Tag Archives: anger

My Anger

It’s Narcissist Friday!   

 

From time to time something happens to remind me of struggles of the past. It might just be a memory, or it might be another interaction with one of the narcissists who have caused pain. In those times, it is normal for some of the old feelings to come back. And, I have to admit, some of those old feelings aren’t very nice.

Dealing with narcissists and abusers means dealing with our own feelings. My last post prompted some introspection among commenters. Some mentioned their own feelings, particularly of anger. Some knew their anger was justified, but it still felt wrong. Along the way many have been taught that anger is bad, always. So, even when the anger was prompted by the abuse of the narcissist, it still seemed wrong.

I have written on anger before (here). Those who have read over the years know that I believe anger is a natural and, sometimes, good emotion. It has its purpose. It isn’t a good place to live, but it may be very helpful in moving to a new place.

What I want to write on today is this idea that we should somehow be able to control our feelings. When dealing with the cruelty that comes from others, we all find it very hard to control our feelings. The “don’t worry-be happy” message is not only useless, but cruel in itself. Sometimes we want to scream: “Don’t you think I would be happy if I could?”

When we receive an injury, our response to the pain is involuntary. We flinch. We jump. We grimace. We cry. We might even strike out. These physical responses are normal. To not have them would be strange. Watch a child who falls or hurts himself somehow. Often the first response is confusion. The mind doesn’t register the pain as quickly as it registers the fact that something happened, something unpleasant. It may take a moment or two for the crying to start.

So when we receive an emotional injury, why would we think that our responses suddenly become voluntary? You would not tell a child to stop making a fuss about a real injury. So why do people think they can tell us not to feel a certain way about the emotional and spiritual injuries we suffer from narcissists? Or why do we think we can suddenly control the feelings we have in response to those injuries?

Yes, I know that we are adults and can handle pain. Right. We can learn better responses for chronic pain. We can learn techniques that take our minds off the pain or even minimize the pain as we learn to expect its coming. But when that pain taps into deep personal insecurities or memories of former pains, and when that pain comes unexpectedly or in an overwhelming way, and when that pain comes from someone we have come to trust or even to love—then all the techniques and learning go out the window. Then we become confused, more insecure, very sad, and even angry.

Is anger wrong? That question is wrong! Anger just is, sometimes. Sometimes I am afraid. Sometimes I am lonely. Sometimes I am confused. Sometimes I am hurt. Sometimes I am sad. And, yes, sometimes I am angry. I want to handle all of these, and I usually can, but I can’t beat myself up for feeling them. They are natural. They point to something I should be aware of.

I also wrote about the validity and usefulness of our feelings in another post (here). It prompted a question that has come up often when I want to validate the struggles and negative feelings of victims. “But what about the feelings of the narcissist?” I really wish we could not worry about that. I know that narcissists use their “feelings” to manipulate the people around them and demand attention by their emotions. That’s not what most victims do. Most victims are troubled by their feelings. They wish they didn’t have some of their negative feelings. So that’s the direction of my writing today.

One more thing. Narcissists usually will not own their negative feelings. They project those feelings onto others. So strong is their ability to project, particularly to the people closest to them, that they are able to pass on those emotions to their victims. In other words, are you not usually an angry person? Could it be that your anger actually is a projection from the angry narcissist in your life? Is your loneliness or shame or fear your own, or does it belong to the abuser? Many have said that they were strong and secure and confident before they met the narcissist. Perhaps what you feel now is not really yours.

So how do you deal with feelings? Well, it doesn’t really matter if they are projections from the narcissist, because you can’t unfeel them easily either way. Instead, embrace those feelings. Acknowledge them and thank the Lord for them. Ask Him to lead you into them, to explore why you are feeling that way. He will begin to show you why you are angry or sad or lonely. Then trust Him to stand with you, even in those negative feelings. He will help you sort them out and find the way to health and peace.

I have always been impressed with the way the Bible accepts our feelings. Read the Psalms. David is angry, hurt, lonely, confused, ashamed, even bitter. God loves him through all of it.

He loves you through all of your feelings, too.

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Anger is your friend

. . . but it can wear out its welcome!

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

Let’s just admit that the Bible seems to send a conflicting message about anger.  On one hand, we are told to avoid anger and get it out of our lives.  On the other, we are told about the anger of God.  I know that some people say only God has the right to be angry, but I think that misses the point.  Anger might be a generally negative emotion, but I think our emotions reflect the way God made us.

