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Archive for July 15th, 2010

I working through a series on feeling responsible for the child abuse you endured. The series begins here .

Now the fourth truth — Hating yourself instead of your abuser is a coping mechanism.

In Janet’s comment, she said the following:

If by chance I remember a feature of [my abuser’s] face, or remember an instance of something she did to me, I don’t feel any anger or hatred towards her. I feel it towards myself. What does that make me? ~ Janet

It makes you human, Janet. It also makes you a “normal” child abuse survivor.

Once again, we need to go back to the mindset of a child. As I shared previously, my nine-year-old son is strong-willed. He also has a temper. A big difference between my childhood and his is that it is safe for him to express his anger. I have taught him that it is okay to feel angry, but he is responsible for his actions while angry.

For example, no matter how angry my son gets, it is not okay for him to hurt another living being (person or pet) or harm anyone else’s property. However, it is completely appropriate for him to express his anger in safe ways, such as by punching pillows. My son is very physical, so I encourage him to express his anger using his body as long as he doesn’t hurt anyone else or damage their property.

Child abusers do not teach abused children that is it okay to express their anger. In fact, expressing anger is not even an option for the abused child. Because the child is feeling the emotion of anger (and for good reason), she must do something with that energy. Emotions are meant to be expressed, and they do not simply “go away” when they are repressed. Instead, the anger turns on the person repressing the anger, frequently in the form of anxiety or depression.

I struggled with this enormously before therapy. I repressed my anger so deeply that I truly did not believe that I had any. My therapist assured me that I did and that I would need to give that anger a voice.

The first time I gave my anger a voice was through punching pillows. I decided to invite the anger out by pretending the pillows were my abusers. I felt like a complete idiot with the first three punches, but the anger exploded out of me with the fourth, and I beat the h@#$ out of the pillows in a complete frenzy for 20 minutes. I felt such enormous relief afterward.

I have since moved on to visualization to process my anger. I used to have very angry alter parts that would constantly berate me and blame me for the abuse. I would tell those angry alter parts that their anger was aimed toward my abusers, not me. I would file through the faces of my abusers in my head. When the right abuser’s face appeared (the one that caused that particular anger), I would visualize myself beating the h@#$ out of that abuser. At first, the visualizations disturbed me because they were so graphic, but the relief I felt afterward reassured me that this was a positive thing.

The anger you have directed toward yourself is really unexpressed anger toward your abuser. If you will give that anger a voice and direct it toward your abuser, you will stop feeling so angry with yourself. If you also struggle with anxiety and/or depression, you will also very likely experience improvement in those areas.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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