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Working Through Rage After Abuse

Anger is usually perceived as a "bad" emotion. Most of us are taught not to talk about it or even acknowledge it. We are taught to stuff it down into our hearts

  1. HealingJourney
    Anger is usually perceived as a "bad" emotion. You may have been taught not to talk about it or even acknowledge it. You may have been taught to stuff it down into the depths of you and/or force yourself to “let it go”—or at least, say that you have let it go—even though it is still festering inside you. But these are ineffective approaches to anger. It will find a way to torment you if you do not allow yourself to feel it, if you ignore it in one way or another, or if you pretend to let it go before you are ready. The truth is that anger is not “bad.” When channeled appropriately, it has the potential to motivate all of us normal human beings to better ourselves, and it even has the potential to protect us from dangerous situations.

    Although anger—and its even more intense cousin, rage—can be beneficial and facilitate healing, they are also extremely difficult emotions to process in safe ways. This becomes especially apparent while experiencing the horrific pain that is inevitable during the aftermath of psychopathic abuse.

    When you see behind the psychopath’s mask, and you realize the extent of the betrayal, the shock, shame, and sadness you feel give way and/or are accompanied by a burning rage. It is unique in the sense that it is very overwhelming and intense. It also lingers and comes in waves. This particular rage is also quite frightening because it can sometimes seem as if you are taking on the psychopath’s evil.

    For instance, during one of my EMDR therapy sessions, I unintentionally imagined myself taking some sort of heavy object and smashing it into the psychopath’s face. This vision was so vivid in all of its gory details, and my anger was so strong, that I immediately felt scared, and the image stopped as abruptly as it started. Did this disturbing thought mean that I had become evil because of the psychopath? No, it did not. I was justifiably and deeply angry about what had happened to me, and my brain was doing its best to work through it, via that vision. Thus, the acknowledgement and acceptance of anger is the first step toward processing it effectively.

    One downside of the extreme anger you will feel is that you may be tempted to seek revenge against the psychopath. As appealing as that idea may sound, any attempt to follow through on plans for revenge will most certainly not end well. The psychopath will not be hurt by anything you do, because he or she does not feel pain. However, the likelihood is high that you will be negatively affected. Thankfully, there are many other, much safer, strategies that can help you work through the rage. The following is not a comprehensive list, but it is a strong start. Some of the ideas below may be obvious, and some may not:

    • It is often said that physical exercise and movement is beneficial in so many ways. It is also a great method for releasing rage. Kick boxing has been especially helpful for me because it includes a great deal of punching and kicking, and I allow my imagination to go where it needs to go as I do both.

    • There are multiple forms of creative expression, all of which can be used to channel anger (and other emotions). Possibilities include dance, art, writing, and music. During two different waves of anger, I wrote scathing letters to the psychopath; although I did not send them, the writing helped. I also found it satisfying to sing along (or maybe I should say yell along) with certain angry-sounding songs when the rage was especially strong.

    • It may seem strange or uncomfortable (it did to me at first), but accessing the right hemisphere of the brain is a very effective method for processing anger and pain. Possible techniques that can help you do this include EMDR therapy, various forms of meditation, and tapping.

    • It might take a while and may even happen in phases, but eventually you will probably want (and need) to throw away, give away, and even destroy any items connected with the psychopath. When you are ready to let them go, it is a good opportunity to express your anger in ways that will not hurt others. You can (safely) burn the items, smash them, crush them, or tear them into pieces (which I did with two pictures I stumbled across months after the discard). These physical acts of destruction provide important paths for the rage to flow out of you.

    • As Kid President says, “sometimes you just gotta scream.” Screaming really can help!

    • Peace coined the wonderful term, Constants, to describe people with whom you can talk openly. Constants will listen without judgment, allow you to vent, and validate your feelings, including the anger. It is much easier said than done to find such people, but when you do, they will make such a difference in your life. Keep looking…you will find them!

    The frustrating reality of rage, like all difficult emotions, is that it has a tendency to sneak up on you, even if you implement the above strategies. You may be convinced you have worked through all of it, that there cannot possibly be any left…and then something will happen that will trigger a fresh wave of anger. Every time that happens, the best thing to do is go back to the strategies listed above. It might help to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable up and down process that characterizes grief, so that you will be ready when the anger rushes back over you again.

    Ultimately, after you've experienced many waves of it (less intense each time), and after you've found multiple ways to express it safely, and after you've determined that enough time has passed, you can make the conscious choice to let the rage go. For me, this included a symbolic ritual during which I threw a small rock representing my residual anger into a nearby pond. When I first obtained the rock, I had already worked through many waves of rage over a period of months, and my intention was to let go of the rock immediately. But it took me almost four more months before I felt ready to throw the rock away and let the resentment go. So there is no timeline for how long the anger should last. We are each on our own individual recovery journeys.

Article Author: HealingJourney