I’ve known many women who, after leaving a controlling male partner, experienced ongoing anger that just would not go away. Some women have incessant thoughts of revenge and fight with themselves not to do something they’ll regret. I’m writing this blog in response to a comment posted by Amy in my blog post about how victims cope with psychological abuse. Amy’s tried meditating, running, writing, art, etc. and continues to struggle with an “inner anger”. I have many questions/suggestions that could help expose and dampen the boiling lava underneath the surface . . .
Acknowledge your competence and functioning
List 50 ways in which you are a competent/functioning woman, sister, friend, daughter, mother, human – if you have trouble writing this list ask friends and family to help.
List 20 things you said and did in an attempt to make the relationship work.
List 20 ways you wish you’d behaved differently – then decide (a) which of these things could have in reality made a difference when faced with someone who was avoiding responsibility by denying, minimizing or blaming; and (b) which of these things you may need to practice in ongoing relationships with others.
Plan a meaningful future
Name 30 things/values/beliefs that are important to you. Prioritise them into what is the most important in your life. For me I make nearly all of my life choices based on the path that makes me feel most alive – “aliveness”.
Revise the meaning of “loyalty”
- Were you loyal to a committed relationship – or to your wellbeing?
- Were you loyal to respecting and trusting your partner despite some suspicious behaviours – or were you loyal to your gut feelings?
- Were you loyal to a situation that was depleting your lifeforce, that was eating you up inside, that was making you feel unwell – or were you loyal to whatever it is that makes you feel alive?
- Were you loyal to religious doctrines or social messages that it is a woman’s role to make a relationship work and that you made your bed you must lie in it – or were you loyal to your physical, spiritual, emotional wellbeing?
Unravel any remnants of confusion
Do you still hold tight to a Belief in a just world? (I wrote about the problem with this belief here.) Do you still wonder how someone you loved and trusted could be so deceiving, manipulative, denigrating and controlling? Do you still find it hard to believe he could do and say some terrible things to you? Do you still assume there’s something wrong with you and that despite doing a lot to try to make the relationship work you you still feel you failed? Do you continue to churn over ways you could have behaved differently to ensure you did not “fail”?
The way I personally deal with the “belief in a just world” is to acknowledge that so-called good people, people in positions of authority, people who are supposed to be trustworthy – can all do and say unjust, abusive things – fact. People misusing power and control lurk around many unsuspecting corners. Do NOT BE SURPRISED by this fact. Acknowledge this as a reality. Keep a watch out for it – do not live by the illusion that this problem does not exist. On the other hand MOST people are great. Be surprised every time you spend time with a new person who you can trust – and celebrate that person.
Another idea – List things your ex-partner said about you that you still wonder might be true. Get real about which of those things are true and change them. Get real about which of those things were blatantly not true – and tell yourself the truth.
Powerlessness and vulnerabilities often underpin anger
Brainstorm answers to each of the following. Say the question out loud to yourself over and over until you have come up with several answers to each question . . .
- A way I’m feeling vulnerable as a result of what happened to me is . . .
- A way I still feel unsafe is . . .
- Ways I now lack trust are . . .
- The fears underlying this anxious feeling are . . .
- A reason I’m resisting letting go of anger is . . .
- A reason I’m resisting letting go of revenge is . . .
- Something I still feel resentful about as a result of that relationship is . . .
- A way the feeling of shame is affecting me is . . .
Your answers to these questions will give you clues to issues you need to deal with – and anger may not be one of them. Finally, I recommend you read my post The Belief in a Just World because this will also help you to come to terms with your anger.