As survivors we’re often not aware of our rage. We’ve had a lifetime of learning how to push it down so hard we don’t even feel it. Considering what we’ve been through, it’s no wonder we’re furious. But how many of us put the rage where it belongs – on the perpetrator of the crimes against us when we were helpless children?
Recently I received a message from a survivor who was furious with her child self. “Why couldn’t she stop it?” she wondered. “How could she let that happen? I hate her!”
She wasn’t particularly angry with the perpetrator, just with the child who hadn’t stopped the abuse and who now lives inside her. In her head she knew she needed to embrace that child, but with that much hate, she found it impossible to love the child as a part of herself.
For me, I couldn’t be angry with my father who abused me because every time I thought of him, I dissociated. When you’re in a fog you can’t feel much of anything, let alone rage. I displaced this rage onto my mother. Today I feel a lot of love for her. After all, who knew about child sexual abuse back when she was in charge of my safety?
How many survivors displace their rage onto their partners?
It’s all too easy for the partner to become confused with the abuser once the couple establish a home and settle down together. In any marriage “transference” plays an important role. We tend to regard our partner as we did one of our parents. Especially if we’ve been abused, we can easily turn our significant other into a tyrannical or angry spouse.
How do we deal with our anger? First we need to be aware that we ARE angry. Then take a good, hard look at why we are angry. Is it really about the present situation? Or is it about the past?
Finding the answer often means seeking professional help, someone we can trust with our pain and confusion about present pain – someone who understands how traumatized individuals carry their woundedness into present day life.