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'Til Rage Do Us Part

by Julia
(Phoenix, AZ)

I'm 25. I've spent three years of my life being physically, emotionally and verbally abused by my ex-lovers. During those years, I felt repeatedly abandoned, helpless, criticized, underestimated, under appreciated. I was angry and afraid to show it, because if I did, I would lose them. Instead, I decided that I deserved no better than to be treated like dirt, and I stayed in those relationships.

I got through those years by punching walls and smashing anything within reach. Driving my car down the highway at night, screaming with the windows up, until the tears finally came. When those relationships finally fell apart, I came to terms with exactly how much anger I had walled up inside me. But I never really had a chance to let those people know effectively. And if I had had the chance, they wouldn't have understood anyway. They would have found a way to justify their behavior to themselves.

Even outside of my past relationships, I’ve never really known how to deal with anger. My normal reaction is to run away from the situation and cry later when I’m alone—and then for the next few months, I can’t stop thinking about that situation and how I could have handled it differently, or what I would have liked to say at precisely which moment.

Now, I'm in a relationship with a wonderful man. We were friends before we were lovers, and he's the first person who ever made me feel normal—accepted totally, loved unconditionally, and capable of happiness in the simplest sense of the word. Our relationship is about to turn a year old, and I am terrified that I will do something to sabotage it. I will lose him if I don't stop getting angry. What is worse, I will destroy him, the wonderful, caring, kind person he is.

I get angry at him over perfectly silly things. Things that are not his fault, things that are completely trivial and inconsequential, which I would ordinarily laugh off without a second thought. He's the kind of person who doesn't react immediately. Sometimes, he goes quiet and listens to me rant, offering no response whatsoever. That makes me angrier, and I get nastier. Sometimes, he tries to pacify me and calm me down, even going so far as to accept full responsibility for whatever upset me.

In my head, I know it's not his fault, or if it is, I know that I am blowing things way out of proportion, but the knowledge is not enough to make me stop. Sometimes, he firmly says one or two sentences to remind me of how small the issue is, and I manage to quiet myself down, but I stay crabby and irritable for the rest of the evening.

I know all this is bad for him. He's under a lot of stress with work as it is. He has health issues. Every time I shout at him, I go into a guilt trip later. I think about how much better he deserves to be treated, and how I’ve turned into the abuser in this relationship. He keeps telling me that I’m not a bad person—I just don’t know how to handle anger correctly. He keeps telling me that no matter what I do, this relationship will not fall apart. But I am terrified of the price that he will have to pay to ensure that, if I cannot fix this on my own.

Over the past few weeks, I must have read nearly all the online literature available on anger management, but I just can't stop. I've tried calming myself down, I’ve sat and strategized about what to do when I get angry, I've even involved him in those plans. But once I start, I lose all perspective. Everything he does just makes me angrier.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Julia. Thanks for telling your story here so that others can benefit. I know for a fact that many people have been where you are, knowing that they are hurting someone they love and feeling helpless to stop it.

You can do this. You can be the person you want to be. You can protect your relationship so that you and your current partner can be safe and happy.

Here is what I recommend:

1) Write the story of your anger, going as far back as you can remember. Your anger has a good reason for being there, and its story needs to be heard. Hear/write it objectively, without judgment.

2) Journal from your anger every day. It needs an outlet, and journaling is a safe and healthy way to get it out where nobody gets hurt. Don't bother about being reasonable--anger is not reasonable. Just give pure expression to only the anger--and no one is to read it but you.

3) Journal daily about what you like and appreciate about yourself and your man-friend, and your life in general. The attitude of appreciation is a very strong and healthy state of mind, and it will help you with everything.

4) Practice these anger management techniques on a regular, ongoing basis until you feel relief.

5) Eat regular, balanced meals, exercise regularly and develop a spiritual practice if you don't already have one. Having something positive to believe in beyond yourself is tremendously valuable.

6) Keep writing on this site until you get to where you want to be. Writing by itself is very helpful and therapeutic.

