Angry about the Past

Anger can be a healthy emotion as it provides us with a signal that all is not well, and that we need to take care of ourselves. When used appropriately, it protects us from situations that if allowed to continue can become toxic.

Unfortunately anger if unmanaged, can have very negative outcomes, both on the victim, & also on whom they direct ther anger upon. Uncontrolled rage, personal stress, insulting arguments, and in the worst case physical & emotional abuse aimed at the perpetrator, is extremely destructive. There are three roadblocks people typically face with regard to anger:

  • They are unaware of their anger
  • They lack the skills to handle anger
  • Anger gives them a satisfying sense of purpose

Unresolved issues from the past such as abandonment or abuse can often trigger other associated behavioural personality traits such as co-dependence or borderline personality. Symptoms of these can then be seen in destructive and erratic behaviour, which can be very confusing. Because victims are aware of the possible risk to their relationship given their anger is directed towards the person upon whom they depend for self-esteem (co-dependence), they unconsciously never go too far. In addition, denial can also get in the way of their awareness.

This anger may have been “stored” for years with no real outlet, and if this anger has continued to build and feed upon itself, at some point things boil over and the victim suddenly wakes up, and is faced with even more intense, accumulated, pent-up anger. Now we are talking about a rage that seems totally misplaced.

At this point they feel like a victim, most likely due to a combination of many reasons; inappropriate partner’s behaviour, abusive childhood, abandonment, parenting … alll coupled with life’s current demands. Whether in fact they are a victim is irrelevant, their feelings are their reality. They then need to talk and think it over with others who can understand and emphasise with what they are talking about. This then makes it very real and sometimes painful, but it enables the victim to move on.

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to get stuck here since validation and agreement feel really GOOD. Vindication at last!

What a Victim Can Do
Sometimes an individual can get in touch with their anger, but can’t seem to drop it despite the necessary period of positive validation. This may occur in individuals, who while dealing with anger from the past, are not dealing with either the situation today or other resultant personality side-effects.

Firstly they need to ensure that others have stopped taking advantage of them or are imposing on their boundaries. Secondly they need acknowledge other destructive emotions & behaviours that may be present such as such as anger, substance abuse, or feelings of abandonment, guilt or shame, which can block any development forward (see article on co-dependence).

One of the hardest things can be to let go of the past. After talking through past pain, acknowledging it and being validated, it is then critical to make a conscious decision to move on. Forgiveness is liberation. The only way forward is to identify how you want your life to be, and to focus on this. Accept that your partner is sorry, and instead of focusing on continual punishment, rather put all your energy into creating the life or relationship that you desire.