Anger is one of the first reactions to child sexual abuse
experience anger in response to being abused, and anger is among the victim's short-term emotional problems
and long-term consequences
is one of the first responses that mothers feel
, and anger continues as a symptom of grief
, and related to ongoing pain and hurt
. After discovering that you have lost someone or something that you love, or someone has deliberately harmed them, you are angry. Anger and rage occur for many women following disclosure
of their child's sexual abuse
. You may continue to feel angry for months, years, or decades.
After finding out that your child has been sexually abused, you may feel helpless
, powerless, and unable to do anything to change the situation or make things better. Your anger may be directed at the perpetrator
, yourself, life, God, the victim
, law enforcement
, social services
, the judge, and/or the attorney
. There is no end to the number and identities of who you may be angry towards regarding your child's abuse.
Rage is qualitatively different from anger although it is anger in a more acute form. With anger, you do not like something that has occurred. You judge it as wrong, unfair, or cruel, and you are angry at a person, event, or situation. WIth rage, you want to get even. You want revenge. Rage may rise up inside you with overwhelming power. When you feel it, you recognize it as rage. You feel the difference between rage and anger. In a rage state, you may think about harming the person - you may imagine things that you never thought yourself capable of thinking.
If you do not face the reality of your anger, it can fester and become resentment, something you can hold onto for years. It no longer is you holding onto the resentment, however, it is the resentment holding onto you. Resentment is the anger you have about an event that, although it occurred a long time ago, still feels the same as it did when it first occurred. When you think about the person, situation, or event, the feelings come up as strong as they did initially.
Anger is like a live thing. You feed it with your negative thoughts
. When you get stuck in thoughts about a person or situation, you repeat those thoughts over and over in your mind, you give your life away to the person. Moments, hours, days, years may be wasted in negative emotions. You cannot heal. And your wound festers. The problem with resentment is that you are controlled by the painful emotions you have because of your anger at another person. However, the other person is not hurt by your anger. You hurt yourself. Resentment over time become hatred. Hatred is the most destructive force in the world. It is a poison that eats you from the inside out
Some mothers initially feel angry about the abuse but later begin to experience feelings
or shame. The anger may move underground, but it has not left. Other mothers may become depressed and immobilized. Depression
has been called anger turned inward
. When you become angry, chemical reactions occur in your body. Your body and mind are in a stress
state. If anger is maintained over time, it causes negative effects
on your health. Anger management
skills can help you take anger and turn it into something less damaging.
Mothers may or may not initially experience anger. Shock
may be the first response. These may last for a period of time, different for all mothers, and provide a buffer against the stronger, more shattering losses you may be unable to accept quite yet. This is normal. Eventually the realization of the abuse is accepted and integrated into life. Choices and decisions then flow from facing the truth
- a reality-based approach to your life.You can then mourn your losses
By reframing thoughts and feelings about the perpetrator and the abuse, you can forgive
. You do not forgive because the perpetrator deserves it, you forgive to save your life. Hostility is deadly. You also need to forgive yourself
. Guilt, shame, self-blame, depression, and self-hatred must be released. In order to let go and get out of these powerful emotional states, self-forgiveness is necessary.
Anger is considered a secondary emotion. In other words, it was not the initial emotion, but it is the emotion that people may recognize first and react to. When someone betrays you, the underlying feeling response may be hurt, betrayal
, sadness, confusion, or anxiety
about the future. But what you portray may be anger. Mindfulness
with your feelings, having support
people to talk to - all these will help you manage your strong feelings and transform them into a powerful force for change in your life. Take these steps, and you can control your anger, instead of your anger controlling you.
- Face your anger - Notice it, become aware of it. Know what the signs are that you are angry.
- Acknowledge your anger - Name it. Know that you are angry and admit it. Say to yourself, "I'm angry right now." Do not deny your emotions.
- Allow yourself to feel your anger - Do not avoid, hide from, push away, run away from, deny your anger or any strong emotion. Notice it, name it, feel it. Pay attention to where in your body you are feeling it. Get still and silent and become an outside observer to yourself and your anger.
- Process your way through your anger - Get underneath it. What is there? If anger is a secondary emotion, then what is the first emotion? If anger is a blanket emotion, what is under the blanket? Is it hurt, fear, disappointment, worry, grief, betrayal - what is driving the anger? Then feel that emotion.
- Let go of it - Work towards letting go of the anger. Anger provides information. It lets you know that something is going on. It is alerts you to danger. It tells you there is a problem that you need to take care of. Once it does its job, let it go away. Use your anger, then let it go. This is a difficult task.
Analogies about anger:
- Anger is like an iceberg. You only see the tip above the water. The mountainous mass of ice is underneath the water. Think of layers in ice: under the anger may be hurt; under the hurt, fear; under the fear, helplessness; under the helplessness hopelessness.
- A way to think about resentment is that it is a poison that you drink. However, you drink this poison thinking that it will kill someone else. No reasonable person thinks that they will kill another person by their drinking something. However, that is what resentment does. You harbor thoughts of hatred or ill-will towards a person because they did a horrific thing - they abused your child. However, the anger and hatred are killing you - negatively impacting important life-enhancing neurochemicals, reducing your immune system, increasing your chance of heart disease, cancer, and many other chronic illnesses. The other person is living his life - perhaps as if he had never done this thing. Save your own life - let go of the resentments.
- Resentment is like having a rat in your house, and in your effort to get rid of the rat, you burn your house down. Yes, the rat is killed - if he did not escape. But your house is no more. You have destroyed something of value.