I thought I would write some posts about anger….anger is a common and normal residual effect of sexual abuse. Often as victims begin healing they experience anger….actually anger was too mild a word for me when I began to face my abuse and heal- what I felt was more like bitterness, rage, hatred and even fury. But its important to understand that for victims recovering, feeling these emotions are normal and healthy. Why, because too often victims deny their anger, repress it or often underestimate its strength, So I will spend some time discussing anger and I hope if you are reading along that you will jump in with your thoughts and experiences.
I have found that in society males and females are taught to handle anger differently. These may be changing but traditionally boys have been encouraged to express anger and aggression. Encouraged to turn their sadness into aggression, turn their fear into anger. If in pain-ignore it and become aggressive.
Whereas little girls have been given different messages tradionally. Lets say a little girl is angry enough to hit her friend, yet her parents most often chide her for her aggression and the girl is encouraged to dissolve into her parents arms and cry. Therefore she learns to deny her feelings of anger and aggression and turn them into expressions of fear and sadness.
These patterns are often carried into adulthood and so women often have a difficult time both experiencing and expressing anger.
There are other reasons that victims avoid their own anger. Perhaps they fear its depth and power, or maybe its helplessness, desire to keep the peace, personal denial or maybe even family denial.
Often anger is mishandled. There are a myriad of defense mechanisms that exist to help a person remain in denial. The following suggestions/reasons are from author John P. Splinter and he states:
Repression-force it from all conscious thought
Suppression- just don’t think about it
Underrateing-Pretend its not significant now that you’re an adult
Rationalization- explain it all away
Theologize-tell yourself that God will make it all go away so you don’t have to deal with it. Or tell yourself that being angry is unchristian
Flight-run away from everything. Perhaps even develop some phobias in self-defence.
I’ll leave off her for now and later discuss some symptoms of mishandled anger.