Anger Problems on the Emotional Healing Journey

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anger issuesI had a tough time with anger. I had problems with feeling anger. I didn’t think I felt it. I denied to myself that I ever had it. I didn’t want to feel it.  I was proud that I wasn’t an angry person. 

And the truth is that I totally misunderstood anger in the first place. I had a different kind of anger problem.

I related anger to self pity. I thought that if I was angry with someone who treated me badly that I was just feeling sorry for myself. I detested self pity; I had been taught that self pity was the “worst” emotion, so I certainly was not going to engage in it. I believed that anger WAS a form of self pity; therefore I didn’t allow myself to feel anger.

Because of the way that I had been raised, my belief system was all wrong. I had love mixed up with obligation. I had respect mixed up with ownership and compliance and the list goes on from there. In the same way that I had the definitions of love and respect mixed up, I also misunderstood my own emotions, labelled them as “other emotions” and dismissed the real emotion.  That was part of how I survived. 

Labelling certain emotions as other emotions was how I dealt with many emotions, not just the emotion of anger. Like my definitions of words like “love”, “respect” and “relationship” I misunderstood emotions like anger and self pity and traded them for other emotions so that I could shut them down.   

Anger would not have been safe for me to feel or express and in my mind self pity was pathetic, so I could deny anger, quickly identify self pity, jump straight to “oh Darlene you are pathetic, get off the pity pot” and that was how I effectively avoided the whole anger problem thing. 

I could get angry for other people. That was okay. I sometimes briefly wondered WHY I could feel anger in relation to someone else’s life, and why that was different, but I didn’t think very hard about it. If someone told me they had been sexually abused, or beaten or sold for adult amusement, I could feel all the appropriate anger; I could feel hatred for the people who had abused them and disgust towards the people who had let them down; I could defend them and tell them that what happened to THEM was wrong. I knew it was wrong and I could passionately express my feelings to them as long as it was about them. But when I looked at my own life, I disconnected because anger (like so many other emotions) was not safe for me to feel in relation to myself. Today I realize that getting angry for others didn’t put me in danger, but when it came to my own life I had to stay in “survivor mode”.  Anger was too dangerous.  

Think about it. What would have happened to me as a child if I had screamed or expressed in any way that I was ANGRY because someone was sexually abusing me? How would it have gone over if I expressed my anger that my mother hit me? She was already in a bad mood. I was already getting hit. What would have happened to me if I had screamed my anger at the teacher who was emotionally abusing me when I was ten years old? I don’t think it would have gone well for me. I had been taught to submit. I had been taught by the events in my life that I had no rights. So I suppressed it. I stuffed it down and I never felt it, never faced it. Anger was not something that I was allowed.  And I learned to deny anger the same way that I learned to deny all the rest of the emotions and feelings and human rights that I had.  

Since I had been taught that self pity was pathetic, and I believed that lie with all my heart, it is easy to understand that if I could convince myself that anger was self pity, I could move off it so much quicker.

I didn’t think I had a RIGHT to be ANGRY.  When I was a child I didn’t have a right to much! I was constantly told how to act, how to feel, how to dress, to smile, to say hello, told that I was NOT sad, that if I cried that I would be given something to cry about, accused of being an exaggerator and overly dramatic. I had no reason to think of myself as an individual with valid thoughts OR emotions. Why would that change just because I got older? The beliefs that cement themselves within our own minds do not necessarily change because we grow up.

When I finally realized that what happened to me as a child actually happened to me, I also began to realize that it was really wrong. As I began to understand the lifelong effect that it had on me, I began to feel ripped off. I began to realize how much of my life that I had lost. I began to realize that I was not loved or protected and that I had been objectified as a person. I realized that I had been mistreated and devalued by people who never thought about me long enough to realize that I not only a person, but a CHILD! And then I began to get angry.  I began to feel anger.  And at first it scared me. I had to give myself permission to feel it. I didn’t like it. I felt like something BAD was going to happen if I allowed it. I felt wrong and I felt dirty. But I knew that it was time for me to face anger. It was part of the self validation that I always talk about.

