This is a common question for victims who have gone through Narcissistic abuse. However, contrary to popular belief, anger isn’t an emotion that we should try to stuff down into the dark recesses of our minds. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The acknowledgement and acceptance of anger is the first step toward processing it effectively. In fact, if we repress anger it can lead to serious mental health issues, manifest into physical symptoms, and cause us to lash out at the people we love.
With that being said, Narcissistic abuse is a catalyst for anger and rage, as well. There is a point in the relationship where you realized everything about your relationship was a lie and you were used, manipulated, degraded, and shamed. All the love, devotion, and forgiveness you gave to the Narcissist were not only taken for granted, they eventually mocked you for these sentiments. It’s almost enough to make you loathe yourself for being a good person, and is partly why anger towards the Narcissist is the hardest to overcome.
There are many angles to consider when beating the anger demon. Working through the rage entails finding multiple strategies that allow us to understand, express, and channel it safely. The following is not a comprehensive list, but it’s a strong start.
1) Emotional/Anger Addiction – Are you re-abusing yourself? Could you be addicted to being angry, resentful, and/or fearful? When we come out of a Narcissistic relationship, we are often addicted to “victim” peptides that were released into our bodies throughout the relationship with our abuser. The way it works is this:
When we experience emotions, the hypothalamus produces peptides that reflect every emotion we experience. These peptides find their way to the appropriate receptors located in our cells. One cell can have thousands of receptors and each receptor accepts a particular chemical. When the peptide locks itself into a receptor it can alter the nucleus of the cell and bring about physical manifestations of an emotion. If the peptide for anger were released and received it can alter the cell to the point of creating anger, rage, and fear.
Over time, we develop a tolerance for these peptides. We need more and more of them to maintain homeostasis. When our relationship with the Narcissist comes to an abrupt end, we go into withdrawal. Often, what we believe is anger towards the Narcissist is actually our physiological/subconscious attempt to re-abuse ourselves in order to keep the flow of victim peptides flowing at an “acceptable” level.
What to Do: In order to overcome your body’s addiction to victim peptides, you’ll need to rewire your programming. Every time you feel the need to re-abuse yourself by obsessing about what the Narcissist did to you, consciously stop yourself. This can be achieved any number of ways including: Putting a rubber band on your wrist and snapping it when you have an obsessive thought, writing the thought down on a piece of paper and then crumpling it up and throwing it away, and replacing the negative thought with a positive one. I also have many helpful suggestions in my post, Narc Recovery Boot Camp. If these methods don’t work after persistent effort, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with a qualified therapist because it’s possible that your anger may have reached a state of neurosis.
2) Misdirected Anger: A lot of our anger feels as if it’s directed towards the Narcissist, but in many cases, we are actually projecting our anger towards ourselves onto them.
It may be difficult to admit, but there was a point in our relationship when we realized the Narcissist wouldn’t change. Yet, we kept going through the same motions expecting a different outcome. We continued giving the relationship our all thinking perhaps the Narcissist would finally come to their senses and acknowledge the pain they inflicted upon us. However, Narcissists have absolutely NO boundaries. In fact, they aren’t even aware of the concept. They are completely self-serving with no capacity to reflect on how their actions affect others. Expecting otherwise is like expecting a crocodile to learn the basics of social etiquette. On that note, can we get angry at the crocodile for eating a baby duckling? No, it’s horrendous, but that’s the crocodile’s nature. And so it is with Narcissists.
What To Do: Accept your part in the relationship and work on self-forgiveness. There may be some very deep, subconscious dynamics that kept you in the relationship with your abuser, possibly dating back to childhood. See my post, 10 Lies We Mistake for Love, to see if it resonates with you.
3) Healing Shame – What feels like anger may be your subconscious mind trying to process feelings of shame. It is the inner experience of being “not wanted.”, feeling worthless, rejected, and cast-out. Please see Robert Caldwell’s article, Healing Shame, to understand how shame binds us and how to begin to free yourself.
Healing from emotional abuse takes effort. While it’s easy to fall into destructive behaviors, such as substance and alcohol abuse, those things will only worsen your feelings of depression and hopelessness. In the meantime, don’t confide in people who haven’t shown any compassion in the past. Try to seek support groups in your area or contact your local Domestic Violence center. These venues will offer you a constructive outlet while you process your feelings of anger.
(See Part I of the Healing series here.)
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© Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach, 2016