Evolution of Anger

Right after Luke broke my boundary by having Sam text me, I wrote this about my anger:

I had counseling yesterday. I had a lot to talk about, most of it centered around the horrific five days I just had.

I’m… well, I don’t exactly know what I’m feeling now. It is a tangled mess of feelings and non-feelings. A boundary was broken twice this weekend and upon assigning positive intent, I know it was out of care and concern. At least the first broken boundary was. I can’t figure out the second time and I have no way of finding out about it either.

I was telling Liz about this yesterday and the only way I can describe what is going on in my head is that it is like I’m watching a movie of my life. Ya know how when you watch a movie, but you aren’t invested in the characters, you can watch it and not feel a thing? Well, that is what it feels like. I’m watching a movie where I’m the lead character but I’m not invested in the movie at all so I don’t feel anything. Liz said that it might be a difference in intensity that I can’t recognize yet.

I’m so used to having all this impotent rage at Bubba that a very high level of anger intensity seems to be the only intensity I can recognize as anger. I spent years having my boundaries trampled and there was nothing I could do about it. I could feel the rage deep down. I have Fluffy to show for all those years. I never was allowed to let it come spewing out so it just fed the beast and the beast grew.

Now I find myself in a position where my boundary was crossed but it is the first time it’s happened where I can see maybe why it was done, but I can’t confront the person and try to work it out. I told Liz my instinct is to cut this person out of my life for good. She said her husband crosses her boundaries but when she talks to him about it, he apologizes, and doesn’t do it again. She said she does the same thing to him. Relationships are hard and no one is perfect.

I was up at 4:00 am just chewing on this. I think she has some valid points. Right now there really is nothing I can do about it but put it away back in some closet in my mind because there is no possibility for discussion or resolution at this time. At some point I can pull it back out, ask for an explanation, and then go from there. I’m hoping writing this all out will help me lock it away for now.

 And I need to continue to work on feeling my feelings more and in light of who I am now, not who I was back then. Anger has so many different intensities that I’d forgotten about. There is upset, perturbed, irritated, annoyed, angry, spitting nails, just so many ranges.  I simply don’t understand any of them yet.

I started working with Liz on recognizing the levels of anger that one can feel.  There are many times during the day that we can feel varying levels of anger.  When our alarm goes off in the morning and we aren’t ready to get out of bed, we can feel annoyed.  I felt that as anger and I fed it to Fluffy.  When our children don’t do what they are told, we can get perturbed.  I felt that as anger and I fed it to Fluffy.  When we get cut off in traffic, we can get irritated.  I felt that as anger and I fed it to Fluffy.  No matter the level of anger, I never felt safe enough to express it, so I just fed Fluffy a constant diet.  It was now time to stop feeding him and start feeling the different levels of anger.

I started making an effort to put an exact name to my feelings when I started to shove them down.  I could actually hear Liz’s voice in my head, “Hope, what are you feeling right now?  You need to name this emotion.  Don’t feed it to Fluffy.”

A couple of days after the divorce was finalized, I wrote this:

I’m in a funk tonight. I do not understand it. I’m trying to pick out the actual emotions and I just am having trouble. So, I’m going to work through it here. Maybe if I can pick out one or two, more will follow.

And there it is. I was chatting with a friend online and was talking about Fluffy. She told me I have every right to be angry. That struck something in me. Deep down I don’t feel like I have a right to be angry. When I was angry and hurt and processing this past summer my parents interpreted my anger as hatred and I was vilified for it. My family all saw hate creeping in to my emails. The message that I got was “We don’t believe you. You have no right to be mad. You must put this aside and work out your marriage.” I had no right to limit contact because that was cruel. Yes, my mother called me cruel because I was protecting myself.

I was struggling to learn about all the nuances of anger.  I had buried my anger over everything for so long that I now knew only one degree of anger – rage – and it was to be stifled because it was dangerous.  I think I had it so firmly in my head that I couldn’t let the anger out until after the divorce was finalized that I somehow thought the intense rage I carried (in the form of Fluffy) would somehow lessen once I was free.  It was never anything I could articulate, I guess it was just a hope I had buried along with Fluffy.  Once the divorce was final and Fluffy didn’t just evaporate, I was left with the fact that I had to deal with him and I didn’t know where to start.

I didn’t want to release Fluffy with the kids around.  I knew the type of rage that Fluffy represented and they had been the victims of enough rage at Bubba’s hands that I knew I could never do anything like that in front of them.  I started planning to release Fluffy while they were with Bubba for the summer.  I also knew I didn’t want to be alone when I finally unlocked Fluffy’s cage.  I knew I’d need strong Christian women around me to keep me from becoming Fluffy.  I didn’t want to be consumed by his rage and allow him to take over everything that I was.  I needed strong, faithful women surrounding me with their prayers.

In the meantime, I was having trouble coming to grips with the fact that even though I could feel all the rage seething inside of me, I really felt I had no right to my anger.  I was still fighting the demons of my past that said happy was the only acceptable emotion.

Rationally, I knew I had every right to be angry and my anger was justified.  Deep down, where the small child in me lived, I felt that I wasn’t allowed to be angry.  I had to forgive and forget and never speak of it again.  I had to continue to allow Bubba to do whatever he pleased to me because that is the only way a good Christian lived.  My family did not understand boundaries at all and Bubba was able to manipulate them into believing that by setting boundaries, I was actually being the controlling one.

Yes, I had a right to my anger but it took many months to believe it deep down in my soul.  It took many months of working through this all with Liz to see that Fluffy needed to be released and that he had a right to his day.

I started making plans to have my friends over.

I had special plans in store to release Fluffy – plans that would allow me to release the rage and feel it and hopefully, not be consumed by it.

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