because of my nephews, it will just confuse them every year or so when I’m taken out of their little lives causing them insecurity and abandonment issues at such an expressionable time in their lives. Almost like I love them enough to let them go, for now. Because their father is a puppet with poor character.

  11. By: Candice Posted: 13th August 2015

    Sorry that was supposed to be a smiley icon but question marks

  12. By: Kimberly Posted: 13th August 2015

    I kept my anger inside for 37 years then I was confronted by my father trying to bully me and attempt to physically attract me. I whipped his ass, exploded and told everyone who stood up for my father they would one day see the monster he was and if they still believed him over me they could burn in hell with him. My life is much better now.

  13. By: Carlos Posted: 2nd February 2016

    Hey Darlene,

    Sometimes I can’t help but think that the pain I have received from my family (verbal, physical, emotional etc) is probably karma’s way of getting back at me for some of the terrible deeds I have done. I have been racist, teased, hit , cheated on exams and yet here I am finding myself writing about my plight from my family. Some I have regretted, some I didn’t. Is it strange for me to ask if people who have done things that I have, still don’t deserve the kind of pain from our families?

    It’s just a thought of mine. Because even if I feel that my anger towards what my maternal grandmother and father have done to me is justified, sometimes I go back to the terrible things I have done and think okay another dose of karma coming my way, perhaps I do deserve to get hurt. Ironic isn’t it?

    Regards,

    Carlos

  14. By: Amy Posted: 13th February 2016

    Darlene,

    My childhood and adulthood injustices, less the sexual abuse thank God, is completely duplicate to what you describe in your many online writings. Anger is definetely justified. When there is true injustice in any form anger should be part of the reaction to it.
    Anger is not equal to violence.
    I am so angry and equally heartbroken that I was denied mother’s love, emotional safety and the early development of self worth! My abuser was ruthless by attacking and manipulating my entire human support system of family and friends for years upon years. The ruthless abuser is my mother.
    I have spent most of my adult life trying to truly heal my wounds by reading, therapy, trying to love myself, pretending, and sometimes actually leading an emotionally healthy life. I finally broke of all contact with my abuser 3 years ago at 46 years old and as expected she took the rest of my manipulated and controlled family with her. I did this just so the gaping bleeding wounds could possibly heal ever so slightly. As expected I was cast aside by my entire family as though I never existed or worse yet as this horrible human being unworthy of any love or contact at all.
    Most of the time I think I have healed and I have conquered the beast of abuse and dysfunction. But every once in awhile someone unknowingly touches my still open wound and I am reminded of the horrific injustice and the pain and I am brought to my knees in despair. This kind of personal damage caused by another human being is 100% justifiably worthy of anger.

    Amy

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 13th February 2016

      Hi Amy
      Welcome to EFB ~ so glad you are here. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story with me. Yes this kind of thing IS worthy of anger.
      I hope you will share often.
      hugs, Darlene

    • By: Lady Stone Posted: 24th November 2017

      I’ve also had to deal with all kinds of abuse, including a mother who defended all mine and my sister’s abusers. Never has she taken responsibility. I’m 29, while my sister is 31 with 3 young boys. She makes me so proud at the job she is doing because I KNOW she didn’t really have a model to go off on. In any case, I just wanted to say this:

      You are the lion
      You are the hunter
      You are the predator
      You are NOT the Prey

  15. By: Cori Rice Posted: 14th December 2017

    It really irks when people say things like “that’s still your mother/father” because it’s so invalidating. They’re basically telling you, you have no right to be angry at the person for the simple fact that they gave birth to you/share DNA

  16. By: Cori Rice Posted: 14th December 2017

    It really irks when people say things like “that’s still your mother/father” because it’s so invalidating. They’re basically telling you, you have no right to be angry at the person for the simple fact that they gave birth to you/share DNA.

  17. By: Melinda Posted: 20th December 2017

    I apologize if I comment way too much on here, but only yesterday I had a fight with my mother and she called me “angry”.
    She also said that I have “issues”…her typical insult when she can’t be bothered to listen and to care about my feelings.

    And there was also the denial: “you’re lying, I never said that”. And the blame-shifting: “people treat you that way because of how you act”. And the attempts to minimize the damage done: “you are 34 years old, it’s time to grow up”.
    And of course there was NO attempt to understand my hurt and yes, my anger (which is justified).

    I love my mom dearly. She is a truly good person. But I realized in that moment, during our very heated fight, that she can also be toxic in some ways.
    And it is more convenient for her to say that I am the toxic one, than to admit her own issues.
    She will never admit that I was indeed abused growing up. Maybe it wasn’t abuse in the “classic” sense but it WAS abuse.
    And I might be 34 now, but the scars still remain. I’m not “over it” because I still have to see my stepfather and interact with him and pretend to like him whenever I visit my mom.
    I have to swallow my pain and fake my feelings about things all the time.

    My mother calls me “angry” and says I have “issues”…but she doesn’t even want to see WHY.
    Maybe it’s because growing up, she always put everybody else’s needs above mine, especially her various boyfriends and my stepfather. Maybe it’s because my family has pretty much treated me like crap my whole life and now they act like they care.
    Maybe it’s because she stood by for years while my stepfather verbally/mentally/emotionally abused me and destroyed my already fragile self-esteem.
    Maybe it’s because I never felt safe in a home where I couldn’t even breathe without my stepfather coming after me.
    Where I was diminished piece by piece, day after day, until I finally lost all sense of self-worth and did things I thought I would never do, because I felt so hopeless.

    I remember seeing/hearing my stepfather abuse HER too, and now I’m expected to not be angry?
    To not be hurt? To not be traumatized by all the years of dysfunction and chaos and madness?
    I’m angry because I was denied the chance at a stable upbringing. I’m angry because there is no compassion for my feelings, yet I am expected to be understanding of others who couldn’t care less about me.
    I’m angry because I’m hurt and instead of the hurt being validated, my character is attacked…I’m labeled an angry, nasty, mean bitch with an attitude problem.
    It HURTS. My anger comes from being HURT and MISUNDERSTOOD.

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