7) Believe in yourself. You're a good person, and that's why your behavior is bothering you. You know that you're better than your reactions, and you know that you're a good, healthy person inside. Focus on that goodness.

I wish you all the best on your journey, Julia.

Dr. DeFoore

Comments for 'Til Rage Do Us Part

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Nov 10, 2009
by: KayP

Hi. I just wanted to encourage you...You are ALREADY doing something to change the destroying patterns and habits that you had going...You've recognized (1)that there is a problem, (2)You've identified your portion of the responsibility, and (3)you've accepted that it is actually within YOUR influences, that you can change them. What you are still trying to figure out is, HOW to change this problem...Keep trying, try different things, & ask him to keep trying different things, ask him to keep showing you support for efforts to change, but not approval to remain the same. Keep your SUCCESSES recorded in your journaling, and start loving yourself more... All stuff you're already beginning to do, it seems... YOU CAN EFFECT A CHANGE IN YOURSELF. YOU WILL.

Jun 01, 2009
2. Stopping anger
by: Anonymous

If you are getting pleasure out of abusing and you think there is nothing you can do about that, that isn't true. IF you really want to do something about this I can tell you what will work. When you get any kind of disturbing thought say "I put that thought into captivity with Christ". If you're not a believer that is going to sound very weird but it will still work. In fact, that is one thing that you CAN with very little effort that will help. You might consider doing a Google search on bringing thoughts into captivity with Christ.

That's not the only thing you can do for yourself but it is very, very powerful. You won't know that to begin with but it will change you if you keep doing it.

Love to hear from you again. It always helps when we can back each other up. None of us ever get it right all the time. We have to forgive and love ourselves as much as anything.

One other thing you might try is loving yourself in the middle of being angry. To a degree you are completely abandoning yourself in these episodes. Next time, try saying your full maiden name to yourself and then say 'You know how you're feeling crazy angry about so and so and how you want to do (this or that, whatever it is), I LOVE you for that. I love you and understand how you're feeling.' Keep talking to yourself in a supportive way and see what happens. You'll see that there is a sudden change inside. You see how desperately your inner child opens up to that love.

By the way, thank you SO much for saying you're glad I've left my mother. Dr DeFoore is the only other person who has said that to me and it's an amazing validation and support for me. Thank you.

Jun 01, 2009
1. Stopping anger is within your control
by: Abby

When I was at university I had an argument with a lecturer about whether or not we have control. She believed that we are all on reflex/relay/automatic systems where our nervous system simply reacts and there is nothing we can do about it. She was a physiology lecturer. I argued that that wasn't true and said that if she picked up a pot from the stove where the handle had heated up to a point where it would burn her she would, yes, ordinarily drop the pot immediately. But I said "if your little girl is standing underneath the pot, you will bring the pot back over the stove before you put it down". She had to admit that that control was possible.

I listened to a Joyce Meyer video a while back. She's a preacher, I don't know if you know her, and she said, even after she was a pastor herself working for someone else in a church, she would go off in rages at home. But, she noticed that if HER pastor came up the drive whilst she was in the middle of one of these rages, she would IMMEDIATELY get herself together, open the door and say 'Oh pastor, how lovely to see you. Praise the Lord. Oh the children? They're playing in their rooms'.

Everyone roared with laughter because, to some greater or lesser degree, we have all had that experience. We have amazing control given the right circumstances. Maybe it would be someone offering you a vast sum of money but there would be SOMETHING that would motivate you to get back in control. It might be that you would suddenly be in a position where you may be facing a possible jail sentence which would motivate you to say 'Hey, I better get control here'. It might be that all of that anger implodes and you give yourself panic attacks and severe depression. I can tell you that, no matter how angry you are, you wouldn't wish that on the devil himself.

You need to know Julia, that it's very possible that either the jail sentence or the panic attacks is going to come your way if you don't do something to help yourself. No matter what you choose to do, there will be consequences. Make them something good for yourself and your partner.

