Working through Anger When Recovering from a Narcissist

A recent question came up on our forum this morning, which prompted me to write about anger. When recovering from a toxic relationship, feelings of anger are incredibly intense. The question as to whether you should write him a letter or not to express your anger often comes up.

My answer to this is that you can and should write a letter expressing your anger, but do NOT send it to him. Write it for yourself, but do not share it with him. He will only use it to make you look spiteful and it will give him satisfaction he does not deserve.

Instead, honor your anger. Get it out! Share the letter with us here, if you'd like. 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." Many of us are conditioned to feel shame for feeling any feelings of anger. We feel guilty if we express anger.

It is important to realize this is irrational and keeps us stuck. We must feel our feelings to heal! It is ok to be angry about how we were treated in the past. 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 didn’t 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.

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 or abusive remarks from others should not 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. We become angry because there is an issue of some kind that requires our attention. In my opinion, anger is like an internal alarm system telling us something is wrong. 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.

Do not repress your anger. Acknowledging your anger is the first step in releasing resentment and ultimately allows you to move on. Forgiveness is a personal choice each of us should make. I do not believe it is necessary to forgive the person who abused us. However, I do think it is critical we forgive ourselves for falling for someone who wasn’t who we thought they were. We must not beat ourselves up for the time we spent in a toxic relationship. We did absolutely nothing wrong but believe in the goodness of another human being. Forgiving ourselves is essential.

Hopefully, you’re beginning to see the importance of acknowledging and processing your feelings of anger when they occur. If we do not allow ourselves to feel anger, we lose out on the benefits of it – motivation, strength, energy, power and protection.

Many of us do not realize just how powerful a force anger can be. When anger is used to motivate us to make life changes that promote our emotional well-being, it is positive. However, when we express anger through aggressive or passive-aggressive means, it is negative.

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.

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.

Process your anger by writing. Express your feelings through art or music. Create something beautiful to honor yourself and your emotions. Workout, kick-box, run. These are all healthy ways of processing anger and agression. You are entitled to your feelings and should not repress them!

"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, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C

Dec 18 - 12PM
Victorian12's picture

Anger outbursts

Apr 2 - 1PM
skystar's picture

I've had a lot of time to

I've had a lot of time to think about the last 5 years and the fact that I am nearly broke. I'm in love with the wonderful, loving man, not the con artist, nacissist that preys on women. I haven't lost/ given away everything yet -- but close to it. Actually - he and I drank most of it. I am finally through with alcohol abuse - his and mine. I'm through with the almost constant demands for attention, through with the yelling, shouting, demeaning, downright cruel, "I'm always right", fight picking person that he really is. Constantly planning, targeting, marking the next candidate, then picking a fight so he is free to pursue another deep pocket.. I was the best thing that happened to him - I'll always be. But the key word is 'happened". My life to the time I met him did not prepare me for him - my husband's were honorable men and they loved me unconditionally. Maybe that's why I was such easy prey. I started drinking pretty heavily after Ron died. Anger and frustration and I hit the bottle. Its all about HIM. I have to find the strength now to move on. I have to change my life (again) and my friends. I deserve better treatment than he has given me. Please - no contact - please. I don't want him near or around my property. STAY AWAY FOREVER. We cannot be friends.
Mar 21 - 2AM
ifinallygotit's picture

glimpse of healthy anger tonight

I have been seriously wronged for a long time and then abandoned...but not one drop of anger came up until tonight! Odd to feel happy that I finally made it to anger stage but I am! I think the programming of my behavior, to not upset him and smile thorough my pain so that he would still find me "fun" to be with. is finally wearing off. The shock of the total abandonment is also beginning to thaw. I guess he broke up with me in Oct or Nov but I don't know exactly when since he was not speaking and only responding to texts...and we were thousands of miles apart. Maybe he thought he was letting me down easy?? But no, they are cowards and do what is easy for themselves.. I wrote an angry letter which I will soon least I have never begged to go back, but I have been far too nice. Back when we were together, I remember he only responded to me when I would retreat to lick my wounds and go no contact. But it was just a game. I am angry that he thinks its ok to treat me and people bad...but I still don't hate him - he is just too clueless to hate... Thank you for this life line Lisa! I need this site and it really helps build strength to face reality
Mar 7 - 5PM
numbtolife's picture

thank you.

Thank you. My therapist told me I needed to work on expressing my anger-but we didnt get a chance to discuss further. So I went to the library to find out how and why...But I could not find anything. I just joined this site. I needed to read this. I appreciate your efforts to help abused women. Thank you again.