Thinking back on the beginning of my journey, when I was 31 is when I discovered I had been blocking out the memories of my significant abuse. As I began to slowly remember and have flashbacks and nightmares of all that happened, I was angry. Angry at my abusers, angry it happened, angry at God, angry at anyone I met who had a “better” life than I had.
That anger stayed around for years. I almost found myself sort of wallowing in it because it felt safer to be angry than to feel the sadness, grief and losses associated with it. That comes with time on anyone’s journey to heal, but it is hard to be ok with then or now.
I look back and have shame at how I treated people I would encounter. Yelling at the internet company for raising rates again, at the medical office for billing wrong, at people on the road with me or in the stores. None of them deserved when I yelled at them emotionally charged with anger. Now, however, when I encounter someone angry I wonder why they are angry, because anger is a secondary emotion to something else.
I am thankful I do not lash out at people as often as I used to. (Though, yes it still happens.) I credit God with reminding me to call on Him and His word, my counselor for helping me sort through my emotions, and time. Sometimes time does help – though it won’t heal all wounds as the saying goes.
So, today as I was reading for my Bible study on Abigail and soberness, I read in 1 Corinthians 10:3-4.
“They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”
We are called to bring our thoughts into captivity with Christ (our rock) but it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can do this. We simply cannot do it on our own. Plus, we need to fill our minds with God’s word. (The “spiritual rock” we drink from as vs 4 above notes.) Ephesians tells us to take up the “sword of the spirit” which is the Word of God.
However, we will get angry. People who haven’t endured significant trauma get angry so we know we will too. Anger related to trauma one has experienced can come from all sorts of reasons, but it starts with a thought. Here are some of the negative and destructive thoughts I used to have that sent me into a rage of anger.
“They simply don’t get how hard it is to be constantly anxious, depressed and fighting these memories. They have it so much easier than me.”
“What kind of idiot doesn’t drive the speed limit or use their turn signal?”
“Why did I have to endure so much when there are plenty of people that had great, innocent childhoods? It’s not fair!’
I could go on, but you get where I am headed. Rarely did my anger come without having started with a thought of some sort. What I have found as I progressed in therapy is that I have to be aware of my thoughts. That’s called mindfulness. Where is it leading? Why am I thinking it? What do I need to do about it before it becomes a rage of anger I can’t take back?
Though we like to think the problem is with someone else, it is usually rooted in oneself and their experiences. We can only control what we do and have no control over others.
So, now, most of the time when I have a destructive thought I try to remember I cannot overcome it with my human flesh. I want to react from the flesh, but God calls us to react from Him and what He calls us to.
I take it before Him and ask Him to change my thinking, or ask myself if it is a thought God would be pleased with. Then, I do something with it. I either allow God to help me let it go (that’s not too common) or God directs me to write it out on my computer or in my journal. That way the anger comes out on paper and goes no further than God, myself, and my counselor.
I will take a situation or thought to my counselor and have him provide me with an opinion that is not laced with only what I know and feel. He brings to light things God wants to teach me and shows me how to handle situations I have struggled with because of the trauma and toxic relationships I experienced.
All of this is a process. I just turned 44 so realize that this all took me about 13 years. Not exactly as fast as I would have liked, but healing takes time. I pray you are making progress on your journey and don’t beat yourself up if you’re still struggling with daily emotions that bring shame. Ask God to help you and your counselor work through them as you continue to heal.
I have shared this picture quote before, but it fits well here.
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