The Wrong Uses for Righteous Anger
Victims of narcissistic abuse hold a lot of anger. Righteous anger, deserved anger, just anger. They may not know it, but they do. Acknowledging the anger, accepting it, embracing it, expressing it and ultimately working it through takes time, time, time and a lot of work.
It’s easy to get stuck in the anger phase, even after the heat of your original wrath has been cooled by the healing passage of time. That’s where I’m at. (Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. No, I’m not sorry! ;D )
I’ve expressed my anger and worked through it. I’ve learned that the anger will never go away and it’s become part of my internal fabric. My anger has cooled from approximately 9,941°F (the temperature of the surface of the sun) to what the French call frémir — a cooking temperature cooler than a simmer, but yet hot enough for the liquid to “shiver.”
But just this week I’ve realized that I’ve been pulling out that anger, playing with it, toying with it for all the wrong reasons.
Because I’m so codependent, I use my anger to create a strength I don’t really have. It’s helpful, but not healthy.
And because I’m so hypothyroid, I use my anger to give me energy. Really not healthy.
For the past few years, Michael and I hosted a simple, homely (the British definition of “homely”) dinner party for our friends almost every Saturday night. Our friends were hospitable to us and we felt we had to reciprocate. Something about “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” (Prov. 18:24) Now that all sounds very nice, but in retrospect, I should’ve known better. Ah, woe is codependent me!
Unfortunately, I didn’t know back then that I was hypothyroid and insulin resistant. I thought I was merely lazy. Every Saturday found me in a passion of anger. I was angry at my lack of energy. Angry I “had to” play hostess, which I hate. Angry my friend made it look so easy when she hosted us. Angry our party had to be on Saturdays, my lowest-energy day in the whole week. Angry when the pipes froze just when I needed to wash dishes and cook. Angry when the vacuum clogged. Angry at hosting friends who always talked derogatorily about disabled people, white collar people, depressed people, fat people — people just like Michael and me. Angry they used our computers and television (which their religion forbids them from having) while (more or less) ignoring Michael and me. Angry, angry, angry!
And, worst of all, angry at myself for being angry.
The anger gave me the energy I needed to be a “perfect” hostess. By the time our guests arrived, I’d re-cleaned my already clean house. Put flowers in every room. Cooked a delicious meal plus hors d’oeuvres and dessert. Washed the dogs faces and, to their horror, spritzed them with doggy perfume. Etc., etc., etc. I was exhausted, wired and my sciatic pain made walking almost impossible. (No one noticed.)
My anger came in useful as an energy source, but wow! How terribly unhealthy — both physically and emotionally.
How many times have I been scanning the discussion in a Facebook narcissism group only to read, “Well, I did it. I went back to my narcissist. They seemed to upset, so penitent, I thought they’d changed. Now I’m kicking myself for being so stupid!”
Those kind of comments always piss me off. Why? Because I recognize how easy it would be fly back to my narcissists, my mind controllers, my gods (lowercase “g”). How I miss the warm glow of their praise and approval when I pleased them! How much I want life to be “okay” again, to be “okay” again as a person if they would only approve of me again. I left my self-esteem behind when I left them. They’ve always decided when I can feel okay about myself and the last time was four years ago. That’s what makes us want to go back to our narcissists. To have our “gods” smile upon us again. So we can feel okay about ourselves again.
When that temptation hits me, I hold up my anger and twirl it in front of my eyes. I open my “Timeline of Abuse” spreadsheet, read down the list of abuses, insults, weirdnesses committed against me and my anger begins to heat from a shivering frémir to a roiling, seething bouillir (boil). That anger gives this weak, scared, timid, codependent, mind-controlled and brainwashed woman the strength she does not really possess. After all, it worked for my narcissists! For years I watched one of them whip himself into a fury of rage when he needed be strong, but it always rang hollow. As though his anger simply gave him the appearance of a strength he did not really possess. I resemble that remark (and hate that I do.)
True strength is quiet. It’s undramatic. It says what it means and means what it says without screaming, yelling or getting red-in-the-face. I learned that from my husband. He has a lovely quiet strength which, at first, I mistook for weakness because he was so un-dramatic when he made a decision. I have learned better! He may be mild, but oh! he is strong. Even the dogs realize it. After he has his heart-to-heart chat with them, holding them up under their armpits and looking deeply into their brown eyes, they never disobey him again. Amazing!
So many of my readers tell me that you admire my strength and courage. Thanks, but no. I’m not really strong. But I’m mad, I’m gutsy and I’m stubborn. And I don’t want to plunge myself nor my husband back into the narcissistic Hell from which we’ve both escaped. That’s what keeps me writing Narcissism Meets Normalcy and not breaking No Contact.
I’d like to think a day will come when you and I don’t use our anger in unhealthy ways. It’s coming; I can feel it coming. Acknowledging it was the first step. Now that we’ve identified the problem, what are we doing to do about it? In lieu of anger, we’re gonna have to develop some real strength. That’s tough for people whose tongues cleave to the roof of their mouths when they try to say “n..n…nnnnnn…no.”
NO! We can’t say that word, can we.
I’ve had a few victories lately. I stopped inviting my friends over and started declining their invitations too. I felt guilty; they copped a ‘tude. Is that a true friend, an empathic friend?
No. It’s not. In retrospect, they may not have ever been true friends, but actually true users. So I talk to them now and then. No more invites. We’re just acquaintances now.
And when the desperate need for life to be “normal” again assaults me and I want to break No Contact, this is what I do:
- Sit down.
- Hold very still.
- Read a good book or watch comedy to distract myself.
- Wait ’til the feeling leaves me. It always does.
Might sound silly, but it works. Don’t entertain the idea of breaking NC. Don’t get mad. Just ignore it and like all temptations, it’ll starve and fade away for lack of attention, for lack of being taken seriously. As we’ve learned from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, the best way to treat a temptation is to allow it to awake your sense of humor and sense of proportion. Laugh at it. Temptations, like narcissists, can’t bear to be laughed at. It breaks their power!
If we stop entertaining our anger and using it for the wrong purposes, it’ll fade into the background too. And we will be much healthier people — emotionally and yes! Even physically!
Here’s to a happy, healthy and peaceful 2018!
Thompson, L. (2018). The Wrong Uses for Righteous Anger. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 24, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2018/01/the-wrong-uses-for-righteous-anger/