A-N-G-E-R, and Anger was it's name-o

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Madge’s post about her husband’s injury and recovery set my mind in motion about the transformative power of anger.

I spent a good portion of my life terrified to express any anger. Surrounded by out of control adults, I learned that being angry meant being unsafe. Being angry brought out guns, both figuratively and literally.

Through my teen years, I was acculturated to accept everything with a smile. Oh, You just stuck a fork in my jugular vein? No problem, I’m sure you didn’t mean it. If I disagree with you, you’ll break up with me? No problem, you were right anyway.

When at age 18 my anger burst forth the first target was, naturally, me. I engaged in self-destructive behaviors. Lots of them. So many that I am a little shocked that bad things didn’t happen to me: like abduction, or rape, or death.

However, Karma seemed to give me a little space. Karma seemed to say “Let her get it out of her system.” Karma, it seemed, had been paying attention to the life I had been living and the things I had experienced and felt I deserved a little extra leeway.

At age 19, Karma decided that I had enough and needed to address the “issues” before my ticket on the free ride to doom reached it’s inevitable conclusion. My boyfriend of five years, who had signed up for the same ride to doom as I, dumped me. I then dumped the other guys I was sleeping with since it wasn’t nearly as good to see them when I was available.

I went into therapy. I went into a LOT of therapy. Like the three times a week therapy…. Granted I had a lot of crap to sort through. Drugs, alcohol, depression, mental illness, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, poor body image, eating and weight issues: I must have presented as the most exciting fucked up patient ever to walk into my therapists office. I think she even wrote a paper on me at some point. You’ve got to feel especially messed up when your therapist records your sessions for a paper she is writing.

After I was done being angry with myself for 1. Not handling this, and 2. Letting other people know about it, I got angry with everyone else. On therapy days, I would come back and lock myself in my room. I was a terror. You did not want to see me after those sessions. I would have ripped your eyes out and handed them back to you, then mocked you for crying.

After two years emptying my vitriol into the void that was my childhood, I was able to start to move past it. When I write, “move past it”, I do not mean that I was able to “forgive” or “forget”, or “embrace my past with fond memories”. No, I mean that I made a conscious decision. I was not a victim. I was a survivor (insert Destiny Child tune here), and had choices. I chose to not forgive my father. I did choose to forgive my mother. I have that choice. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I spend every waking moment plotting his downfall, I just chose to not forgive.

That isn’t a bitter place, either. I suspect that we, as humans, have been so socialized to believe that anger is BAD, that there has remained no room for anger to be the emotional release that I believe it was intended.

It is Right to be angry, at times. It is Right to find that some experiences are Unforgivable.

Anger stops being so scary when you make a peace with it.

10 Baleful Regards:

Fraulein N said...

"It is Right to be angry, at times. It is Right to find that some experiences are Unforgivable."

Just ... amen. I have to say I totally agree with that.

TB said...

I know exactly what you mean. Anger is okay. For some of us, it has to be or we would completely lose ourselves. There is a great book called Writing a Woman's Life. In it, Carolyn Heilbrun talks about how women historically have not been allowed to express their rage, even in the telling of their own stories and I find that so true.
I'm glad that you are in a place where you can look your anger in the eye, shake hands with it and then walk away if you want to.

JenfromBoston said...

It's funny when people decide write stuff that you need to see on the days you need to see it most.

For me, this was that entry. You have no idea. I'll just leave it at that.

halloweenlover said...

I couldn't have said it better, Dawn. Sometimes you have to accept that you are angry, or accept that you can't forgive. Great post.

Nancy said...

Your writing, as always, is amazing. Whether you are funny or serious, you always leave me speechless. But then I find the words so I can comment. :-)

Anger is a difficult emotion to learn to express. I am still trying to learn how to express it productively, having come from a household where all angry conversations took place behind closed doors.

I admire you for having the courage to face up to your past and all that happened, as a conscious decision.

Lisa said...

WOw. I know what you mean in some respects. My parents would accuse me of doing something (my mom would count the cookies in the jar and if ONE was missing, I was accused.) If I didn't do it, I would try to defend myself. And then I would get slapped, hit (and later when I was too old to "spank" kicked) and called many ugly names because I was "talking back." And now, when I am angry with my hubby, I still hold it in. I will say what's bothering me and he'll tell me how I'm too this or too that. And I end up apologizing because I'm scared that he's mad at me and will leave me. ANd then when I apologize, I hate myself and get very angry at myself.

We are taught as little girls to just "be nice". Anger isn't ladylike. It isn't polite. And we are taught as children that a "good" child is the one that does what you say EVERY time and NEVER questions or defends themselves.

You are right. Its ok to be angry. I'm so happy that you are ok these days and that you have done something so very constructive with your life. Yeay YOU!

roo said...

I have too much to say, and no words.

Beth said...

i know. it took me a long time to realize that it was OK not to forgive someone. and explaining this to people was hard. trying to explain that i wasn't actively angry, that i wasn't wasting my time "stewing" in it, but just simply, i chose not to forgive. this seems to be hard for some people to comprehend.

and i find anger to be a scary, but useful emotion, if you can bear out the first few intense stages. i have been trying to use anger to light a fire under my ass and help me fight, as opposed to curling up in the fetal position and taking it.

it's hard, but i'm getting better as i get older and less concerned with making others "happy".

madge said...

Well said. As women, getting okay with anger is one of the hardest hurdlest to leap.

Even though I forgive my mother for the actions that precipitated the downfall of our relationship, it doesn't make me an less angry (and sad). But if I hadn't been okay with being angry about it, I wouldn't be able to maintain my position that there is no place for her in my life. That toxicity level is just too high, forgiveness or not.

I think a huge part of allowing yourself to get angry about something is believing you are worth the indignation.

madge said...

Yeah, I meant H-U-R-D-L-E-S.

And, A-N-Y less angry

I get angry and don't proofread.

 
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