The sleeper must awaken.
~ Duke Leto Atreides, Dune
For a while i was angry all the time; everyone and everything set me off. I hadn’t much experience with sitting with anger and feeling it, so my system would step in and take it for me. I’d stifled my anger for so long that, while there seemed to be no going back, i was still trying to manage it using old tools. Parts of me would try to absorb it, like a little one who’d charm everyone around her, or an angsty teen who’d take it to her room and mope. There was also my most developed part, who would shut me away and take charge of the house, my husband, and my kids. She’d clean within an inch of my life and feed everyone to bursting, all while being brusque and terse and not any fun at all.
The worst was when things were sour between my husband and i. To be angry at him frightened everyone inside, as he was the source of what little security we had. One perceived wrong look or frustrated tone from him could trigger a switch that might result in smashed dishes, kicked in doors, or my face in his face, screaming and howling. The worst though, came if i felt significantly threatened or shamed, then my system would broadcast the imperative that had been built into me by my abusers: GO HOME. I’d immediately leave the house and hit the road, often hitchhiking into the city and disappearing for hours or even a day/night.
I had no control over my actions, but it wasn’t anger’s fault. Anger was doing its job. Anger had been activated inside me long ago, but it wasn’t safe for me to feel it until i was an adult and safely away from my abusers. If i’d shown anger i risked what little home and safety i had. Sure, it wasn’t much, and no, i wasn’t really safe at all… But i didn’t know that. I was raised to believe whatever best suited my mother’s whims and desires. I believed i was bad and unlovable, and i believed that i was lucky… No. Fortunate… No. I was BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE that she had deigned to bestow her mercy on me and throw me the odd crumb of love, attention, lodging, food.
I stuffed my anger down so far i wasn’t even aware i was angry.
And the couple of times i felt it in her presence i was put in my place – easily and instantly.
I knew it was an emotion to which the likes of me had no right.
And it wasn’t so much that anger made me lose control – feeling anything intensely enough caused me problems. I was so split apart that the only way for me to function was to act, to put on a show. All i knew was donning the face costume of the day and hoping for the best. I didn’t understand that i was mostly smoke and mirrors until i was well into adulthood. I gave everyone what i thought they expected/wanted, and shoved everything that was uniquely me so far down inside i forgot i was anything else.
Acknowledging that my childhood was abusive, that my primary abuser was my mother, and that the result of it all was that i was a multiple, allowed some things to swim up to the surface. Therapy and time was required for me to figure out how to handle it all. Looking at all of my past was a terrible experience, painful and ugly. It triggered all sorts of reflexive responses: to shut down, to run away, to blame myself, to drown in shame and seek forgiveness… Any or all of these might have swallowed me whole, but anger came in and saved me every time.
Anger took my hand and squeezed it tight and said, No, and Stop, and Hold on a minute here.
Anger asked me, What did you do to deserve that?
Anger answered for me and said, Nothing you could have done would have deserved that.
Anger shouted from the sidelines, What a fucking monster! She is one sick bitch!
Anger asked, Who does this shit? What the fuck was wrong with her?
Anger ranted and groused and cursed and jumped up and down and pounded its fists.
Anger turned my face back to it, again and again and again, and said to me No. Stop. Fuck that shit.
Anger pulled me close and turned my face back out and Look. Look at all this and SEE. See who she was. See what she did to you. Look at how little you were. How innocent and sweet and good. See that you did nothing, could do nothing, to deserve what she did to you.
Anger swept away all distraction and opened my eyes to the stark truth.
Anger rose up before me in righteousness and fiery resolve.
Anger peeled the scales from my eyes and turned them to ash.
Anger burned my prison to cinders.
Anger danced me into the furnace, and i was not burned.
Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and goodwill, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper, and the finder of lost children.
~ Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction
Anger is he who came and shepherded me. Anger found me and kept me. And then set me free.
I take a deep breath & I count to 3, in hope that it’s grounding me,
poetic my tantrums bound to be when I’ve found relief, sound asleep,
this anger will never be about to leave, you’ll see
~ Esskay, Beautiful Anger
IMAGE: Amruth Pillai