I recently noticed a member post to our forum about the difficulty she is having getting angry. A friend of mine, currently going through a breakup with a raging narcissist, told me the same thing last week….that she’s having trouble getting mad and feels stuck in a state of overwhelming sadness.
The Six Steps I created on The Path Forward are not rocket science, but in my opinion, you must work each and every one of them in order to heal from a narcissist and that includes honoring your anger.
Step 2 – Get it Out – We find an outlet to share and express our emotions, which includes processing our pain and sadness. This step is absolutely critical before we can move on and we should not rush ourselves if we’re not ready to move to the next step. However, staying stuck in this step and refusing to get angry can have very negative consequences.
Many of us were taught to repress anger, especially women. Anger has a negative connotation because most
people associate it with aggression. But in reality, anger is followed by violence only 10 percent of the time, according to Howard Kassinove, PH.D., co-author of “Anger Management: The Compete Treatment Guide for Practice.”
Anger is one of our most powerful emotions because it is the most motivating of all feelings. Anger and fear can motivate you to make necessary changes in your life or they can paralyze you to remain stuck in a state of pain, which is why Step 4 - Get Real - is so important.
Step 4 – Get Real – We no longer deny reality and are ready to face our anger and fear.
Step 4 is dedicated to dealing with the feelings that are the most difficult to process and confront. These feelings are anger and fear. We avoid these emotions like the plague. There are many reasons for this, but unfortunately few of us realize how avoiding these feelings keeps us stuck in a state of perpetual pain.
We must get real to heal, as I like to say!
Many of us are conditioned to feel shame for feeling any feelings of anger. it is important to realize that this is unhealthy and keeps us stuck. We must feel our feelings to heal. It is ok to be angry about how we were treated. We must acknowledge and honor our feelings. We are entitled to feel the way we do.
We may not only feel shame, but in the case of our narcissist, we simply do not want to face the truth. To face the truth means we have to make changes in our life that will not be easy. It takes courage to get real. I know I buried my head in the sand for years at the end of my marriage. I did not want to admit that my marriage was not working. It is simply easier to deny things sometimes. However, to deny our feelings is to deny our true self and is no way to live.
Used productively, anger can help us restore our self-esteem and exert more control over our lives. Processing our anger is absolutely critical to our recovery. However, we must be careful in how we process it. Anger is neither a positive or negative emotion. How we RESPOND and REACT to anger is what makes all the difference in the world. The key is not to avoid anger, the key is to learn how to RESPOND to anger.
“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” - Thaddeus Gola
The idea of constructive anger is gaining a great deal of empirical support lately. Research tells us that processing our anger in productive ways leads to health benefits. Experts say that constructive anger can improve intimate and work relationships.
It is one thing to stay silent when you disagree with someone or something, but quite another to simply allow others to walk all over you. Some of you may just be starting to realize what an abusive relationship you were really in. I would guarantee that feelings of anger and resentment towards your significant other are what finally caused you to see the light and take action. Anger is a natural defense mechanism designed to protect us from abuse. We should never deny our feelings of anger.
Anger like all feelings is a normal, healthy and essential emotion. Getting angry does not make you a bad person. Personally, I believe without this instinct we would be extinct. Anger is a biological safeguard to ensure our survival. Anger is our body’s response to internal or external demands, threats and pressures. Anger warns us that there is a problem or a potential threat. At the same time, it gives us courage to face the problem or meet the threat by providing us with a release of the hormone adrenaline.
Adrenaline prepares us to meet the threat by raising our defenses and giving us a boost of energy. This in turn provides us with added strength to fight off our enemy or added speed in which to run from the enemy. Think of Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory. We should never ignore our emotions. They exist for a reason: to warn us, protect us and guide us through life.
Cruel behavior and abuse from another should never be tolerated. We have a right to be angry when someone hurts or insults us. It is a threat to our emotional well-being. Anger is the emotion that alerts us that something is wrong and causes us to finally take action. Do not hide from your anger. You must recognize it as a signal that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. To ignore it is dangerous.
Research tells us women who do not acknowledge anger or do not process anger in a healthy way are more vulnerable to health problems. Rates of diagnosed breast cancer are found to be higher in women who have never openly expressed their anger.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; You are the one who gets burned.” - Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta
Anger can motivate you to make needed changes in your life or it can make you emotionally and physically ill if you hold it in. It can empower you or it can kill your relationships if you take your anger out on someone in the wrong way. Instead of being honest and acknowledging their anger, many people shift blame, project and abuse others.
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.” - Lena Horne
I believe the way you handle your anger affects all of your relationships, including your relationship with yourself. Many of us are so afraid of anger that we direct the anger inward at ourselves instead of expressing it outward. Others take their anger out on innocent people. Anger externalized can lead to violence, while anger internalized causes depression and health problems.
You will remain in a state of pain, darkness or unhappiness as long as you continue to lie to yourself and deny your reality. You must have a total commitment to reality in order to heal. The more you resist the present moment, the more pain you create within yourself.
We must get to know the nature of our restlessness and fear. It is how we get to know ourselves on the deepest level possible. To live an authentic life, we must get real to heal. Many people are afraid of the truth. However, to finally confront the truth is the most liberating and freeing thing you can do for yourself. It is truly transformative.
Instead of focusing on the negative effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is another reaction to trauma that researchers have become increasingly invested in. It will be the focus of my research and webinars going forward - Post Traumatic Growth - what happens when we find a way to turn our struggle into positive change for ourselves. PTG implies that suffering can be transformative. The end result is more than merely surviving—it's thriving.
As Victor Frankl says in his famous book “Man’s Search for Meaning“: “Suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds a meaning."