I have a right to be angry. Anger is not evil. My anger is justifiable. And in my mind even just writing that I want to duck! I was taught as an adult that Anger is NEVER justifiable. I had that all mixed up with the “lack of self control” For me, skipping the anger was the same as how I tried to skip straight to positive affirmations before I did the work involved in order to facilitate my emotional healing. I owe my emotional healing and personal recovery to the efforts that I made not to “skip those steps” anymore.

Anger is healing. Until I acknowledged my anger and until I felt it and affirmed my right to it, I could not let go of the past. 

Please share your thoughts about Anger.

Lighting the Path on the Journey to Freedom;

Darlene Ouimet

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111 response to "Anger Problems on the Emotional Healing Journey"

  1. By: Light Posted: 26th March 2016

    I had a different response to the emotion of anger. I was angry most of the time. I remember sitting in a class (?middle school) and my hands were clenched tight into fists. I often had headaches from the stress and I had nightmares regularly. Since I had no outlet for my anger and the pain of my life, because both parents did not want to deal with the dysfunction (alcohol, covert sexual abuse, neglect, other undercurrents like…was my father cheating?…why was my mother so secretive?….) and they didn’t really “do” emotions and engagement with me was limited (again, emotional neglect), I was left alone to deal with them and myself. For a long time I was just constantly irritated with them, and I would take it out on random others with subtle put-downs or a peeved air about me. Small inconveniences annoyed me all day long. I was moving through my day in a perturbed state of mind. Not at all fair to people who didn’t deserve it and I am ashamed about my lack of control. Once I reached my 20s and beyond, I would have outbursts with my mother when we argued about why she wouldn’t be a support for me in the face of my father’s sexual abuse. I found her belief system damaging and couldn’t face it, so I cried, fumed, and got angry with her in the hopes that she would change.

    I’m not nearly as irritable now, though with my mother I can still be triggered easily. I have more skills for communicating, and more self-awareness for when to step away and just be alone for a while if I’m in that bad of a mood. But angry I was — very angry. Thankfully, therapy helped me label my emotions, sift through my experience in detail, gain insight and put words to what was happening, and provide lots and lots of support. One therapist told me it was probably my feistiness that got me through my childhood. I almost felt like I wouldn’t survive it.

    A little off topic but related: I can’t remember exactly what happened when I was 1, 2, 3 years old….but I do know that my bed was upstairs in the attic and my mother left it to my sister to hear me if I needed something. I have some sort of emotional memory of being left alone. I think this is a very deep and scarring memory and may have happened over and over. I don’t think there are any photos of my mother holding me, or maybe one. This is striking because my parents took lots of photos and my mother painstakingly put together photo albums. My mother later said “well that house was small” but I still think it’s very disengaged to be two floors away from your toddler. We moved several times before I was five and I’m sure this disruption didn’t help me feel secure.

    I was kept in a crib until about age six or seven. I recall feeling ill in my crib and trying to call out but I couldn’t call loud enough and no one came. By age 4 I was pulling my hair out of one side of my head — I remember!, and around ages 6-9 I was sexually acting out. My mother thought that I needed a “nap” well until I was 10,11,12 or later…either I take one or go to bed at 7:30 (the break was really for her). By my teens I was having nightmares all the time, and was very tense.

    So there is the infant and child inside of me who is raging at being left alone and terrified of abandonment. While I crave closeness and an intimate relationship, I don’t know if I would be very good at keeping it because I can get insecure and be quick to anger.

    If anyone has managed to be in an intimate relationship after going through abuse and neglect I would like to know how you feel secure, how you deal with anger, etc.

  2. By: Carlos Posted: 26th March 2016

    Whenever I am angry at my “loving” maternal grandmother and father, the following things would pop up in my mind:
    -You are putting shame to the family.
    *Every once in a while, my maternal grandmother would brag about how she was raised in a family with good manners and right conduct. One time, she just had to gloat about my cousin (Good bloke he is) and his good behaviour, stating: “Oh he takes after me and my sister’s clan.” (Hate to break it to you grandma, but you are not part of the supposedly good people that you have placed on a pedestal, if your actions towards me and everyone else are to be considered).
    *So obviously, if I stand up to them, grandma will be like oh Carlos didn’t take after me (Good? I am glad to not be anything like you).
    -You are stooping down to their level, you are just like them.
    *If standing up to bad behaviour is unacceptable, then what does that make the behaviour we are constantly standing up to? Just and honourable?
    -You are too sensitive, you drama queen (These are actually my Dad’s thoughts on my reactions, but anyway).
    *What do you want me to do when you say my dreams are worthless? Throw a party and hold up a gold plated “THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING” sign? NO!!
    -God won’t like what you are doing.
    *Because Filipinos are so “religious” standing up for yourself and being angry is a guaranteed ticket to hell.
    -Think about what your mother will feel, if she sees you standing up for yourself in whatever way possible.
    *My mother raised me to be good yes, but I don’t think my mother raised me to be naive and stupid either.
    *My mother fought for my sister and I when our maternal grandmother lashed out on us, unlike our father who “tagged along” with mother-in-law dearest (Sometimes I can’t help but think, is my Mom really my grandmother’s daughter?).
    *For Mom to stand up to the person who raised her, oh words can’t even express how lucky my sister and I are.

    Disregarding all of these thoughts was a really hard thing to do (With doubt still constantly kicking in every once in a while), but when I decided to throw them all away and let whatever rage I felt, that is when it felt so much better. Given that my anger may have upped my blood pressure a bit, well heck it could have been worse if I had just let it remain within my system and consume what’s left of the me that I wanted to be. My anger is out of place? So are your “supposedly good” actions. Oh you had a horrible past? I am sorry, I didn’t know that you could use that as an excuse to put people down, hit them and ridicule them. Oh that must make me so horrible to, as I am standing up to both of your actions in the present and the past. I may not have a “stars and stripes” kind of childhood and family, but I never used that as an excuse to govern my actions good or bad. My anger is justified and deserves to be recognised. That is the approach to any form of “loving” treatment from now on and if God will be angry at me, um don’t even for a second think that he will be giving you a round of applause for hitting your son for not being able to open the packaging of an EU adapter Dad. Or do you really think he’ll be proud of you when you shame your grandchildren grandma?

  3. By: Carmen Posted: 1st March 2015

    I can relate in my healing process I felt guilty for feeling angry, as you said Darlene a survival skill was not to get angry as not to get killed. Those unspoken boundaries. I find rage coming out of me now. I’m going with it because it has never come out and needs to in a constructive way not on other people. Louise Hayes has an excellent audiobook on a meditation to release anger I’ve been listening to it telling all the abusive people everything you wanted to say but couldn’t because we were children. Just another layer to come off in our efforts to claim our love self respect and being the women we are meant to be. Blessings to all of you!

  4. By: Kathy Posted: 12th September 2013

    Yes , anger is a difficult emotion to recognize when it has been forbidden and suppressed all your life. As a child I dared not express anger , the results that came with expression were horrifying and resulted in more abuse , so anger insidiously expressed itself using many circuitous outlets.Two books that have helped me deal with this issue are : “The Angry Book” by Rubin and ” The Dance of Anger” by Lerner…both excellent tools.Everyday I feel stronger, more capable and at peace with myself. I am trying to heal and change lifelong habits and am better at accepting my imperfections.I am standing up for myself and being my own best friend. 🙂

  5. By: MZC Posted: 12th September 2013

    I stuffed anger inside me for decades, first because it was unsafe to show it and later because it wasn’t “Christian” to not “forgive and forget”. I would smile off her attacks or I would overeat as though I was stuffing my feelings down with the food. Then one fine day when I wasn’t doing anything in particular a red-hot rage swept over me and literally shook my body. I was frightened by the intensity of it. It became crystal-clear to me that I was angry, who I was angry at, and how much. Now I’ve gone LC, and when I do see her, I endure her comments and lies (what else can I do? Any defense of mine would be met by even more attacks) and get angry on the way home.

  6. By: Mimi Posted: 6th December 2011

    Well, one lab day down, one to go, and she started to talk to me like an idiot, and caught herself. I had to get approval for one lab assignment, so I had to speak to her, otherwise I would have been as invisible as possible. Anyhow, she started with “the look/tone” and quickly upgraded to the tone she uses with her favorite students. One encounter and that was it. So, all is well that ends well… for today. Only one left to go!! YaY!!!

  7. By: Mimi Posted: 2nd December 2011

    J,
    Thanks for your input. I always welcome all input since I’m at a place in life where good decisions, confidence, and stability all seem to elude me. Being brought up in what I now believe was incredible shame, it’s really really difficult to know if you’re saying or doing what’s right or helpful. Any posts help me feel grounded instead of floating above like a helium balloon, not really being tied to anything. So, thanks to you and everyone else for that.

    My husband has the opinion that she won’t bother me. He thinks we rattled her cage enough that she will be on her best behavior. I don’t view your post as pessimistic, but realistic. I know just about anything is possible, and I hope to be fully prepared for anything when I go to lab next week. I like the suggestion from your book. I would LOVE the thought of being removed from the emotions she stirs, at least until I can get out of the classroom. It has occurred to me to fire back at her. An example would be one time she said, “what did I tell you to do with the urine cultures?” That was a non answer she gave me when I asked her to remind me what she said to do with them. If something like that happens again, I’ll simply say, well, if I knew that, I wouldn’t ask. However, I don’t plan to ask any questions, period. Just move through it with my eye on the prize. I’ll keep you posted on how the lab goes next week! As always, thanks a gazillion….. for everything!!
    Mimi

  8. By: J Posted: 1st December 2011

    🙂

    Quite glad you knew what I was talking about – that would seem a very strange sentence I’d written if not!

    I just thought with regards to the lab days, a technique I read about in a book called “If you have controlling parents” (by Dan Neuharth) popped into my mind — (I’m going from memory here btw)

    Basically it was to try to be prepared in advance for the usual techniques of the professor (in your case) and to be very aware of any controlling/manipulating etc behavior by her as it’s happening.

    The point (as I understood it) was to almost be a step removed from it, and just to keep track of it (eg “oh, she just pretended not to hear my question” or “she ignored my hand up to answer her question several times”), so that it’s almost like a game to count how many times she behaves badly, and hopefully help yourself not to automatically react/respond with self-blame or doubt etc.

    I’m not sure if I’ve explained that very well, and I don’t mean to be overly pessimistic, but in some ways it would seem to me that she may well respond with even more bad behavior due to you standing up for yourself (this seems to be a favorite of my mother). And I think for me, it’s helped at times to try and keep myself very aware of when she’s acting badly so I can be more proactive in naming her behavior for what it is, and it does seem to help me in terms of not just automatically letting my brain blame myself or get upset/down without even really noticing why.

    Anyway I’m really glad that whatever happens, only 4 hours to go!!! Must be such a relief compared to before! I hope I haven’t been a downer for you in assuming the professor might react badly, but from what you describe, maturity doesn’t exactly seem to be one of her strong points. Also hope I wasn’t being too advice-y/preachy above. I guess I figure better to go in prepared!

    Take care of yourself & may I point out again how AMAZINGLY AWESOME it is that you’ve stood up for yourself!!! (Especially given the positive outcome, but to my mind, the “standing up” part would’ve been a huge positive regardless of the outcome)

  9. By: Mimi Posted: 1st December 2011

    Thanks Darlene and J!!
    I love having this new support!! J, I do feel like Homer, haha. All my work for the semester won’t be wasted so I’m happy about that. I hope I don’t have to endure any crap for those two lab days. I just keep telling myself it’s only 4 hours of contact. She negated everything I said to the Dean, but, I don’t even care now. I think if he really believed her lies, he wouldn’t accomodate my requests. It turned out better than expected so I’m happy about that. Thanks again for showing the LOVE!!
    Mimi

  10. By: J Posted: 1st December 2011

    Hi Mimi,

    that’s so awesome to hear!! Really happy that this has worked out so well for you! 🙂

    (I don’t know if you’re into the simpsons, but I’m picturing Homer doing his “WOOOOOOP WOOP WOOP!” while running in circles on the floor routine!)

    PS I’m not feeling very awake today — I only just noticed where you wrote about one low grade being a reflection on the professor not the student — LOVE IT!!! 🙂 Way to send the blame where it belongs!!!

    Now I’ve got “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper running through my head, complete with “NO MORE CLASSES NO MORE BOOKS NO MORE TEACHER’S DIRTY LOOKS!” hehehe

    my brain is random today!

  11. By: Mimi Posted: 1st December 2011

    I will try to make this as short as possible. After sleeping on the logical side of the story, I woke with an idea to pitch to the dean. So, I sent an email asking permission to skip the lecture classes for the remainder of the semester, and attend only lab days (there are only two of those left). I told him I have contacts within the class that I can rely on for lecture notes and recordings. I cannot believe it…..HE AGREED!!!! I can finish the semester without having to see that woman three days a week. Only two more times and that’s it. I view that as a victory because the Micro class will still be behind me in the end. I will likely end with a “C” letter grade, but as I pointed out to the dean, a “C” among a long string of straight “A’s” is a reflection of the professor, not the student!! Whoa…. I’m really pleased with this outcome. And, of course, thanks for your support!!
    Mimi
    ps – he offered to let me take any remaining tests in the testing center they have on campus as well. I hadn’t even asked for that!! WOOOOHOOOOO!!!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st December 2011

      Hi Mimi
      That is awesome! Talk about getting a clear solution! wow.
      I suspect that the Dean (from what you shared before) was willing to do anything that didn’t involve HIM having to get involved and confront that proff.
      YAY for you ~ excellent victory! Thanks for the updates!
      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Mimi Posted: 30th November 2011

    Darlene, and anyone else following the “saga” :),
    My husband and I went to the dean this afternoon. He was suprisingly genuine and personable. He listened and took notes, then asked what I expected the outcome from the meeting to be. I said, I’ve not sought a reprimand, or to get her fired, but I would be very satisfied with a mere apology. He said, “I don’t think that will happen”. I said, yes, I’m aware, and I know exactly why – PRIDE!! He told me that college policy is such that I can’t test out of the class because I’ve actually partially taken the class. UGH…. really blew a hole in my plan. He did listen intently, he acknowledged my senses were right beneath, or perhaps oozing out of my skin, he actually said, (when I got tears!! UGH) let’s take some steps to try to work through your feelings and see if we can come to a conclusion. He first suggested I go talk to her. I wanted to say, “Bahahaha!” I said, I don’t ever want to see her again. He said, maybe you could go back to class, she won’t make it hell on you, (because I’d already said she would) and focus on catching up on what you missed, there are only two weeks left, and you will have wasted your time thus far. He also said, I’d like to see you try to finish it out, and put the injuries aside for the few weeks you have left. He said he knew my grade and if I got a “C” on the remainder of the tests I could end with a “C” – HUGE injury to my grades, from a personal perspective of course. He said, one “C” in a long string of “A’s is nothing. So, all things considered, it went well, he listened intently, which is often what I need, he did say he would talk with her, and he encouraged me to put my education above all else, just for a few weeks. I am satisfied with the way the meeting went…. no more, or no less. I have some things to think about now. I can go back to class friday if I decide to. It’s a big decision because 1)I’m behind now and the work would be mind boggling, 2)I still can’t stand the woman!! I think I will start by emailing her and “being heard” again. See what kind of response I get from her, and go from there. I intend to hold her fully accountable though. I did ask him what I’m supposed to do when she refuses to answer questions. He didn’t really have an answer for that except the class is designed to force you to think critically. I explained that if I forgot a directive she gave nearly 2 hours prior, there is simply nothing I can do about it. No matter how critically I think, it’s not going to magically appear in my brain. In addition, that’s not what critical thinking is about. Anyhow, all that to say, I am actually mulling over the idea of returning since I can’t test out. I too hate to waste the whole semester and have to pay and retake the class all over again somewhere else, likely an hour away. Ugh… decisions, decisions!! I will update after I shoot her an email of my thoughts. If she shows even a minute amount of humanity, I might consider returning. I’ll keep you posted and as always, thanks to all who have supported my efforts. It means so much!
    xoxo,
    Mimi

  13. By: Mimi Posted: 30th November 2011

    Darlene,
    Thanks for your advice and unrelenting support!! The points you’ve made are very sound and I’m taking them with me. I know you hear “thank you” a lot. But, seriously, this is a monumental thanks from me!!
    Love to you too!!
    Mimi

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th November 2011

      Mimi
      Can one hear thank you too much???? LOL I appreciate it!
      I have found this whole exchange rather inspiring!
      Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th November 2011

    Hi Mimi
    Yes I think that it makes sense to include that info. It is great and shows your track record so to speak. Having said that ~ Don’t get too caught up in trying to “prove” that you are right about this. KNOW that you are right about this. Own it! You are right ~ people really get that message when you yourself know that this is unfair treatment. The professor is WRONG in her treatment of you. period. (like your husband says ~ it didn’t happen to him)
    HUGS!!! and love!

  15. By: Mimi Posted: 30th November 2011

    Thanks Darlene!! I would like your opinion on something if you happen to see this and have time to respond. I have been employed by the college in the past as a biology lab assistant to three different professors. Do you think I should bring that into the conversation, or is that really unrelated. I’m thinking if I don’t know how to follow directions (which she said to me), it would be tough to assist other professors and their students in their labs. I just don’t want to appear to be tooting my own horn, or saying, “look what I did” as if it would make her appear more guilty. Thanks so much for your support and insight!!
    Hugs to you too!!

  16. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th November 2011

    YAY Mimi
    you go woman! I am so proud of you. I am excited to hearing about the outcome! I would be nervous too, but like you, that would not stop me!
    Hugs, Darlene

  17. By: Mimi Posted: 30th November 2011

    Well, today is the day. I’m fairly nervous to go speak to the dean. Thankfully my husband will be there. He’s not nervous at all. He has spent a lot of time as a university student in his life. He says this is unacceptable and he hasn’t experienced this kind of thing as a university student. I attend a community college. The teacher I was under has often talked about when she taught at a university. I tell myself in my small mind, “I bet she was fired”. Who knows if she was; makes me feel better. In a short 8 hours, I will be facing the giants!! Perhaps I should take it easy on the coffee today. 🙂

  18. By: Kia Posted: 29th November 2011

    Thanks for directing me here, Darlene! Wow! I am a passive aggressive person. have been for as long as i can remember. I too get angry for other people but have a hard time being angry for myself. I get angry AT myself, but because of what I did, not what was done to me. I internalize EVERYTHING.
    Got lots of thinking to do.

  19. By: Mimi Posted: 27th November 2011

    Darlene and J,
    Thank you so much for the cheers!! I will take your experience Darlene, and write these specific events down so I’m prepared. I do believe she’s under these disciplinary guidelines with her testing because she actually said her tests are reviewed before they’re given. However, it was a classmate that said she was forced to do it, rather than a choice she made.

    Something I haven’t forgotten – in January of this year I began a class with her but had a little catastrophe at home. I was unable to concentrate or study. I dropped the class. On the first day of that class, she handed out a homework assignment designed to see where you are in terms of time available to dedicate to work involved in the class. It also asked a few questions. 1) what grade do you expect to get? 2) how many hours do you expect to spend attaining that grade. I remember writing I expect to get an “A” and I will spend as many hours as it takes. Those were my answers. Of course she was looking for a number on that last question. Well, I dropped the class as I said, then, picked up Micro this past August. She again gave the same homework assignment with the time questions on it the first day of class. When she handed it out, and gave instructions on it, she said, “…. and ‘as many as it takes’ is not an acceptable answer”. In my heart of hearts, I really believe she remembered that was my answer from 8 months prior. It seems a little too coincidental to be random. She seems to get her own self worth by leaching it off of others and she’s definitely in a position to do so with young adults who are scared of her. I believe she did not like my determination, and set out to destroy it. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, but, I’ve observed that she eats, breathes, sleeps, poops her job such that she’s a sort of mommy dearest. A favorite line of hers, “do we have our listening ears on?” I haven’t heard that since kindergarten. I would guess she’s in her early 70’s. She wears no wedding band, and has no children. She admittedly spends 12 hours a day most days of the week, at the college. That said, I think she did study me a little and perhaps even subconsciously, decided it was her job to destroy my determination and confidence. So, anyhow, a few more bits of the story. Thanks for listening!!
    xoxo
    Mimi

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th November 2011

      Hi Mimi
      Mimi, this is GREAT processing. This is the stuff that I still do in order to get down to the truth about how I know it isn’t me. I look at all these facts together. (where as before I looked at them as individual events, all of which could be “excused” because one alone was no big deal. I had learned to do it that was as a child survival technique. This is all great information and makes a “whole picture” of what you have been dealing with.
      She is wrong! She sounds like a major bully.
      Hugs, Darlene

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