Posts Tagged ‘gaining voice’

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Anger Is My Ally and Having a Voice

July 15, 2010

I always used to be afraid of anger. Anger could get you in trouble. You weren’t supposed to be angry. So, if you were you darned well better hide it! Ack! So, what to do with anger?

I remember meeting with a therapist right after my separation from my then husband. I had started to see her for other things, but she switched us over to dealing with my marriage (or lack thereof) when I separated. My assignment was to write down all the things I wished I could tell him. Boy was that a tall order…but I did it.

When I brought it in to her she looked at it and then wanted me to read it. I just looked at the list and at her and could not do it. She insisted. I refused. I could not give voice to what I desperately needed to say. She would not let it go…so I got angry and threw it down on the floor. I find that choice interesting. I could have destroyed it or hidden it, but instead I threw it on the floor where I knew she could pick it up…which she did. She then started to read it again…only out loud this time. She gave her voice to what I could not give my voice to.

Listening to her read that list was incredibly hard. I don’t remember much more about that appointment, but I do know two things happened. Her saying out loud what I could not…even though he could not even hear it…was validating. I don’t know that I consciously thought of it that way at that time…but it was. To hear someone else saying what I wished I could say…was hugely validating. She did not think anything was stupid…or exaggerated…or insignificant…or anything else that some people might have tried to do with it. This woman was my voice when I did not have one and she began the process of setting my voice free. There were things on that list that I felt uncertainty or even embarrassment over. Her treating that list as she did took that away.

It was just like during another appointment (or perhaps it was later in the same appointment) when I described something he had done and she said, “So, he raped you.” I just burst into tears when she voiced those four simple words. I had always “felt” the word “rape” regarding those times (it was more than once), but I could never actually attach it. I could never out loud or consciously call it that…for a whole variety of reasons better left for another post…if I remember to do one. (OK…I just went and titled an empty draft to remind me.)

To hear someone describe what happened to me as “rape” was SO validating. I just sat there and wept. She confirmed my reality and she gave me my voice…both in the reading of that list and in calling what he did to me “rape”.

The other thing that happened was that I got in touch with a whole lot of pain and emotions that I had been stuffing through all those years of marriage. I was flooded with a world of hurt as she read everything on that list. Hearing it from her made it even more real. These were not things in my imagination or in my own head. These were real things. Real events. Real feelings.

Anger also started to rise. It had always been there in one form or another, but I always tried hard to not express it. There was one point toward the end when I actually threw some things at my ex. I felt really bad about doing it, but I was desperate to try to do something to hopefully get him to see what he was doing. I was hoping that my taking an action that was so out of character for me would shock him into actually listening to me for a change. It didn’t phase him one bit. I think I just gave him some fuel for the lies he was already telling me about me. Or…maybe it wasn’t all lies? Could it be that I was switching and did not know it? I don’t recall losing time. Any more, though, there are a lot of things I am no longer certain of. I do know that I was reacting to things he was doing…and he did not like it…nor would he acknowledge any responsibility for it. He was manipulative…very manipulative. If I tried to point out that I needed something from him in order to give him what he wanted from me I was accused of trying to blackmail him. He refused to accept the way things work between people. Sadly…everything that he was…he accused me of being.

As I look back on my life with my ex (something I try not to do any more than necessary) I think that my anger did come out in some ways. I would say that I was probably passive aggressive to some degree. I don’t remember it being a conscious thing. It wasn’t like I said to myself, “Self…if he won’t this then I will that.” Oh, no…that would have been SO wrong in my worldview at that time…and it still is. I was a good cult girl and would never consciously stoop to such manipulations. But I think it was slipping out from inside anyway. In fact, it is entirely possible that I was switching without even realizing it…that someone inside was trying to somehow protect me and make things better. But nothing ever got better. It only kept getting worse and worse. There comes a point where you can only stuff for so long before it starts coming out one way or another. One sad thing is that I know my children took some of the brunt…not that I was consciously abusive…but I was harsh at times in my perceived helplessness and frustration.

Anger can be such a powerful emotion. It can give us the energy to make changes that we really need to make. It can help to strengthen our resolve when there are tough things that need doing. It can also be scary. I was always terrified of anger…both the anger of others and of my own. I was always afraid of losing control and I was raised to always be in control. So, I continued to stuff a lot of my anger, although I think I did start expressing it more.

I wasn’t in therapy very long. When I finally got back in many years later, I was still afraid of anger. I was afraid that, if I started to let myself feel it, I would be like a volcano that kept spewing and spewing. I was afraid that I would explode and not be able to regain my illusion of having control over it.

Anger…helpful…scary…necessary…protecting…hurting…punishing. So many things can be involved with anger. I think the biggest thing I learned about anger, though, is that it is typically a cover-up emotion. Anger is not the real issue…it is whatever anger is covering up. The anger indicates some other emotion. It could be fear, for example. I am afraid, but I don’t want to admit I am afraid…do I feel anger. Fear requires acknowledgment of something and possibly having to take action. Anger can be a blind feeling of agitation that does not really require an action…other than to perhaps rage. I feel afraid of abandonment…but instead of acknowledging that and dealing with that…I cover it with anger over something completely unrelated.

Once I read about anger being a cover…I started to look deeper…to look underneath the anger to see if I could figure out what was there.  As I did that, I was able to start taking more control over my life…bit by bit…which made me feel more empowered…and less angry. Anger started to become determination…resolve…energy for the actions I would eventually need to take. Learning that about anger helped me a lot. I learned that anger is my ally. It is my indicator that something is not right…either with me…or with something happening to me or another.

I hope this made sense. I have a lot to do and wanted to get some thoughts out here. So, I have not taken much time to “polish” it up.

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