“What do I do with my anger and rage?”

In our culture, we’re taught to not be angry, to calm down, and to “overcome” our anger, the emotion that alerts us to violations. Cruelty and contempt from caregivers is a serious violation. It’s no wonder survivors of severe abuse often ask “What do I do with my anger and rage?” They are barraged by the false assertion that is that anger is bad for us, we shouldn’t express it, and we should try to make it go away, especially by repression. That can put us on a hamster wheel of helpless rage and outrage. This is why it is important to bring anger and rage into the physical realm through meaningful action. There are infinite ways to express them that aren’t harmful to anybody and that an abuser doesn’t even have to know about. 

Rituals and ceremonies can be powerfully transformative. I buried “the father of my dreams” in a mock funeral in the rain. It wasn’t so much an expression of rage but the hurt and the disappointment. The effect was profound. 

I also duplicated a photo of my father that showed his meanness. I printed out 15 copies on one piece of paper in black and white. I cut them out and tossed one image into the toilet before each use. There’s something satisfying about pissing on your abusive dad and flushing him. It didn’t truly dispose of him or make him stop being a Dark Tetrad, but it helped solidify in me a change in the field between us because it changed my affect toward him. And so in that way, it was effective. 

One year, I sent out a crappy birthday card to him and another to my abductor. I found my abductor’s father’s address and mailed it to him there. The cards for my perps were similar. Each said, “On your birthday…” on the front with a cartoon dog with balloons and other festive elements. Inside it said, “I hope you remember all the horrible abuse you perpetrated against me and take all the responsibility. I hope you have a crappy birthday!” 

I printed the words shame, blame, and responsibility on a piece of paper, cut them out individually, and put them inside the cards. I intended them to fall out like confetti when they opened the card. I imagined my father getting his and opening it in his kitchen, where the floor was cheap vinyl that had super static cling. A tiny piece of paper would be hard to pick up. I imagined him having to pick them up and being pissed off that he had to clean up the mess. I even had a friend mail it from another state with the address in her handwriting so he’d have no clue who sent it or what might be inside.

A few years ago I tied a string around my wrist twice with two knots, one for each of my dark personality parents. I held a little ceremony in which I cut the strings off and burned them as I spoke about my parents and the relationships. It was empowering.

My childhood was a boot camp run by monsters, so for me, fighting back as a Trauma Awareness Activist-Artist and Relational Neuroscience educator is part of healing. I strive to transmute the rage of generations of abused children into a force for positive change. Pow! 

I highly recommend having a temper tantrum and tearing up phone books that someone else has agreed to clean up. Other ways to express anger and rage: art, poetry, satire, comics, dance, drumming, music, and other physical acts speak to us at the somatic level. You might have a naked dance in the moonlight and burn something to free yourself or express your rage and he’s not gonna know about it, but it’s gonna feel mighty good to you. 

If you’re repeatedly unheard, that’s a kind of shaming and a kind of denial of your lived experience. You need to find an appropriate way to “protest,” or speak your truth. If your protest is heard and responded to you don’t continue to feel angry and that rage is like the fermented anger that it’s been bubbling in. Expressing it through mindful acts can be a way to be heard, especially if you invite trusted individuals to participate.

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