On my blog entry entitled A (Helpful) Christian Perspective on Forgiveness after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:
I just wishi I could actually feel anger and hatred toward my abusers….at this point I just feel numb about it and frankly don’t even believe most of the stories the other parts of me tell. ~ Barbi
I was once in that same place. My self-perception was that I had a very long fuse. I would never stand up for myself or show any anger (or really even feel anger). However, about once a year, I would “blow up.” I now recognize that an angry alter part would finally have enough and express my repressed anger.
I told my therapist that I really did not feel any anger toward my abusers. I also felt very detached from the abuse, as you describe. My therapist assured me that I did have anger inside that I needed to express. When I was ready, I would experience the anger. I did not believe him.
I believe it is the book The Courage to Heal that calls anger “the backbone to healing.” That book, along with the Survivor to Thriver manual, provide good exercises for tapping into your anger. I was actually afraid to tap into mine. I knew that, based upon the memories that I had already recovered, the anger had to be intense. If I turned the anger “on,” could I then turn it back “off”?
The first step to tapping into your anger is believing your memories. Even though they might not feel like “your” memories, they are. You need to start accepting that those memories are of events that really happened to you. I know how hard that is to do, but it is crucial to healing.
Then, choose an exercise to give your anger a voice. I chose punching pillows. I felt an idiot for the first three punches, but the anger exploded out of me with the fourth punch. It was empowering to tap into the strength of that anger, and my anxiety symptoms eased immediately afterward.
I have heard many wonderful suggestions for processing anger:
- Beat the ground with a baseball bat
- Punch pillows
- Take a kickboxing class
- Throw objects against a wall
- Visualize beating up your abuser
- Write your abusers’ names on red balloons and pop them
I find that doing something physical is helpful when you are first learning how to tap into your anger. Invite your anger out, and tell yourself that it is okay to feel and express your anger. Then, give one of these tools (or something similar) a try and see what happens.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt