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Ya know, much of my initial mental health coping and re-orienting came from a place of anger and subsequent determination to right wrongs. I've talked about it before and I've written the copy for the site from this outraged standpoint.
But I don't know if I've explained it very well.
Let's do a quick correction/clarification on the purpose of Anger in your trauma recovery effort. Because the world doesn't need more indulgently angsty energy floating around.
This is how anger was a useful part of my trauma recovery.
In the beginning, there was only darkness
At the times when I was first dipping my toe into taking control of my mental health - getting accountable, integrating all my experiences, and forgiving myself - I wasn't in a "centered, peaceful place."
Lord nah, I was in a dark, angry, shit-filled pit. I felt frantic and overwhelmed all the time, from the moment I woke up until I exhausted myself to sleep.
I didn't feel open to absorbing new information or enacting new mental health practices. I wasn't ready to hear a lot of the "higher-level" ideas about forgiveness or hope. Motherfucker, I was just a shut down, highly emotionally-condensed, terrified little ball of undealt-with feelings and memories.
When you're in this swirling shitstorm of anxiety, self-brutalization, and fear, I dare you to "look on the bright side" or "center yourself" or "get present" so you can start learning how to change your brain, behavior, and life. Git fucked.
This place of calm learning, slow reacting, and steady perseverance that's splattered across the well-intentioned-interwebs is just not accessible for more than a few seconds at a time before another intrusive thought comes storming in to change the subject.
But you know what emotion I could always access? Being pissed right off. I've certainly had that in my back pocket my entire life.
I had been living with so much anger for so many years, I never thought that it was something I could direct or leverage for good. But as I learned about trauma through slowly starting to consume new media (audiobooks, namely), I came to realize that it was okay to be mad about my circumstances.
These events had, after all, contributed to this miserable brain I didn't choose for myself. Why shouldn't I be a bit riled? Emotions are just energy. And I had a burning hot, seering energy inside of me.
Plus, anger was an early emotion that I could harness and direct, just by pushing my thoughts to one place or another.
Looking back at my early life and feeling betrayed, forgotten, and unfairly set on a path of lifelong destruction. Looking at my current life and feeling resentful for the asshole who was concurrently telling me he cared about my trauma recovery while doing everything he could to trigger me. Looking at myself and wondering how the fuck I let myself become this lost, pathetic, poot of a human being.
Anger and indignance are mentioned time and time again in my ramblings because these are accessible emotions that I can always reach, even in times of extreme anxiety.
Being overwhelmed and agitated is only a jump-skip from finding burning anger deep in my belly. And thanks to my obsessive thought patterns, it's a difficult flame to extinguish once it lights up.
I couldn't say that about the flowery places of hope, self-reliance, or forgiveness. Those were out of reach or fastly fleeting. And if you can't find perspective-changing states of mind, how do you see the path to start changing your world?
The benefit of Anger and Indigence
Now, don't get me wrong, these emotions are deleterious over time.
You don't want to be that irrationally upset old fart who shits on the whole world as they cling to life for 95 years, torturing everyone around them for the perceived injustices 80 years ago. (I've felt like this person, even as a 14 year old girl) Don't be that dude.
But, in the short term, actually... They can also be used to create certainty and devotion.
But before you dive into that super healing audiobook, just think about it.
What are some of your most long-lasting emotions? Can you think of someone who slighted you ten years ago? Do you still feel the rage?
Yeah, that fucker can burn in hell, even a decade down the line. All the positive feelings and memories faded long ago, but the upset is still very accessible. It does a great job of keeping you away from folks who fucked you in the past... probably by evolutionary design.
Anger is a powerful, lasting, driving emotion. It has a bad rap, but it can be used for good.
By setting an “anchor” in my past - a moment or particular sensation that I can easily revisit when I felt powerful and determined - I can reset my brain during difficult times when I start to slip into old, defeatist patterns.
Instead of letting anxiety drive me batty, or trauma drive me off the edge of no return, I bring my attention back to a moment of extreme resolve and clarity in my past. I feel the solidity of the emotion, and I use it to move myself forward.
Also, an inherent trait of mine - pissiness. It's motherfucking powerful when used for matters other than snapping at my loved ones.
You know what trauma sufferers lack? Ongoing autonomy and belief in themselves. You know what anger offers? Continuing motivation that doesn't want to be dampened.
Fuck the people who imparted your early traumatic experiences. Screw your ex who caused so much damage to your mental health. Drive off a bridge, everyone who said you couldn't do it or weren't good enough.
How dare they determine so much of your life. You never were meant to be this sad, socially-doomed creature. You're meant to do great things, and I'll be motherfucked if anyone is going to stop you.
You're not a victim, or a plaything, or a pawn in their own narrative of unresolved trauma. You're yourself. You're a strong, smart, accomplished human being. And you have so much more to do, despite a rocky start with bad hiking partners.
You're one Motherfucker. And anyone who says otherwise can git fucked.
Try it out, let it go, wrap it up.
Next time your brain is feeling anxiously disorganized, can you tap into outrage and personal conviction to refocus the spotlight? Can you make strong decisions based on what you know you deserve, and the frustration over all the ways you've been held back (by others, by mental health, by yourself)? Can you turn pain into confident determination?
Just remember, you're not fostering anger for an entire lifetime from this moment forward.
Forgiveness is going to need to come into play or you'll have a whole host of other mental and physical issues to deal with. But during the trauma recovery journey, forgiveness is a new skill that you'll necessarily have to develop to quiet your inner critic and process the past.
In order to get to that place where you're capable to feel, process, and release your past... I happen to think it's okay to be a little hellion.
Determine your purpose, let anger drive decision, and get protective. Don’t let trauma cloud your thinking for another wasted day. Git mad, and work towards being who you were always meant to be.
You Traumatized Motherfucker, you.