I have worked hard to maintain my mask of normalcy over the years. I was trained by my family that there could be no external signs of abuse, physically or behaviorally. And since I was convinced the abuse was my fault, I thought it imperative to comply. When I felt anxious, I would use the manic energy to be more productive, so it came across as a positive thing. When I felt depressed, I would hide from the world. Those were the sick days from school or work. I was proud of my ability to preserve my mask no matter how difficult things became.
But the anger and rage was a different story. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I knew that acting out my rage was unsafe in my home because my father had made it clear that he would kill me. The rage was seeping out of me on all sides with no outlet. It was in my energy. It was wrecking havoc on my life through manifestations of chaos and drama. Interpersonal relationships were severely impacted by my anger and inability to allow the smallest indiscretion. Sometimes, I would self-harm or find any way to numb out. Sometimes, I would be passive aggressive, finding a way to sabotage something important, especially if it mattered to my parents. I did everything possible to avoid acting out my rage in a noticeable way.
But with the intense rage that was building inside me, it was difficult to avoid the explosive impulses when they came up. I knew it wasn’t safe in my house, but when I became a teenager, I discovered that expressed rage could have a place in my life. There were people who were “safe” to rage against. Unfortunately, those people usually meant no harm. They may have been playing a joke or trying to help me, but they paid a price. They learned very quickly not to surprise me, tease me or attempt to be brutally honest with me. They knew I had a short fuse. Through my explosive reactions, I was abusive to them. This is not surprising. This is how trauma perpetuates itself.
Since my teenage years, I have kept the “raging fit method” in my back pocket as a potential strategy when a situation is overwhelming. In my first marriage to an emotionally-abusive alcoholic, the raging fits would back him off. He was shocked by them. It was as if I became a different person. And in a way, I did.
For a while, I worked in an environment that allowed for anger to be expressed in unproductive ways. I “thrived” in that environment because I could hold my own against the other angry people in the office. I felt safe enough to let loose on them and they felt safe enough to do it back. It was completely dysfunctional, but it was also very productive at the expense of a positive working environment.
When my children were born, the rage that I was striving to hide started to bubble up. I had made a pact with myself to never use physical punishment and I stuck to the pact. But the children were triggering me and I was losing control. And my own child part had assessed them as safe enough to rage against. That was not a good combination. I raged a few times in their toddler years. I would yell at them about not eating their food or not going to bed, the normal toddler stuff. But it wasn’t just raising my voice while remaining emotionally in control. It was a temper tantrum. It was not pretty. Once I started to retrieve memories, the anger was directed where it belonged, but to this day, I kick myself that I raged at all.
So I continue to work on expressing the rage through my writing and physical activity without giving it the power to affect my life through unwanted manifestations. I question my teenage belief that a fit of rage can resolve anything in a positive manner. I stay conscious when I feel it welling up inside of me like a storm. I remind myself that the rage doesn’t have a place in the present moment. And I take self-control back in a loving way. It is hard work, but the rage must stop with me. My children and friends must understand that I am safe. My children must understand that rage is not the way to resolve differences and disputes with others.
Every day I feel less controlled by the storm inside. I feel more comfortable that my life is my own. As the anger is expressed in healthy ways, I feel it letting go. And I let go of the abusive past that has no place in my future.
3 Steps to Overcoming the Awareness Challenge
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