I am excited to have my good friend and guest blogger Christina Enevoldsen from “Overcoming Sexual Abuse” writing once again for Emerging from Broken today while I am enjoying my vacation in Mexico. As always please feel free to add your comments, share your experiences and post your feedback in the comments section following Christina’s article.
Darlene Ouimet, founder of emerging from broken
What is My Anger Telling Me? by Christina Enevoldsen
I used to have a persistent fantasy of stabbing my mother in the face. It came to me in sudden flashes accompanied by adrenaline surges. The recurring image of something so horrific was quite disturbing. I’d never consider doing anything like that; blood makes me nauseous and even hurting someone’s feelings bothers me. If I imagined doing something like that, did it make me like my abusers?
It was hard to admit something so awful, even to myself. I was taught not to ‘entertain negative thoughts’ and conditioned to judge my anger. The prescribed method for handling such unpleasantness was to ignore it and to think about nice things—nice things like envisioning treating my mom to a facial or stroking her hair. Imagining loving things while I had so much anger flowing through me was impossible. The frequency and intensity of those thoughts wouldn’t allow me to discount them. Besides, I’d closed my eyes to things long enough and that wasn’t getting me anywhere. I had to face those awful images head-on.
I had to own my desires, face them without criticizing myself and find out their source.
Where did that come from? What purpose did the desire serve? What was the significance of destroying my mother’s face? The fantasy was an important clue in my healing process. By examining it closely, I discovered the reasons why.
I remembered an incident from my childhood sexual abuse. I was alone with my dad in my parent’s bedroom. My mom took great care in decorating the whole house, but especially their room. The bedding matched the drapes, which coordinated with the carpet. Everything was specially chosen. I sat on the edge of a raised platform that was designed to elevate their bed and make it the focal point of the room. My dad sat on the floor across from me with his collection of Playboy magazines spread out next to him. During the abuse, I looked up at the drapes and thought, even in my fourth grade mind, that appearances were all that mattered to my mom. She could make the house look like a palace, but it would always be a dungeon to me.
My mom was more interested in image than reality. She chose the happy family facade rather than protecting me. My slashing fantasy was an expression of my hated for her effort to make everything look nice, rather than making it nice. Her face represented the image that was so important to her.
By ignoring the unpleasant, scary flashes, and replacing them with more acceptable images, I was doing the same thing my mom did—I was decorating over the horror. My desire was a messenger, communicating my specific area of hurt. Paying attention to my anger allowed me to resolve it. The only way to resolve it was to acknowledge it and clean it out.
Once I identified where my anger was coming from, it was easier to process it in a healthy way. I expressed my anger by journal writing, letter writing, (some I sent and some I didn’t), talking it out with friends, crying, shouting and pounding my bed. I worked through it until I didn’t feel anything. I haven’t thought about hurting my mom in a long time. Facing the ugly feelings was one of the best things I did for myself. It helped me to empty out another layer of anger and take another step in healing.
Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and three grandchildren.