The Storm Inside

Hurricane

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.

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14 thoughts on “The Storm Inside

  1. It’s only now, only now in the last 2 months that I started feeling this anger and rage. I don’t know how to handle it? I have no idea how to control it. I turn it against myself. I do every single thing that hurts me. I punish myself and feel full of self hate. I want to end this continuous pain. I just can’t handle this anger

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    • I know how you feel Nikky. It can be so hard especially since we have been encouraged to hide it our entire lives. I spent one solid year hitting couch pillows by a baseball bat and screaming in my car so loud that I would lose my voice. After that, I was finally able to work with the anger to help me heal. It takes time.

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  2. I don’t know. I’m not sure I can heal. If I bottled it up for all my life, I hide everything so well. Now that I want to talk, there is no one to listen. I can tell a friend, I’m not okay, I’m hurting and scared, and i feel I’m not allowed to that. No one needs to hear other people’s pain. I do because I know hpw it feels to have no one.

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    • I used to feel like I could not burden anyone with my pain. Even worse, I thought I had to hide it to be safe. But when I started sharing, some (not all) people were very receptive and even saw it as an opportunity to share back. At the beginning of my journey, the most healing sharing came in therapeutic groups.

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  3. Elisabeth, I thank you again for verbalizing what I have also experienced! It feels so good to not be alone. I do recall having fits of rage in the past but for years I find myself very out of touch with the anger towards my abusers. I will feel angry or even rageful when I sense someone is being deceitful so perhaps it would help me to process these situations more closely as the intensity is usually way out of proportion to the current situation…Instead I think I have been avoiding dealing with these feelings out of shame.

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    • The shame is so strong in us. The abusers made sure of it. But the more we make ourselves aware, the more the shame dissipates. Your awareness is really strong. I can tell. 🙂

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  4. Thanks for this article. I have struggled to express my anger and am currently trying to move through the numbness to let it out. It’s hard to do this constructively without hurting others and so easy to blame ourselves when we do. I admire your honesty and determination, it helps me in my own healing. And I admire your strength to reach out and share, I’m very glad you do!

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  5. Hi Elizabeth,
    Thanks again for writing something we are trying to manage “alone” but it’s nice to know we’re not alone in this world after all. I personally don’t deal with anger another alter personality was created for that, though I desparately try now to manage those bottled up feelings and the biggest one of of all… Fear.. Fear that letting go and sharing means that we will die because that is what my father and others threatened. We learned that from an early age we mattered not and we’re not even worthy of our own tears.

    What you said about being safe for your children and others is so key. We owe it to ourselves to heal those deep wounds and get a grip on the inner storm in order to heal and be safe for others around us. Knowing is half the battle! Thank you for being such an inspiration to us. We fight daily in pain and trying to cope with the inner storm, it’s nice to know we link arms with others in the battle.

    Peace,
    -k

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