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On my blog entry How to Forgive an Abuser after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following question:

Yeah, I know there must be rage. It bubbles up a little now and again. I am scared of its depths. I want to find it, connect with it, but something is blocking me…perhaps fear? How did you get in touch with it? How did you find it? I find others’ experiences helpful.

Anger (or rage) was the emotion that I most deeply repressed. I felt so disconnected from my anger that I honestly did not believe that I even had any. My therapist assured me that I did and that I would process it when I was ready.

Although I felt no anger, I felt an enormous amount of anxiety, manifesting in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms. I also struggled with depression on and off. I later learned that both anxiety and depression are a manifestation of repressed anger. Because the anger has nowhere to go, it turns on you.

I finally reached a place where I knew that I needed to heal my anger, but I did not have the first clue about how to get in touch with it. I decided to lock myself in a room when I had the house alone and invite the anger out. I thought I would punch pillows and see what happened. I was scared about how I would handle the anger if it came out because feeling anger was such a foreign concept to me.

I punched a pillow hard once, then twice, and then three times. Nothing happened, and I felt like an idiot. However, on the fourth punch, rage exploded out of me. It felt like releasing the force of a hurricane from inside of myself. For fifteen minutes, I screamed and cursed at my abusers. I beat, clawed, and mangled the pillows. I was scared, and yet it felt soooo good — like this was something that should have been released years ago.

After about fifteen minutes, I was spent. I was also relieved. Even though my anger/rage was powerful, it was not uncontrollable. It just needed somewhere to go, and it felt wonderful to pour that energy out of myself. Immediately afterward, I noticed a dramatic decrease in my OCD symptoms.

Since that time, I have used a couple of other tools. My ritual abusers used popsicle sticks to “program” me, so I fought back using popsicle sticks. I bought a box of them at a craft store. One by one, I broke the popsicle sticks and yelled taunts at my abusers. I saved the broken sticks and, when needing to process more anger toward my ritual abusers, I would throw the popsicle sticks at the wall. Hearing them hit the wall and watching the broken pieces fall to the floor was healing for me.

One other helpful tool has been visualization. I will visualize the child me about to be harmed. Then, the adult me swoops in and kicks some serious butt. I allow those visualizations to get as graphic as I need them to get. This has become my preferred method for processing anger.

Other tools that work for other people include…

  • Beating the ground with a baseball bat
  • Popping red balloons with the abusers’ names written on them
  • Taking a kickboxing class
  • Writing an angry letter that you don’t plan to send

Doing something physical is often the best way to get started with processing anger.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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