Anger is one of the most complicated God given emotions. For survivors, anger is a rather deep emotion that we often experience. The depth of that anger and how often that anger is felt or expressed all depends on our ability to properly channel that anger. As women and especially women of faith, we are taught to be nice and polite. Therefore, when we become angry at those who hurt us and those who were not there for us during such a traumatic time in our lives, we often suppress our anger. I believe that for survivors of sexual abuse, be it rape, sexual assault, molestation, incest, etc., we get to a place on our journey of healing where we feel like Helen (Kimberly Elise) in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. When asked why she was so angry, her response was classic, "I’m not angry, I’m mad as hell." Now that’s real. There are times when anger is an understatement of what we feel but for a lack of better words, we are simply mad as hell. It’s okay to be angry. However, anger that is not properly dealt with can escalate from a mild annoyance to full blown rage.
So, how do we deal with and manage our anger? First pinpoint what we are angry about. Often times we think it’s the driver that’s driving 10 mph under the speed limit in the fast lane, our spouses and significant others not doing what we want them to do, our rebellious teenage child, or maybe even that coworker that seems to always stop by five minutes before it’s time for you to go home. However, these occurrences may or may not be the true source of our anger. For survivors, the source of our anger, maybe even whom we are angry with, stems back to the violation of our bodies and the loss of power and control during the attack.
Secondly, we have to determine who's at the source of our anger. Who we are angry with is just as important as why we are anger. For many years, I was downright angry with my then boyfriend for not being there for me when I needed him and the fact that he blamed me for what happened. I later realized, although his response was wrong, selfish and hurtful, he was not the source of my anger. My anger boiled down to the fact that I had been raped/sexually assaulted and I was angry with myself. My thoughts were I should have never allowed this person to come see me or if I had not gone to see them, this wouldn't have happened to me. Yet, I was angry with the wrong person. To adequately deal with out anger, we have to be sure that we are blaming and angry with the right person. I was not the one to blame. The one to blame and be angry with was the perpetrator.
Now that we've clarified the reason for our anger is what has happened to us and the anger/blame should be turned towards the perpetrator and not anyone else, how do we deal with it in a healthy way. Wait, before I move on, let me be clear as it relates to the people that are not as understanding and supportive as we feel they should be, I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t get frustrated with them. However, I am saying that their actions are in response to what has happened not the cause of what happened.
Stop whatever your doing. Walk away!!!
Do something else as long as it doesn’t bring harm to you or others.
For example, punching the wall is not a good idea. Instead, do some form of physical exercise, i.e. push-ups, sit-ups, running in place, take a walk, etc.
Talk to someone you feel comfortable sharing your anger with.
Pray about it.
God is a great listener and he actually already knows about your anger even if you anger is towards him.
Talk to him anyway though, he can handle your anger. After all, he’s the one that created us to have that emotion.
Write about your anger.
You don’t have to show anyone your writings. As a matter of fact, you can destroy your writing when you’re done.
The purpose of writing is to get it out so that you don’t internalize it.
These are only a few ways to manage your anger and by no means all of them. The point is that it’s okay to be angry and there are alternatives to simply flying off the handle. It’s a normal emotion. However, to manage the emotion doesn’t mean that it eliminates the anger itself but it allows us to see it clearly and reduce the negative effects that it can have in our lives.
So, what are some healthy ways you’ve handled anger? What are some of the not so healthy ways you’ve handled anger?