Anger

I’m taking this group class for sexual abuse survivors and we’re talking a lot about anger.  Evidently, I’m supposed to have some.  Everyone else in the class does.  Tons of it.  But mine is still safely buried…or turned inward toward my own heart…so I’m having a lot of trouble getting in touch.  Which makes a lot of what is discussed in the group rather difficult for me to comprehend or use in a practical way.
 
Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to hear something useful from the group leader.  Something that hit home.
 
She made the statement that to be angry, something has to matter to you.  Wow.
 
That suddenly explained so much. Because, when all is said and done, at the heart of my being, I don’t believe I matter.  And if I don’t matter, why should I be angry?  Why WOULD I be angry?
 
It has been eye-opening to me to realize that most people honestly do believe that they deserve to be loved.  They see themselves as worthy of having good things happen. And they are angry when bad things happen.  I, on the other hand, see myself as being worthy of nothing.  If something good happens to me, I’m incredibly grateful, but I certainly don’t think I DESERVE it.  And when those horrible, scary, awful things do happen, well, what else could I expect?  I am, after all, nothing.  Deserving of nothing.
 
My anger tends to be directed at myself, for being so worthless.  I beat myself up on a daily basis.  I reject myself so the rejection of others doesn’t hurt as much.  I tell myself not to expect anything good, so when the bad comes, it doesn’t devastate me as completely as it would if I expected better.  And when the rare good things do happen, I’m so much more grateful for them than I would be otherwise.
 
I don’t profess to truly understand, but the downside of hating myself and aiming all my anger back at me is crippling depression.  I’ve had this explained to me before but it doesn’t totally connect.  It’s basically that my anger has no where to go other than at me.  And when that anger is aimed inward, it crushes me and buries me under depression that takes my air away.  Because I can’t breathe, I have to fight to do the things that come easily to others.  Everything is work for me, whereas others actually find joy and energy in the same activities.  I am discharged where they are recharged.
 
But is it any wonder that I can’t be angry about the things others are angry about?  They tell me I should be angry that my parents abused me.  That my father sexually abused me.  That they hit me.  Rejected me.  Hated me, even.  They are angry about these things!  If it happened to them, they are FURIOUS!  But even if it didn’t happen to them, they are angry when they hear of these types of things happening to others.  They say it’s wrong.  That even criminals in prison hate those who have sexually abused a child.  
 
But to be angry, something has to matter…
 
I think I matter to myself.  I want good things for me.  I would love to be happy.  To be free of depression and pain and to actually feel some joy at being alive.  To be loved.  But I don’t believe I matter to others.  I’m told it should be enough to matter to myself.  And to God.  But for some reason, mattering to myself doesn’t seem to…well, it doesn’t seem to matter.  And mattering to God?  He is too hard for me to find and seems too distant at this time for this to have an impact on me.
 
When I talked with my counselor about this, he explained that our parents begin to teach us that we matter before we even learn language.  If we don’t get this message from our parents, it’s as if there is a huge lake where there should be solid land.  And because of that, even if we do receive positive messages telling us that we matter later in life, they sink into the lake and are swept away by the currents.  It takes a lot more of those positive messages when we are older to fill in the lake and create some land on which a foundation can be built.  Often, because of this, people give up on us or reject us.  We are too much work.  Require too much from them.  Which reinforces the message we got from our parents…that we don’t matter.
 
In my case, I didn’t get a positive message from my parents.  I learned early that I was a disappointment.  I was a colicky baby.  I had too many needs and required too much from my overwhelmed mother.  I was supposed to fulfill her, but instead, I was a lot of work.  I was supposed to make her look good, but instead, I made her feel inadequate, which made her look bad.  I could never be good enough, do enough, be enough, to make my parents happy and to make their lives worth living.  I failed from the very beginning and they let me know what a massive failure I was.  Over and over and over again, the message was ingrained in my soul by the time I was 2 or 3.  The lake created in my heart was the size of an ocean.  No foundation could be laid on the deep water.  I was worthless.  I was a failure.  I didn’t perform to expectations.  I didn’t matter.  My needs didn’t matter.  I was such a fiasco, nothing could redeem me.  I could never be a person, I could never have worth, no matter how hard I tried.  I was defective to the core.
 
My ex-husband, to whom I was married for 22 years, had an opportunity to do some filling in of that ocean.  I was open, impressionable, in love.  But instead of adding land to the ocean in my soul, he continued the excavation.  He told me he didn’t love me.  He rolled his eyes at me and sighed, disgusted with me for being…me.  Nothing I could do was ever good enough.  And I swallowed my anger, aiming it back at my own heart, because, it was, after all, my fault.  I was never good enough.  I could never do enough.  I failed.  I didn’t matter.
 
To be angry, something has to matter.  But the universe has never wept over me.  God has not moved the earth or stirred the wind in the trees over me being rejected and unloved and abused.  Karma has not proven itself in my world.  For I have always tried to do good, yet that good has not come back to me.  I have not reaped what I have sowed.  Unless by not mattering, I am reaping the harvest I have planted. 
 
Still yet, I do not know if I matter.  To me, yes.  To others, to God, to the universe?  Not so much, I fear.  And so I swallow my anger.  And so I cry more silent tears, filling the ocean that is supposed to be dry land with yet more water.  Water that carries my anger away, into the depths.  Water that fills me with enduring sadness.  And the currents of this ocean of pain take all hope away.  I am drowning…and it doesn’t seem to matter.

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