“You can’t be happy if you’re mad.”*
I came up with in my twenties. We’d decided this after 1) looking at our lives via journaling for over one year, and 2) being mad (okay, enraged) all the time (knuckles constantly scarred and bleeding from beating things and feet sore from kicking (post, walls, concrete, anything).
Like I said, we finally figured out: you can’t be happy if you go on being mad.
We used to have a saying: “I wouldn’t mind being happy, but I’d be happy being content.”
We’ve moved beyond that stage just a little bit, going for the Golden Ring: true happiness – no matter what life brings.
But here’s the thing : I see survivors get into this rut and stage where all they see is their anger. It might be anger at the system, at people who perpetuated abuse (or simply stood by and watched it happen), and sometimes their own selves. I should know. Been there. In many respects I’m still digging out of it. But we need to do that. After all (wry smile): we can’t be happy if we’re mad.
Now this isn’t the only time I’m gonna harp on this.* True happiness is every humans goal, whether they realize it or not. No, in this entry I’m gonna deal with abuse survivor anger at their abusers – and perhaps help them ‘get over that hump’ – when the time comes and they’re ready to move on. Help them to a brighter and better tomorrow.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying ‘shake your anger right now’, nor “what you feel is wrong.” You have every right to be angry. I know I am – was – and will continue to be – about some things. But then you’ve got to move past the anger. You’ll know – just as I did. And it’s not something you can force, anyway. As any survivor knows: there’s a big difference between ‘knowing a thing’ and ‘feeling a thing’ – taking that ‘thing’ deep in your heart and ‘knowing’ it as a function of real life.
Anyway: enough harping; lets move to the meat of the issue here: Anger at what was done to you. Not a hard one to get over – and not an easy one, either (my ‘two’ sides: you gotta remember; I’m DID – I tend to ‘see’ a LOT of things).
It all depends on YOU, the person, what was done to you, through you and by you and …. you know the drill. On and on: us survivors tend to look at things from different angles – meaning LOTS of angles – trying to understand. Ain’t gotta explain that one to ya! And just a warning: this ain’t gonna work for everyone. Different strokes (shrug) – and different paths to life. As long as they all lead the same place (happiness) – it doesn’t matter. But some people got some abusers so evil and so twisted – yeah, they were outta their mind. And in knowing that: you’ve done some healing already because that’s the first step towards ‘forgiving them’.
I can FEEL you balking at the very IDEA! Knowing you’ve hated them for so long . . . has it become a habit? An auto-reaction? Kinda like the old ‘flinching’ thing when someone reach out towards you? (and I mean that both emotionally and physically: yeah, I knows us survivors: tricksy things; always on the beware of dangers, oh yess, we know that one.) That ‘raised arm’ reflex when you see a hand coming. You know this thing. You’ve been ‘abusing your own self’, too, in some ways – we all have: knocking ourselves for some kind of issue or something we’re feeling, right? We’ve been there, I’m thinking, and in such a myriad of ways it’s like the stars under the sun: constantly there; we just can’t see them – but they’re there, charting our course all the time. Sometimes it pays to look up at them, ya know.
And so: here’s the forewarning: If it’s become a habit, a ‘normal’ reaction (this hate and perhaps shame) – don’t you think it’s time to stop and examine it? See what’s going on? After all, we sometimes fall into patterns which become destructive – and often to ourselves, don’t we? (Haven’t we? Look back: see yourself standing there in that kind of picture? I know I do: again and again and again.)
Hate can become an acid, eating at one’s self with bitterness. Hate is incompatible with ‘happiness'(which, by the way, ISN’T that vicious joy you get when ‘doing something back to them’ – that’s just transitory; it won’t fill you with much more than maybe some self-loathing – and a desire to do ‘it’ again – hating them and getting revenge . . . which leads to more – vicious cycles again there, see now? Us survivors always gotta be on guard against something like that – especially when it comes to negative emotions.
So how do you get “over” this before it becomes a cycle of hatred and loathing, or self-hatred, or hatred of one’s self for getting angry all of the time, or anything like that? Seems impossible; I know: it seemed that way for me. But I’ve been working for over thirty years now on just this one subject (okay, yeah, I’ve had other things to do; but this one: acheiving one’s own happiness – has been ‘top of the list’ from day one; that, no doubt, being the day I was born and only being ‘realized’ as a goal when I was 21 or 22 or so.)
