Friday, April 10, 2009


I hate it when I get angry! I also hate it when anyone is angry with me. Anger is still an in-process thing.

I used to have trouble even recognizing my own anger. For over thirty years, I lived with people who discouraged any expression of emotion and I got used to playing by those rules. Then, I made changes, including deciding not to accept abuse any more. No longer living with an abuser, I swung to the other extreme and expressed practically every emotion the minute I had it. I didn't like that either. It didn't feel good for me and I suspect that it made my family uncomfortable too.

Now, I am trying to find the middle ground. I want to feel free to express myself and I want to be kind and intentional about what I share, and when I share it. Sounds lovely to me, but getting there is still awkward at this point.

I'm going to share what I still struggle with in the hopes that other readers can identify and will feel less alone:
--Sometimes, I don't recognize that I am angry until I hear the angry tone of my voice.
--Almost always my mouth goes dry in fear when I'm waiting for the other person's response.
--I always feel guilty right after the other moves on to other things, regardless of whether I handled myself well or not.
--I often try to make others apologize for hurting my feelings or breaking a promise or whatever. I do it by pointing out that they still have not apologized.

I hope someone out there in blog-land can identify!

The good news is that seeing where I still need to grow does not negate any of the healing that has already taken place. Long ago when I was mad, I called myself names and then numbed all feeling by staring hard at an inanimate object and shutting down (a disassociation technique). Later on, I was able to journal my feelings and tended to write a respectful letter to the other about what was upsetting me because I couldn't handle telling him or her verbally. When my parents or my spouse was mad at me, I did things like hide in a closet or under a bed or up in a tree. Later on, I stayed to face the person but I backed up whenever he/she expressed his/her anger and then I’d move forward when it was my turn to express anger. I no longer do any of those things. I feel much less fear than I used to. When I look back, it is obvious that I have come a long ways with God's help.

Each one of us who are recovering from abuse, need to accept that we are in process. Healing happens layer by layer and day by day. Each time, seeing a problem with clarity is the beginning of a new bit of growth and freedom. Whether or not anger is one of your damaged areas, I hope that you will be gentle with yourself as you go along.

I'm going to follow my own advice and work on being gentle with myself, too. I'm going to accept that the anger issue is going to take me awhile and be happy about the healing that has happened thus far.

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Recommended Books

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  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
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  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
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  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
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