There are many passages that speak of the anger of God against the cruelty of people.  When Jesus saw the unkind hearts of the people around Him, He got angry (Mark 3:5).  When God gets angry, something happens.  The status quo is changed.  And, if God can get angry, then good people can get angry.  There is something good in anger.

Anger is a natural response against injustice and abuse.  We might go so far as to say that it is a right response.  It moves us to action.  We used to refer to “righteous indignation.”  Anger has moved some people to get up and rescue those who are being abused.  Anger has moved some to work hard on changing laws and practices.  Anger has moved some to make serious changes in themselves.  Anger gets things moving.

Think of anger as a large and vicious dog that you keep in your house to protect your family.  You know that the dog is powerful and ruthless and deserves respect.  Yet, you keep it around anyway.  Why?  Because there is danger in your neighborhood and you need something strong and ferocious in your house.

Now, you can’t just let a dog like that run around the neighborhood terrorizing people.  Nor should you let go of your caution when it is around your kids.  The dog could get out of hand and become dangerous.  But when the burglars or those who would harm your family come to your house, that dog could save their lives.  He would be more alert, more aggressive, and a lot more formidable than you would be.  You want the bad guys to be afraid.

Some people would say that they would never risk having a dog like that.  I understand.  There are risks, but sometimes the risk is worth taking.

There are times in life when anger is your friend.  In dealing with narcissism, anger is natural, perhaps even right.  Narcissists can be so cruel.  Without anger, some people would not have the strength to separate themselves from a narcissist.  Without anger, the narcissist may continue his/her abuse unhindered.  Without anger, no one else may ever hear of the manipulations and lies.

Anger may be the one tool in your chest that gives you the strength to get out or to say no.  I remember reading, very early in my study of narcissism, Vaknin’s comment that the most common response felt by those who realize they have been victims of narcissism is rage.  Rage that stirs them to speaking loudly and acting harshly.  Rage that makes a fist.  Rage that finally moves the victim to pack up and move out.

But listen: you can’t live there.  Rage drains your spirit and body of energy.  Anger may be useful, but it cannot be sustained without great cost.  Nor is it necessary.  You don’t want your anger to become a dangerous part of your life.  Like the big dog, anger can hurt your relationships and can hurt you.  And anger can move you to do stupid things.  Use wisdom and caution when you allow yourself to be angry.

So the Bible says that anger should be put away, not be allowed to stay for long.  Even God’s anger lasts only a moment (Psalm 30:5).  We must learn to control our anger, to be slow to anger.  Otherwise, it is dangerous for us and others.

I know that most of us have been taught to hold in our anger or to deny it and call it wrong.  The truth is that the big dog already lives with you.  You can ignore it until it gets loose and causes problems, or you can accept its presence and understand its purpose.

My point in this post is not so much to change your thinking about anger, but to give you permission to use anger to move forward with your life.  If you are the victim of a narcissist, you know that something has to change.  Even if you stay in the relationship, you must establish boundaries and find ways to regain your health.  The initial strength may come out as anger.  Don’t be afraid of it.

And, I know that narcissists are usually angry people and would read this as a way to excuse their anger.  The truth is that narcissists are what they are because of fear and anger.  They like using the big dog to scare others.  They think it makes them look strong and it moves others to do what they want.  They don’t care about relationships.

But you are not like them.  Your anger has a purpose and a place.  Your anger does not control you.  It is simply a tool for you to use and then set aside.  You control it.  Let it come out when you need it, then take it to the back yard when you don’t.

There is a risk for me to write this.  I really don’t want readers to misunderstand.  Anger is not bad, but anger is dangerous.  It will consume you if you do not control it.  Once your anger has done its work then you can choose not to live there.  You do not have to use anger to maintain your boundaries or distance.  Anger can be unpredictable and can flare out of control.  We can hurt a lot of people with our anger.  So be careful.  But don’t abandon something God gave you for strength.

What about trusting the Lord and prayer?  These are still most important, of course.  Give all things over to the Lord and trust Him to lead you.  Maybe you won’t need anger.  Maybe you will do the right thing with peace of heart and ease.  Maybe you will look at your narcissistic relationship and act in wisdom and freedom in the right way.  But, if you have become confused or intimidated in the relationship, the Lord might just allow you to get angry enough to do something.

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