I have worked with clients who endured horrific abuses as children and yet had never expressed their anger and rage before coming to see me.
Instead, they buried these emotions and put on a people-pleasing mask of, “Everything is all right,” so as not to rock the boat. When these people came to see me they were struggling with things like chronic health issues, adrenal fatigue and depression.
Anger and Rage
While anger is considered a socially appropriate emotion to express when a boundary has been crossed, like what happens in abuse, it is still most commonly buried, along with rage.
Rage is the silent venom that courses through your veins that cannot be controlled. It is the volcanic disruption of, “I hate all of this.” From a biochemical standpoint, there is only so long that you can sustain rage before it increases the cortisol and lowers the DHEA in your body, because it is a high stress state. This can lead to a seesaw of emotions, with long bouts of depression (which is anger turned inwards), where the body can no longer sustain the rage. It is a depleting cycle that can lead to disease like adrenal fatigue syndrome. If you have been operating from a place of rage, it can feel good at times, or at least preferable to depression, because something is moving when you express your rage.
There is something really important to know about anger and rage. The “I hate all of this,” can keep you locked in victim consciousness and in the invisible cage abuse. However, as you kick abuse in the caboose, you can go beyond the surface, toxic, destructive forms of anger and rage, and tap into the potency beneath them. Transformation occurs when you are willing to step out of the destructive rage and use the potency to fuel you in moving beyond the cage and beyond abuse.
While it may take a skilled facilitator to help you navigate your way out of anger and rage and into their hidden source of energy, the first step is recognizing and acknowledging how anger and rage may be controlling you.
Acknowledge Your Relationship With Anger & Rage
Take a few moments to reflect:
- What is your relationship with anger and rage?
I have had thousands of clients tell me that no, they don’t have any anger about their past abuse. Everything is fine. They’ve done such a good job of hiding it from themselves. Through our work together they began to stop hiding their emotions from themselves so they could begin to work with and through them.
- Do you use food, sex, drugs, alcohol, or some other strategy to stuff anger and rage?
In my 20’s I drank, partied, snorted, smoked and had sex as a way to obliterate myself. After the abuse I endured as a child, I reached out to anything and everything that I thought might help alleviate the pain I felt. As you may know yourself, this doesn’t really work. These are just coping strategies that keep us in a cycle of destroying ourselves rather than moving beyond the cage of abuse. Even though it may seem like you have control over your anger and rage by stuffing them with these substances or activities, the truth is, they still have control over you.
- Are you constantly irritable?
If so – this may feel so common to you that you believe this is just how you are. The truth is, this constant irritability is a signpost pointing to the anger boiling inside. You’ve been doing a good job at trying to manage it, but it still has control over you.
- Do you explode over small things in unpredictable moments?
These volcanic eruptions can leave you exhausted and facing a lot of damage control to do in whatever relationship or situation you erupted. I know the relief you may feel after an explosion, yet that relief can also be partnered with shame. You want to end the unpredictable explosions but you just don’t know how.
What Can You Do With The Anger & Rage?
Rather than try to change everything overnight, I encourage my clients to go for the one degree shift: the one small act or change they can make that will alter the course of their future dramatically. (Ever see a boat make a one-degree change in its course? It ends up in a very different place than when it started.)
What might be your one-degree shift? Perhaps you commit to no longer drinking, smoking, snorting or using sex to stuff the emotions. That’s a huge one-degree shift.
Then consider: what other strategies might you use for working with the anger and rage?
I had one client who took herself on “Anger Walks.” She’d walk in the woods fast and hard and curse out everything she was angry about – anything big or small, personal or global, past or present. She threw rocks, yelled at the top of her lungs, and kicked at her invisible perpetrators. She claimed that these walks served to both exhaust and enliven her and tap her into a totally different energy of gratitude for what her life is now.
Other clients of mine use a rope and a bag in my office to express their anger. They whip the weighted bag continuously with a rope as I encourage them to put into words and grunts and screams the anger they’ve buried in their bodies. They also report feeling both exhausted and enlivened after these sessions. They also walk out of my office looking twenty pounds lighter and happier than when they came in.
Whether you seek out professional support to move through your anger and rage or use creative strategies like some of my other clients have used, I encourage you to find healthy and constructive ways to express these emotions. Don’t let them destroy you and your life by hiding them, stuffing them or letting them explode through you. Instead, use skillful means to express them so you tap into the true potency that rests inside of them.
(The Emotions of Abuse articles are excerpts from Dr. Lisa’s soon-to-be-released book, “Kick Abuse In The Caboose.”)
See Part 1 (SHAME) in the series here.
See Part 3 (SADNESS) in the series here.
See Part 4 (FEAR) in the series here.
If you liked this article, you may enjoy listening to my radio show on this topic. Click here for details and to tune in: Beyond Abuse, Beyond Therapy, Beyond Anything
You may also be interested in my Homeplay Combo Workshop: https://drlisacooney.com/product/beyond-abuse-combo-pack/