So I got to thinking about it and yeah: I don’t condone the things my parents did. However, I can at least (sorta fuzzily) – see how they came about. And as my eyes open, I see other surrounding, mitigating factors – though lord knows, I’m not done enough to ‘forgive’ them. They should have known better. But they didn’t – and if they did, they let their own anger and self-hatred pour out on me and us boys. They didn’t know any better, I reckon I should say: they never ‘made it’ – meaning the slowly evolving kind of introspection us ‘modern survivors’ are doing. They just accepted it as part of their own lives; probably knowing something was wrong, but constrained by physcial events in their lives (poverty and whatnot) coupled with their own abusive past histories (momma’s was a nightmare to begin with and just got worse from there). And yeah: she was INSANE. Paranoid delusional, living constantly in her fears – and then another ‘self’ emerging to ‘take control of them’ (meaning ‘her life’, meaning ‘us kids’) – and you can kinda see how it goes downhill from there (especially when there was no husband around – maybe again for years; fears of him never coming back from the wars he’s in: her a young woman struggling to survive – only on the edge – barely even making it; two young (and sometimes wild) boys to ‘behave’ – )
Yeah, you can see where I’m going with this. Sometimes it takes looking at one’s own abusers to understand what they’ve done – AGAIN – NOT SAYING IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO!!! Just saying that “IT IS”. You know what I mean?
There’s an old saw (the Serenity Prayer): “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”
Well, I don’t know about “God” granting any such thing to you – but YOU can – and MUST if you are going to get ‘over this thing’ and move on past your angers, hates, divorces from friends . . . the list goes on. And I think YOU are probably ‘wise enough to know the differences” between the past and future abuses. (And hopefully you’ve grown strong enough and wise enough to avoid those latter ones.) Knowing where to draw the line is one of them. And drawing the line on how much anger you’re gonna hold – and for how long – is an important one.
Trust me on this: you don’t wanna grow up to be an old and bitter person; full of angers and hatreds. Go to the V.A. You’ll see a million of them there; or your local nursing home. Sometimes you can find them in the back corners: lurking there, curse words in their mouths, and a hard and shifty (suspicious) look in their eyes. They are the ‘hurt’ ones. They’re the ones who ‘never got over’ – anything. (sigh . . . feel sorry for them. I do. They’re doomed to the recycle bin – over and over again until they get this thing right!)
But MY anger is slowly being transplanted – changing more into sadness towards my parents (look what they’ve done to themselves: divorced themselves from son and love) – seeing their oh-so tortured lives (look at them; torturing each other now that we are gone.) I’ve tried to help them – but no; their blindness fools them. They can’t see into their own lives. But I try and help them, crippled beings that they are, towards some kind of acceptance and happiness in their lives. Because despite all that they’ve done to me in the past – I SEE them for what they are: human beings ground down by abuse, just like I was. So I help, duty bound as I am towards trying to help everyone (and knowing I will most certainly fail). However, that’s what that serenity prayer is all about – and we move on with acceptance.
There is one thing: the happiness I’ve been learning. I’ve been letting them see that. And I won’t’mock’ my ma for her own lack of happiness – but I’ve shown her things which bother her don’t bother me. That I can be happy not only despite the things she’s done – but because of the things she’s done. I’ve come to accept them as having made us better than her in more ways than I have fingers and toes to count. Not bragging, just stating a fact.
I am happier than her; than my main and primary abusers. A much much happier person – despite having few resources, no care, no ‘rich’ (meaning middle class) house and home and a few acres to live on – I am happy. (okay, not ALL the time; NOT running around like a loon flapping my arms and trying to take off – but a lot happier than I was, say, 5 and 10 years ago.)
I’m happier because happiness comes from inside, and I think the more I can learn from it, the happier we’re gonna be.
Until later – and sorry about the rambling post.
I guess I’m just that kinda guy 😀
*This is SUCH a huge subject that we’ve come to realize: we’re gonna address this ‘road to happiness’ – whatever it is for you in times to come over time to come: there is no ‘single’ road nor ‘perfect’ path. I’m just gonna point out the road signs. Free will dictates when and if you’ll get to them – that, and time.