It is possible that you have a hormonal/chemical imbalance which is also fueling this anger and you need to get that checked out.

Jun 01, 2009
Thanks Abby
by: Julia

I read your comment long ago and wanted to reply to it then, but haven?t managed to find the time until now, for which I?m sorry. I read your story. I could not believe what you have gone through. And I am even more amazed at the fact that you have emerged from such pain and such confusion, and are slowly putting together a life for yourself. You sound like you?re doing well, and I?m happy for you, glad that you've left your mother, glad that you?re on the way towards building something better for yourself. Yes, the process of grieving, and dealing with it will probably take a long time, but once you have initiated it, as you start to understand some things, you can start to let go of them. You sound like a wonderful person, and I wish you the best in your search for peace.

You were wondering if there was anything in my story like yours. There wasn?t. I had a happy childhood. Thank you for the acknowledgement that what the men in my life did to me was wrong. And I know what you?re saying about just having realized that you can demand to be treated well. I didn?t know that either. After I came out of those relationships, it took me years to realize that the friends who stood by me weren?t being excessively charitable or kind towards me. I actually deserved such amazing friends, and I would do the same for them. And I didn?t need to thank them each time they listened to me talk or cry. And I deserved to be treated well in relationships.

Recently, I have been reading old journal entries dating from those years, trying to revisit old experiences in an attempt to assign blame where it is due and maybe forgive where forgiveness is due. I have also been keeping an anger journal. I think I am starting to understand some things. But can anyone tell me why I am doing this, getting angry at someone who has done nothing to deserve the anger, but who just happens to be fulfilling the same role as other people (who actually deserved the anger) did in the past? Resentment, no doubt. Anger that could not find expression in the right place so is now being directed where it will most easily be absorbed or deflected without hurting me in the process. Is it also a way of testing the limits of this relationship, to see whether it can endure what I have endured? Is it a form of control? Have I conveniently internalized abusive behavior patterns from past relationships because I find them pleasurable? Disgusting as that sounds, it can?t be, because once the reaction is in motion, all I can think of is what to break or what to do that will make me stop feeling that way. I would rather die than keep feeling that way. I am no longer seeking help only because I am worried about my boyfriend. I also need to stop for the sake of my own sanity. Because the next time I get angry, I don?t know what I?m going to do, especially if I happen to be behind the wheel of a car.

Apr 02, 2009
Hi Julia
by: Abby

Thank you for your story Julia. I can remember feeling and acting as you describe. I wonder if there was anything in your life like there was in mine. My story is in the PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) spot on this site and it's called "A Walk Through Hell" I think I called it. It takes a long, long time to come to look at childhood abuse and to deal with it. If there was any for you, I hope you deal with it soon.

It sounds like my brothers and I stuck together but that didn't happen either. I would cry for them. They would tell my mother to hit me harder. That might sound funny to some, but I didn't do anything to deserve it and I was terribly, terribly abused.

When we are abused, I've discovered that we make it our fault. The reason we do that is because it is the only control we have. If it's our fault, then we can fix it. But it isn't our fault so we can never fix it. What we need is for the abuser to admit what they did but of course they never will and that's where the rage comes from. But I will tell you Julia, that what the men in your life did to you was wrong, very, very wrong. Maybe it goes further back for you too I don't know.

Now, when you're being loved, all the hurt and rage is coming up from other things. Even though he says he will never leave Julia, he might, suddenly. Don't let that happen. Find people who will work with you to look at the past.

You know I only realized just recently, after being through abusive relationships too, that I can DEMAND to be treated well or I wouldn't get involved. Do you know, I didn't know that. It has taken me forever to live a reasonable normal life.

Don't waste it Julia. Find all the healing and all the validation and all the support you can and save yourself and your relationship. He doesn't deserve to be abused, just like you didn't.

I will deal with this for the rest of my life but I've improved so much since I really looked at what happened, since I accepted help.

I'll pray for you.

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