This entry reflects one woman's struggle with rage, one of the big after-effects of being an abuse victim. If you are a victim, you understand this truth. If you are the family member of an abuse victim, or come across someone who seems to contain an unexplained rage and are quick to anger, they may very well be a survivor of abuse. Rather than reacting to their rage (or terrorizing your loved ones or co-workers with your own rage), remember that what is really needed is kindness and understanding. You can help to diffuse the situation, by NOT reacting to the rage in kind; it's often displaced anger, and may not be aimed at you personally.
If you are the one screaming at your loved ones, especially your children, set them down and explain to them what is going on with you. It would be much better for your children to know the truth about why you explode, rather than for them to think that they are unloved or responsible for your rage. They may not completely understand your rages, but they are less likely to suffer their own trauma when anger overtakes your own reasonable judgment. Don't ever let pride prevent you from apologizing to children if you lose it once in a while, they can be your biggest supporters in helping you put this rage to rest.
I've noticed that anger and rage is a prime reaction to situations which you can't control, when you feel your stability or safety is threatened. I've been told that anger is one of the first signs that depression is letting up, when your fighting spirit is returning, so it can actually be a good sign! Anger pouring out of you (or someone else) is like letting poison flow out of your system. Think of abuse as an infected sore on your arm. The infected pus sore must be lanced (you must experience some minor pain) to allow the poison pus (anger and pain) to flow out of the body, so that healing can begin. Talking (or writing) about it, whether it's lunch with a friend or keeping a diary, or even writing up a page for this blog may hurt initially, but can be healthy in the long run. Abuse starts to lose it's power over our lives as soon as we start talking about it and connecting with other victims. Nothing is more powerful than victims supporting other victims, because nobody else understands being a survivor like another survivor. That's why contributors are telling their stories, reaching out to other victims so that they don't feel so isolated and alone.
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I am a survivor.
My brother’s death three years ago, secondary to alcoholism, shattered our family’s lives. He too was a victim of many perpetrators – and then he became one.
I first started dealing with my abuse when I suffered an anxiety attack during one of my nursing courses on family health. The chapter being lectured on was “how to identify signs of abuse in a dysfunctional family.” It was as if my family was being put on the over head screen in erasable ink.
I ran from the room at the break, breathing heavy and sweating. The secret we all knew had happened, but had never been spoken, was written on the board “Incest”. Since then, I have spent 22 years in and out of counseling trying to deal with the echoes of trauma from 3yr-13yr of age.
My brother was not as lucky. His self destruction came when the monsters of his childhood re-emerged, incarnate in his body, to destroy those he loved – even his own children. He chose to leave this life instead of continue the cycle he again started.
I choose freedom! But the rage lives inside me and tries to wreck the goodness in my life. I am remarkably well adjusted, given what I have lived through; no one but another survivor can know the endless hurt in the dreams of the night. I was having a really bad day last month – trying to deal with my dying mother, work was crazy, the fight with my husband was particularly bad.
The following written reflection was how I quelled the immense feelings of loneliness and anger at facing the possibility of being left alone with my father when my mother dies. It helped me put into perspective the child within, who reacts instinctively, without knowledge of the real consequences. Only the adult figure of rage understands the pain comes with both anger and sadness.
Alone With My Friend, Rage
Rage always stops by for a visit
When I am most in need of a friend
She sits close by me and keeps me warm
Sometimes I wonder if she is really the only friend I have.
I can always count on her to defend me when I am attacked
She is fearless.
Wish I could be more like Rage
I see her as a warrior; always ready for battle
To War against those who would wrong us
Rage told me once, though, that being like her was a lonely choice
I think that I want to be alone and safe
Instead of with others, and always afraid.
When I shared this with Rage,
She leaned over and kissed me on the head.
She was crying and screaming as she left.
It helps us feel less alone when we connect with others who have experienced what we have survived. Anger and rage comfort and torture all of us. No coincidences in life, are there? I applaud your efforts to help others. We are many. Our strength to go on comes from the connectedness to each other.