This is our truth, tell us yours
we live in a culture that prizes extreme emotions, and all to often judges the harm that has been done to someone by their inability to cope afterwards. Sadly whilst social media can be wonderful for support, it can also perpetuate the idea that unless you are currently suffering extremely you are not suffering at all. Leading to my timeline this morning where I had to block a bunch of people angrily jumping up and down shouting that wishing an abuser dead was the right way to feel.
Of course in one sense any way you feel is the right way to feel, since it is how you feel, however as someone who wants not to be motivated by negative emotions I have had to consider the value of anger. One of the problems with “I wish they were dead” is that in your anger you are allowing an abuser to have power over you. You might never see them again, they might be completely excluded from your life physically, but physically they are still running the show. Anger is posited as powerful, and indeed we need fight or flight responses in order to protect ourselves from immediate danger. However once the danger is passed keeping hold of that rage has been shown over and over again to be exceptionally damaging.
when someone harms us we have no choice, this, quite understandably can make us angry. I know I still have an aversion to confronting the anger the child within me felt at both my abuser and those who turned a blind eye to the abuse. However I refuse to allow my abusers any more of my life than they have already taken. I refuse to let anger control or damage me. I may have had no power as a child, or as an adult rape victim, but I do have power now.
I am reminded of the drama triangle here. Often we get caught in certain roles, and repeating certain behaviours. People struggle with the idea of personal responsibility here, preferring to see themselves as mere flotsam tossed by the waves which make up their lives. This may be the place they are at, but that place is one of disempowerment and danger. Whilst we still see ourselves in the role of victim we can never break the triangle.
When we are still motivated by anger (which is not the same as feeling anger, we can feel an emotion and decide to not let it motivate us) then we are still in the victim mode. Wishing someone dead, when we have no capacity to make that happen, is saying we are still not OK, refusing to use adult thinking and problem solving and instead putting our hopes for recovery into a magical, unachievable event.
I use refuse here, which may upset some people, who see themselves as the flotsam tossed by the waves. It is a hard lesson, as anyone who has been in therapy will testify. Others may hurt us, but only we are responsible for the thoughts in our heads and how they make us feel (Aware even writing this that there is a whole issue with people with mental health conditions where they are not responsible for how they feel, such as bi polar. For the purposes of this piece I mean people without such conditions). We all have a choice, whether to stay in the triangle or not. Sometimes the choice is to stay. If you know someone who moves from one abusive relationship to another, they are choosing to stay in the role of victim. There can be many reasons someone does so, fear, being one of the most common.
Again using the word choice is a red rag to some, the flotsam people. They think choice is something you do shopping, not something you have over how you feel or act. Which is of course the other strength of the drama triangle, because there is another group who claim to have no control over how they act or feel, and that is abusers. The drama triangle is a dynamic model, highlighting how we often move from abused to abuser, because that is safer for us than stepping outside the triangle.
Am I saying any of this is easy? Of course not, but then is being ruled by anger easy either? Because it is not easy we do fall back, I feel the rage sometimes, yesterday I wept impotent tears about a situation I cannot change, I was teetering on the edge of falling back into the victim role and putting someone else into persecutor. However had I done so I would have been making a choice, to allow myself to be that powerless child rather than being an adult.It isnt easy we sometimes need support, and if we are still in the triangle we may look for support in the wrong places. This is perhaps the hardest habit to break, recognizing rescuers are just another aspect of an abuser takes a lot of unlearning. Society tells us otherwise, indeed the fifty shades of Grey phenomena pushes the drama triangle as something to aspire too, and shows us that millions of women prefer to remain victims. This prefer is not to ignore the huge societal pressures on women to remain in that role, or that for some it is too unsafe to break the triangle (such as people currently in an abusive relationship). However only by stepping out of the victim mode can we heal and recover.