taught that anger is a bad thing. Ive had an abusive childhood but
it is hard to feel any anger about it because I feel guilty and afraid about
offending God or blaming my parents. My therapist says I have to feel angry
feelings to get better. How can I show these feelings without freaking out
myself or the therapist so he will tell me to leave?
Anger is always a reaction to some sort of hurt or insult.
But when you look at this reaction more closely, you can see that anger does
not have to be the only reaction to hurt.
The most immediate
and primary response to hurt or insult is a physiological arousal of the
sympathetic nervous system. Your heart rate jumps. Your blood pressure surges.
These things, however, are just immediate self-defensive reactions that prepare
us to take some sort of action to respond to the threat.
Now, to be
technically precise here, anger does not refer to the feeling of
physiological arousal itself;
anger is a particular
response to that arousal that is grounded in hostility and hatred. In essence,
anger is a wish to hurt someone because someone has hurt you. Anger does
not even have to be experienced as the strong emotion of rage; it can just
as well be a thought or a wish to hurt someone. In this sense,
then, anger is a bad thing because it is an offense against love,
for love is a matter of willing the good of others, not a matter of
wishing them harm.
When you are
told to acknowledge your anger in psychotherapy, however, you are not being
told to do something that is morally wrong. Nor are you being encouraged
to get angry, such as by yelling, cursing, throwing things, breaking
things, or hitting someone. Instead, you are being told to recognize
something that is already within you, so that you can stop deceiving
yourself about your own reality.
see what that something might be.
abuse always provokes feelings of hurt and insult in the child, and almost
inevitably that hurt leads to a feeling of
hate and a desire
for revenge. In fact, even many ordinary, non-abusive frustrations of childhood
will provoke feelings of hurt and anger. But because children are not usually
taught to express hostile feelings in any healthy way (and because they
arent taught the psychological meaning of
anger, and because
they arent taught the psychological meaning of
reparation), children quickly learn, through
guilt, to hide
their true feelings from their parents.
psychological problem, however, is that these unexpressed feelingsthe
bad angerget pushed into the
they continue to grow in darkness, like mold on the walls. It may be hidden
from conscious sight, and it may be hidden from public view. But it cant
be hidden from your unconscious.
That is, unconscious
anger, no matter how much you try to deny it, will continue to stain all
your interpersonal relationships. With this anger festering inside of you,
it becomes almost impossible to give
true love to
anyone. Right now, when difficult things happen to you, you fall kersplash!
right into the swamp of childhood anger.
The whole point
of psychotherapy is to learn that there are very specific environmental triggers
for your feelings. Recognize the triggers, first, and then recognize the
emotional bridge that goes back to childhood wounds. Learn to
look for the actual events (notice the plural) that have been bothering you
recently. Take each one separately. What are all the
that event? Frustration? Helplessness? Abandonment? Betrayal? Fear? (It
wont be just anger, because anger is the final, hostile reaction to
all the other feelings.)
When you have
these emotions all separated out, then you have an idea of what is really
happening to you, apart from the anger. Then you can deal with each event
separately, according to the emotions specific to that event. And its
your choice. Do something constructive and creative about each problem
individually, or, well, get angry about everything and stew in it.
Up till now you
have been stewing in it, and thats why everything seems so oppressive
and foul underneath the surface of a nice social demeanor. If Im wrong,
then why are you in psychotherapy in the first place? Most likely, everything
in your life is all caught up in a big snarl of childhood hurt.
So, if you go
through this healing process, you will learn to free your hidden anger from
its dark, silent prison. Having thus set it free, and having thus cleansed
yourself of its stains, you will also be free of something else. You will
be free of feeling like a
victim and free
of secretly blaming
your parents, because as long as you keep your anger hidden, you remain
emotionally disabled, and as long as you remain emotionally disabled, you
are throwing your disability in your parents faces to accuse them of
Once you acknowledge
the core of your anger, and understand it, and stop unconsciously wishing
harm on your parents, you can
forgive your parents.
Then you will be healed, and then you can turn to the whole world with true
love in your heart.
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