Saturday, September 21, 2013

Narcissistic Abuse and Your Anger

Antonio de Pereda, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Anger from Narcissistic Abuse

© by Gail Meyers
Whether the relationship with a narcissistic personality disordered individual you are recovering from is with a parent, spouse or another person in your life, anger is part of the healing process.

The trip out of the narcissist's rabbit hole and back to reality usual begins with realizations. The narcissist's pretend world is often called a rabbit hole, because black is called white, up is called down and charades are called reality.

As the realizations begin to break through the denial, the natural response is to become angry about the abuse and injustice of it all.  Not only do narcissists use, abuse and manipulate, they also project their negative traits onto others and feel no remorse or empathy. So as you may be trying to process your anger by getting some kind of validation, empathy or remorse from the narcissist, the narcissist may very well be projecting their negative traits onto you with accusations. 

Expecting validation, empathy or true remorse from a narcissist for the abuse they have inflicted is fighting a losing battle in my experience.  My narcissistic personality disordered mother did not even apologize before she died after being terminally ill for two years.  However, she did continue to use, abuse, lie and manipulate.

The responses of projecting their negative traits onto you and feeling no empathy or remorse, can serve to deepen the anger of the survivor of a relationship with a narcissist. So what does one do with all of this anger?  There seems to be a whole lot confusion about anger. 

If we are not careful, some of our attitudes and beliefs about anger can leave us stalled in the recovery process. Some men may have this issue, but I have especially noticed it with us women and with Christians. In general, my guess is men receive more social signals that it is okay for them to be angry.  However, no matter the relationship, a narcissist gives strong responses that it is not okay to be angry toward them.

Then to top it off, many of us have the idea that anger is wrong. We receive the message many times in our lives that it is unbecoming, unattractive or unacceptable to be angry. Many Christians also seem to believe anger is wrong, that it is somehow ungodly or not very Christian-like.

Holding and acting on these beliefs about anger during recovery can easily result in stuffing the anger, which in turn can lead to depression. We are often told by even well-meaning family and friends, who truly can not even fathom the nature of the situation, that it is over and to just move on.

Some of us may not want to burden anyone with our anger, so we deny it instead. We deny it and stuff it, hoping it will go away. However, the more reality we face about our relationship with the narcissistic personality disordered person in our lives, the more angry we become.

During the course of recovery you may also find yourself so angry it is frightening.  I would say enraged more closely described my emotions when the realizations flooded in, shattering the denial that had been in place for many years. 

At this point in my recovery, my therapist at the time told me when it is all said and done I will truly pity my mother. Quite honestly, I thought she was either crazy or giving me way too much credit. I did not believe there was any way in the world I would ever again feel anything but rage toward my narcissistic personality disordered mother. The anger was so deep and so consuming, it felt as if it would blaze out of control forever.  It didn't.  It was a lifetime of anger, so it did take some time to process it, but it also subsided.

Is Anger Wrong?

Anger, like any other emotion, is not right or wrong.  It just is.  Honor your emotions without judging yourself.  It is not the anger that is right or wrong, it is what you do with the anger that can make it positive or negative. It helped me to think of anger much like the oil light coming on in the car. It is a signal that something is wrong. I could pretend not to see the oil light come on, but that is ultimately going to make the situation worse by denying and pretending.

Many of the things we were taught as children by our narcissistic personality disordered parents do not serve us well. That is because the beliefs are usually instilled by the narcissist, with the narcissist in mind, not us. So we have to go back and challenge many of these beliefs.

As previously mentioned, I was one who was beaten half to death with the Bible by my narcissistic personality disordered mother and step-father. My step-father was a deacon in the dysfunctional church, as well as an alcoholic pedophile. I never recall either of them ever actually reading the Bible, only quoting Scripture for control or to induce guilt for manipulation. Neither of the two were actually Christians in the biblical sense of the word, but they both masqueraded as such.

In reality, the Good Book actually condemned their behavior. Of course, nothing of the kind was ever quoted or even mentioned. After becoming so angry and frustrated with God and the church, I walked away as a result of their misrepresentations, abuse and manipulation. After reading it for myself and researching many verses in the original languages, I actually discovered the Bible contains a great deal of healthy, accurate psychology. Biblical psychology actually liberates victims from abusers.

First of all, anger is a God-given emotion. There are those who want to imitate godliness and believe this includes never being angry. Anger makes us uncomfortable. It just may not seem very godly to us, but challenge that belief if you hold it because there are many scenarios in the Bible in which God is portrayed as being angry. One could actually take that a step further and say if you are attempting to imitate God, there may also be times you will become angry.

Secondly, there is a distinction between unrighteous and righteous anger or righteous indignation in the Bible. Wikipedia defined righteous indignation as "a reactive emotion of anger over a perceived injustice, insult or malice." It is righteous indignation to become angry when someone hurts us or someone we love in a sinful manner.

God is angered with the mistreatment of the helpless, orphans, widows and strangers in Exodus 22:21-24. Jesus was clearly angry when he cleared the temple in John 2:13-22. Righteous men in the Bible were also angered by unrighteousness. Most of Galatians is Paul expressing anger toward false teachings. These are expressions of righteous indignation. It is not vigilante justice or out of control rage. It is always under control, slowly provoked and expressed legally.

A person with narcissistic personality disorder is completely self-centered, thinks the world should revolve around them and believes other people are objects to be used to make him or her look good. They feel entitled, think they should be in control and that no problem is their fault. A person with narcissistic personality disorder may get angry several times a day if they do not get their way in every situation.  Just as it is with many things when dealing with narcissists, they have a different set of rules for themselves.

Boats on the Ocean with Bible Verse amd Gail Meyers Quote

Dealing with Anger

Ephesians 4:26 says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity." This is the epitome of the Biblical instructions for dealing with anger. It does not say do not be angry. It says, be angry, sin not and deal with it quickly. It is so simply stated it would be easy to overlook the significance of these instructions.
  1. Be angry. Feel your God given emotions in response to injustice without denying, burying and stuffing the anger;
  2. Deal with the anger in healthy ways;
  3. Deal with the anger quickly.
  4. Hanging onto anger allowing it to become bitterness that can open the door for many other problems.

Depression is often known as anger turned inward. What I did early on, and I have seen many others do, is become depressed. If the depression continues long enough it leads to all sorts of other problems from appetite to sleep issues. When it becomes such an issue, we go to the doctor and get on antidepressants. Medications can help restore the depleted chemicals in our brains if we have had our anger turned inward or been angry with others or God for a long period of time. However, the root issue remains. 

So the key is finding healthy ways to process our anger.  Keeping a journal can be a great way to not only get in touch with your anger, but help process it.  Exercise is another great way to process anger and help you feel better.  Punch a pillow, go for a drive, pray, but find healthy ways to acknowledge and process the anger.  Then you can be free of it instead of carrying it around forever.

Photo at top of page - Antonio de Pereda, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.