Non-PD Anger

Anger is what you feel when you don't get what you think you deserve. Non-PD's often feel a sense of anger over past abuses, an uncertain future outlook, unequal burden-sharing and persistent denial of their personal needs.

Anger is a feeling - and as such it is something which is neither good nor bad - it just is. You can't control your feelings any more than you can control the wind. Feelings are a natural response to circumstances and expectations. You simply feel things - and anger is something you are going to feel if you are subjected to injustice, abuse or intimidation.

According to Karla McLaren, anger is the body's signal that a boundary has been broken.

Sometimes feeling anger is foreign to a nonPD in an Unchosen Relationship. Often growing up in a PD environment provides powerful motivation (survival instinct) to suppress all anger in its entirety. In a toxic PD household having anger is not possible for the nonPD, it needs to be suppressed in order to survive. The nonPD role is often the happy and compliant fixer, to take abuse not to stand up to it. So learning to feel anger even at low levels and reset boundaries is unfamiliar, feeling anger and balancing anger needs to be learned.

Anger and other emotions are passing, they are felt and if we address the message and intent of the emotion it passes. It doesn't serve a purpose to hold on to anger for any great length of time. Once the boundary has been restored anger should pass. So that said if every time something happens your boundary is reinforced and you stand up for yourself there is no reason to hold on to anger, angers purpose is served, the boundary has been restored. (Based on Karla McLaren Language of Emotion that emotions ebb and flow, come and go, to serve a particular purpose.)

You can control what you do about your anger - your own behavior - but you can't make it go away. It's very common for people to represent anger as a bad thing and to encourage you not to be angry. They might as well tell you not to feel pain when you get hit over the head with a baseball bat.

If you have been exposed to abusive behavior to a prolonged period of time and you are a normal human being you are going to feel anger. Period.

You are likely to feel anger at times when you expect it and at times when you don't. It's hard to control the times or circumstances that your anger will rise up and demand your attention.

You may find yourself dealing with your anger in appropriate or inappropriate ways. For example, you may resist the temptation to deal violently with the next person who cuts in front of you as you wait in line - or you may find yourself inappropriately picking on someone who you perceive to be weaker than you.

You may feel ashamed of your anger or you may deny it is even there.

Physiologists tell us that anger comes from our primitive "fight or flight" instinct - when we feel angry we have a surge of adrenaline, our heart rate increases and our senses are heightened - we are ready for battle and we may have strength or energy beyond what is normal for us. Our blood is diverted towards the parts of our bodies that are needed for a fight or flight - our muscles, our brain, our senses. We may feel less pain, less guilt, less sensitive. Our digestive system shuts down. Appetite is suppressed, our digestive system expels waste and anything which is not essential to the immediate crisis. We become less analytical and more reactive. We become less stressed and become more pragmatic. We become less depressed and become more decisive. Anger can be good for us - in a crisis.

When anger can become destructive is when it is misdirected towards situations or people that aren't responsible for the pain we feel or when we are in situations that don't require a fight or flight response.

One such situation is when you are dealing with a person who has a personality disorder.

  • The problem - your loved one has a mental illness and is abusing you.
  • Your reaction - You get angry at them and hit back.
  • The result - You don't escape the abuse, they don't understand your anger - because they have a mental illness and can't see past their own feelings.
  • The conclusion - Nothing is fixed and the cycle repeats itself.

Here's another one:

  • The problem - your loved one has a mental illness and is abusing you.
  • Your reaction - get angry at yourself for getting into this situation.
  • The result - you don't escape the abuse, they don't understand your guilt - because they have a mental illness and can't see past their own feelings.
  • The conclusion - nothing is fixed and the cycle repeats itself.

One more:

  • The problem - your loved one has a mental illness and is abusing you.
  • Your reaction - You take it out on an unpopular person at work who won't retaliate.
  • The result - you don't escape the abuse, you become less popular and trusted at work.
  • The conclusion - nothing is fixed and the cycle repeats itself.

So what can you do? Well first - admit your anger and embrace it - don't be ashamed of it - it's a natural gift to protect you in a crisis. But understand that it can't save you from all problems and isn't appropriate to act out of anger in every situation. If you are dealing with a person who has a personality disorder, it is far more effective to find out everything you can about the mental illness you are dealing with and learn what works and what doesn't work. You can begin to protect yourself in a way that works and instead of feeling angry you can begin to feel a little more empowered about your situation.

cPTSD and Anger

Here at Out of the FOG we often welcome members dealing with a lifetime of injury in the case of PD Parent or Child or else extended years of trauma in the case of Chosen relationships. Often times a rush of feelings surrounds the 'lightbulb moment' where one finally reaches a breaking point, searches for answers and lands here on the OOTF website and forum. 

This rush of emotions sometimes includes anger that has been suppressed for a lifetime and comes rushing in all at once. Other times someone has been the lifelong scapegoat fighting back in anger all their life, demanding a voice, to be heard, angrily demanding the love one so deserves, hurt and angry not to receive it. Whatever the source, what do we do with all this anger? Here is some Information to help you heal and bring a sense of balance as you restore your boundaries: 

Those years of trauma and toxic relationships take a toll on ones emotional and mental health. Often without realizing ones might suffer from cPTSD, a form of PTSD. They are slightly different - cPTSD is from ongoing and continuing abuse rather than an isolated experience as is the case of PTSD. (Add link to OOTF info page)

Anger is healthy, it is an emotion that helps us set our boundaries. It signals us that a boundary has been violated and that boundary must be reset. Felt at the lowest level anger is so simple: violated boundary, few calm words, boundary is reset. No drama, no chaos, no outbursts necessary. Not so in a toxic relationship where control is used to subjugate victims through various means by creating Fear Obliation Guilt. Once we see the FOG we start to take back control ourselves. 

So many members have not been able to feel the anger for so long. It often wasn't allowed by the PD persons controlling our world, was repressed in Fear for for survival sake, pushed aside out of a sense of Obligation, ignored out of Guilt. Once someone has reached that breaking point sometimes what happens is a huge rush of anger, the last straw, suddenly it all becomes clear. 

Out of the FOG has guidelines around healthy ways to express anger. One reason is because anger has been used to control and create FOG for many members, so we need reminders to tread lightly especially when triggered into anger so we don't wind up triggering someone else. 

Here's some healthy ways to feel and express anger:

  • Information on verbal ventilation and angering page 3 - 

    Verbal Ventilation is a process, generally guided by a trained professional, to aid healing. (See Out of the FOG Disclaimer)

    Caution: Verbally ventilating here on Out of the FOG means the recipients of the verbal ventilation are fellow members healing and grieving and in pain. One persons angering can easily feel like the toxic spew and raging so many of us were subject to all our lives. Unsent Letters board might be a safe place to practice Verbal Ventilation. 

    Sometimes coming out of the FOG results in a member becoming hyper aware of others emotions, some raised without boundaries have a difficult time recognizing boundaries and recognizing my stuff vs your stuff. Newer members may be unable to separate themselves or prevent themselves from absorbing the churning emotions of other members. One persons venting can be internalized by another and can thereby damage the reader. Some have had said they've had to step away for a few days, unable to handle other members pain, other members have said they read and then sit crying over the pain of fellow members. 

    Page 7 describes how when a person is in flashback the emotional right brain is overactive while the thinking left brain is under active with actual loss of access to the left brain cognitive functions shown by MRI study. That's why we're not equipped to handle members in flashback and why sometimes things just hit the fan.

Pete Walker outlines various ways cPTSD is manifest: