I began to Feel Anger By Susan Kingsley-Smith

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Emotional Healing from Anger
Susan Smith

I am pleased and excited to have guest blogger Susan Kingsley-Smith sharing a piece of her story with us today.  Susan is my friend and fellow truth seeker, as well as the author of her own Website and I’m also blessed to have her as a frequent commenter here on Emerging from Broken. As always, please feel free to contribute by adding your own comments and feedback ~ Darlene Ouimet

I Began to Feel Anger by Susan Kingsley-Smith

I was not born an angry child. Yet as I grew and became a part of the bigger world this is how people would describe me. I often got comments like “you seem so angry” or I would be told to “stop being so angry” as others expected me to make them feel better by not having any feelings of my own.

As a teen-ager I took pride in not having any feelings, in being tough, unshakable. As an adult, the face the world saw was the one that smiled and said everything was fine but inside I felt dead and fake; I was going through the motions of life, but I was not living. 

I’d learned from early on that my feelings didn’t count.  The thing I remember the most about my feelings was that they didn’t matter. To anyone. I became invisible in an attempt to avoid being bullied and shamed for existing, for complaining about siblings that were cruel, for not liking being forced to stay indoors on a beautiful summer afternoon or shoved outside the morning after a blizzard in my thin winter coat and cloth gloves that were soaked and would freeze around my fingers. I had learned to silently tolerate being unheard, physically violated and to try to blend into the walls so no one could see me, to keep quiet, to deny that I was angry and accept that the abuse and neglect was my fault; that I was bad, dirty and ugly.

And throughout my journey as I turned to the common resources like the church or the mental health system for guidance – my history of abuse was not the issue, my anger was most often the focal point of many conversations. I was frequently admonished to “not let the sun go down on my anger” and to “forgive” those who had offended me by pastors and friends in the church. In the mental health system my anger was a “symptom” of a disease and would require lifetime medical management. And family and friends would tell me to just “get over it” and “why can’t you just be happy?

The result of all this “stuffing” of my feelings – my anger at the way others treated me – was that I began to use other ways of dealing with my feelings by “acting out” and “acting in”. This was the pattern of coping skills I’d developed to deal with my feelings since I was not allowed to express them appropriately. Acting out was typically those behaviors that could be classified as outward expressions of my pain; as a teen-ager acting out was running away, drinking, drugs; risky behaviors were common.

As I got older and those behaviors were no longer acceptable I turned more to becoming a care taker and trying to find value and worth in rescuing others and being so wrapped up in everyone else’s issues that I didn’t have to look at my own. Eventually though, I physically and emotionally shut down and could do no more.

My coping became more internalized in behaviors like depression, anxiety, dissociation; mostly anything that would simply allow me to check out to avoid the deep pain that I lived in for many years. I felt completely powerless to change how I was and I had no hope; I’d already been told that I had a disease and that I would be “sick” for the rest of my life; that this was the best I could hope for.

But it was when I finally began to put the pieces together and break through the lies that the abuse was my fault, that I deserved every bad thing that had happened to me, when I started realizing that my thoughts, my feelings, my choices, opinions, my dreams and desires DID matter that I began to see something happening in myself. I began to feel something besides an intense self-hatred. I began to feel anger.

And while it took some time to learn how to let the lid off the kettle bit by bit what I discovered is that by allowing myself to feel my anger I found the door to grief and the tears that would set me free from the anger and at the same time open the door to joy.

Susan Kingsley-Smith

Susan’s Bio: “I am a trauma survivor…but I no longer live only to survive. In 1992 after a lifetime of trauma’s ranging from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as a child to two violent marriages, I entered the mental health system seeking help where my lifelong history of trauma was dismissed. For over 15 years I was given a variety of “diagnosis”, numerous mind altering psychotropic drugs and a routine of weekly “talk” therapy. In the fall of 2007 I was abruptly taken off of the drugs I’d been prescribed all those years and began to reclaim both my mind and my life.

Today, I no longer accept any labels for myself and live the life of my choosing, following my dream and passion to share a message of healing and hope as I write and speak about this journey that has been my life.”

Susan Kingsley-Smith

 Susan on Facebook

46 response to "I began to Feel Anger By Susan Kingsley-Smith"

  1. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 22nd December 2010

    Dear Inuka,
    You wrote: “I had to be the change I wanted for (my children).”

    Powerful, beautiful, inspirational words.

    Lynda

  2. By: Inuka Posted: 22nd December 2010

    Thank you Darlene. It takes time. Is tedious and painful. Modeling truth is key but also be ready to cry! The truth often hurts. I had to be the change I wanted for them.

  3. By: Inuka Posted: 21st December 2010

    @ Krissy
    I journeyed down that road. Watched one of my daughters catch the spirit of her father.

    It was scary for me at first and no psychological strategy seemed to work. The only thing that worked eventually was patience and consistent demonstration of unconditional love. I began to realize that she doubted she was loved deeply by either one of her parents. I had to demonstrate after every blow and punch that my love for her was unconditional and that it did not matter what she did, my love for her would not budge, not change!

    It worked . . . best wishes

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 21st December 2010

      Inuka,
      Thank you for sharing this process with your daughter. The parent/child area is such a huge one; When I decided to take my life back, my kids fought me. They took sides with their father, who was a bully at that time (as some of you know my husband also went through the process and learned to treat the rest of us with love and equality) and they raged at me. They had so much fear of their father and of standing up to him. They didn’t want to take sides with me for fear of getting in worse trouble then usual. They were afraid of change. They were accustomed to the way things were and I realized that I too had contributed to the belief system that they developed and it wasn’t that I had to “put up with abuse from them” because I had a hand in causing them to be angry, but I had to be patient and I had to model the truth for a long time in order for them to really see that this new system was better then the one they were used to living in.
      So as you say, love is love no matter what. It worked for me too! (it took a few years though) I now have a fantastic relationship with all three of my kids, two of whom are older teenagers and one is a younger teenager.
      Thanks for sharing this wonderful victory!
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Susan Posted: 20th December 2010

    Krissy – thank you for your note; I always appreciate knowing that someone finds hope in my story:)

    I completely understand the dilemma you describe with your kids. I too wanted life to be different for my kids. A wise person who had walked this path before me shared with me that we each have our own journey to travel. The past of my children is theirs; I can’t change it or them. But – by walking my own path and living my own best life I was modeling for them a new way of living. This is the best amends that I could make to them for the part I played in their past and model for them this new way of living.

    The emotion/feeing of “anger” is now my best teacher and friend when it comes to learning to identify when I’m feeling feeling “powerless” or “triggered” and I remember I am no longer powerless as I was in the abuse.

    It takes time to resolve the effects of abuse for ourselves and our children and EFB is a really good place to learn how to ttravel that part of our path.

    Thanks so much Krissy; I’m grateful to hear from you today:)

  5. By: Krissy Posted: 20th December 2010

    Sorry for the late comment, but I want to thank you for sharing your story and giving us hope. So much of it just resonates with me. Having just left a long-term abusive marriage, I am only just beginning to feel the anger and I must say it is scary. I also see it in my teenagers and sometimes we rage at each other. I want to be able to steer them through this journey but I am always afraid that it is too late for them because they have lived with so much abuse and invalidation. It is because I feel so helpless when I see them imitate their dad and get violent that I turn my anger toward them. I just don’t want them to end up being abusive – I want the future to be so much better. But when I hear stories like yours, I know there is hope.

  6. By: Susan Posted: 17th December 2010

    Hi Ruth-Ann…I have such compassion for your position; I think many of us who have waked this path have such a desire to show those who are following our footsteps and enmeshed in these family dynamic how to have a different life. It certainly sounds as though you have travelled a long road and that life has truly been your teacher. Its really difficult when we begin to “see” whats going on in the world that is so similar to the dynamics we have survived….sadly, much of the worlds systems are also based on power and control as you mentioned seeing this play out in the larger world.

    I asked myself the same questions – how do I know the difference between helping and enabling? And while this is a subject that deserves much more than a mention and is somewhat off topic from the subject of this post on anger – it came down to for me in understanding the difference between helping and enabling and as you said, continuing to make our own choices.

    Thanks so much for your encouraging words…I’m grateful to have the ability to share my own story and that you are finding support and hope in this venue. I appreciate much that you’ve chosen to share part of your story here, Ruth Ann.

  7. By: Ruth-Anne Posted: 16th December 2010

    Susan: I forgot to tell you, my three older siblings, and myself are metis, mostly french. The historical abuse and manic ‘survival’ skills, as I call them, are from that background. My families ancestors survived on skills of manipulation. In assimilation. They learned to educate themselves, work hard, and become stronger members in their community (the woman mostly, lol) by hiding who they were in the 50s to 70s. Unfortuneatly they allowed the shame they felt to follow them. When my mother remarried in the 60s I was six, my step father was Irish presbyterian, I was raised with my younger brother. I feel it was this difference in all the generations that brought me away from the guilt of who I was from, and taught me it is all about who you are in your community, starting with family first. Not about vengence, anger, and forgiveness. But about reaching out your hand, turning the other cheek, teaching the children and protecting them, and being involved in the community. Judging not unless you want to be judged. Just thought you might find that interesting…

  8. By: Ruth-Anne Posted: 16th December 2010

    Susan: You are exactly correct. I am still learning at 53. The poem I wrote for my niece 35, she is still going through this. My older sister, her mother is Manic. My niece 13 years senior to her sisters,has been there for her two younger sisters, who are now old enough to make their own choices. We just had the same conversation as what you just said, she had read that poem I wrote for her. She says to me Aunt Ruth you totally get it, I said no, I just lived it the same is you, but I don’t want you to be 53 before you see, and your children to have to go through what your younger sister’s and you have gone through. I can’t tell you what choices to make for you, I was there for you and your siblings when you were young, now you need to stop enabling them and your mother, and be there for yourself. I feel it is all about choices.

    I use to sit on a fence to get perspective on why people hurt children, and others they should love. I was taught family is about ‘blood’ and loyalty, yet it always seemed it was more about the one person that said that the most. I saw and learned manipulation, and learned for myself to learn to use it to help put things into perspective for others that haven’t even a clue that our world of abuse exists. I watched the law be broken and manipulated, drugs, sexual abuse, violence. All whil these ‘people’ in my life manipulated their own credibility in their community while tearing their families apart. Lawyers, Police, counselers, trustees, using mother’s and children for thier ’causes’. Allowing abuse, causing abuse, and being abusers. Then having it minimized when finally learning how to speak out in the 80s.

    Susan, someone like you we need more of in this world. It keeps people like me grounded, directed, and supportive. I know I need to keep making my own choices for myself. I need to know where the line is on enabling and supporting, I am still learning, because that is what still wheres me thin. But listening to you and being able to write to someone like you that speaks the same language, and has the same caring heart. Allows me to be strong and forth right, so thank you.

  9. By: Susan Posted: 16th December 2010

    There is always that one person, that you will interact with, and react with no matter how proactive your are, because of your past. Understanding we will always make mistakes, we are only human, and trying to change how we deal with what we were ingrained with so young and into our young adult lives, is the hardest part, I find.

    Ruth Anne – as children we learned to tolerate the intolerable; abuse was our normal, we didn’t know any different and no one was talking about it in terms that we could say “hey; I’m being abused”. Silence is the most powerful weapon abusers have. The next most powerful thing, I’ve found in my experience, is that of the shame I carried, the blame that the way I was, the way I interacted with the world, the way I often facilitated and repeated the abuse in my own life and relationships. This shame made me prisoner to my past. Your poem sounds like a reflection of that dynamic that seems to play out in our lives. In learning to look at the core, where these things began in my life, the lies that I was powerless over my self or my life, it was here that I began to identify these dynamics in my life and learn to live beyond them.

    Thanks for sharing, Ruth Ann; I’m glad you have found ways to make meaning of your experiences:)

  10. By: Ruth-Anne White Posted: 16th December 2010

    Recently, I have come in contact with a lot of the girls, now women, I grew up with, went to grade school with, middle school, and highs school. We were a group that was close, in school, sometimes out of school. As we matured and started into our adult lives, we grew far apart. Now all taking, on Facebook again, we found we all grew up in the same kind of an environment. Dysfunctional, abusive, and most of us became facilitators in one way or a nother.

    Reading your article, and your responses, is so much like the situations of my friends. We are now all in our middle to late 50s. I to have taken courses, sought Psychiatric help, mental health, and even worked with children, and adults as a support person. There is always that one person, that you will interact with, and react with no matter how proactive your are, because of your past. Understanding we will always make mistakes, we are only human, and trying to change how we deal with what we were ingrained with so young and into our young adult lives, is the hardest part, I find.

    A lot of us are at the age that we are leading this frontier of support sites, support columns, and just words to help the younger generation, and our generation be more cognitive to what is happening. We are learning not to be enablers.

    I hope you don’t mind something of my own I wrote. A friend thought it was reflective on what we two had suffered, and who we had become, in our lives with our siblings, our children, and our significant others.

    God Bless;

    Ponderance

    At times the ones that need and love us the most

    Forget

    Forget, that what they cherish and love the most about us

    Is what empowers them to be the ones that hurt us

    Our giving, forgiving, endlessly unconditionalness

    We cherish, and value far beyond what angers or hurts us.

    At times the ones that need and love us the most

    They push our boundaries, and when we snap

    They look with the deer in the headlights

    What just happened here

    I am getting what I deserve with both guns a blazing

    Look in their eyes.

    Then there is silence, shame, and hurt.

    I don’t want to yell, or fight, or argue

    Everyday is a cherished moment of memory for me

    A memory that is not filled with

    Abuse, shame, hurt, or lost belonging

    I want to leave the past behind

    Not bring it up again in my present moment

    So look at me

    Laugh with me

    Don’t be angry with me

    Let God have his vengeance

    Let God be the forgiver

    Let God have his judgement day

    Let’s be proactive not reactive

    Two great authors

    We can work it out

    I love therefore I understand

    Trust me

    Love me

    Share your laughter with me

    Hold me

    I will be your Mother

    I will be your wife

    I will be your family

    I will be your friend

    With humour, with trust, with loyalty

    With sarcasm for those doubtful moments

    I will give you a second chance always

    Because I choose too

    I am not a victim

    I am not a survivor

    I am your champion

    I am your warrior

    It is your choice

    In how you cherish

    What has taken me so long learn

    Do not bring the past into my present

    Then tell me it is I who need to let go

    When I take my Warrior’s stance

    For I am only human

    I let God give me my daily bread

    Judge, be vengeful, forgive

    He has taken these burdens of choice from me.

    I will speak for the children

    Teach for the children,

    Play for the children,

    Love for the children

    And in God’s name will Fight for the children

    But do not bring my past into the present

    For then I am the child and the Warrior

    Conflicting

    ?

    Ruth-Anne McCauley

  11. By: Susan Posted: 15th December 2010

    Lisa; the things you describe – feeling responsible for what others do or say, apologizing…sound really familiar to me 😉 this is part of what happens to us in abuse; I had such a strong feeling of powerlessness over my own self and life, yet felt so responsible for what everyone else did, said or felt. And this is where I learned to recognize my anger as a valid guide and teacher instead of seeing it as something to be managed or ignored.

    Thank you for your note, Lisa and I am so grateful that you’ve chosen to share part of your story here today…EFB is a good place to be, Darlene exposes the lies that held us captive on blog post at a time:) and part of the process is exactly what we are doing here…telling our own stories so that we can begin to that we are not alone and to begin to see through and past the lies that have held us captive for so long.

  12. By: Lisa Posted: 15th December 2010

    Susan,

    I do hope I get to the point where I can separate “anger” and “hatred.” I know intellectually that I can feel anger and it doesn’t mean I hate anyone. But they are so intertwined in my head. I am an over-responsible person, meaning, I take my own mistakes and yours and my boss’s and my mother’s and everyone else’s, as somehow my fault. If I know I did something mean to someone, I apologize for it and take responsibility for the consequences. Why is it so hard for me to realize – on an EMOTIONAL level – that my mother saying “I did the best I could” is a cop-out and another way of saying “get over it.” If I was the one who did those things, I would expect myself to make amends. Why don’t I expect the same from her? (Not that I want amends…I’d just as soon be left alone, but…acknowledgment that my perceptions are not false would be a step in the right direction.)

    But your description of your own recovery sounds like where I need to get to…and I don’t know my way…and I’m scared it will be too hard and take too long and I’ll give up or I’ll be talked out of it, or whatever. I don’t know if I’m strong enough for this process. Anyway, I’m glad to be here among all of you.

    (By the way, I am the same Lisa as “Lisa B” from above and that may be why my comment went to moderation? Because I added the “B”? Hmmm…interesting. Sorry for the confusion. I was going to go to my full name and decided against it at the last minute, but left the B…anyhow!) 😀

  13. By: Susan Posted: 15th December 2010

    Lynda – you said something that just struck me…”Although my childhood traumas were different, the feeling of powerlessness, of being so alone and so small and helpless, is exactly the same.”

    And this is the beauty of this kind of forum…we can each have our unique experiences validated in a welcoming and safe environment and at the same time see just how similar the path to healing can be for each of us as we share our stories and our strength.

    Thank you Lynda for sharing your insights here:)

  14. By: Lisa Posted: 15th December 2010

    Lynda,

    Thank you for your kind words. I find stories of Native American culture so fascinating. It seems to me we could learn so much from them if we ever took the time to bother. And thank you for saying my story deserves all the time and words it takes to tell it. There are many more and this forum may be the place I choose to set them free. 🙂 (Let’s hope…unless I shut down again.)

    It sounds like we have this in common, too: I tend to apologize for “taking up space” in the world. No matter what. I don’t take the best parking spot in front of my building because someone else might want it…(why? are they paying a premium for parking? No. They’re paying roughly the same rent I am paying…and I got here first.) I always defer to everyone else’s opinion and apologize for my own. As though my own couldn’t possibly be as valid as yours. I’m learning to NOT do this so often, but it is always a conscious decision I have to make to NOT apologize for myself. It’s never automatic.

    Also, in relation to your earlier post…my mother used to threaten us with “separate foster homes” and she always threw in “in the ghetto” as a further fear-mongering tactic every time my sister threatened to call social services on her. My sister used to say to us: “Show me your marks…I’m calling social services on her.” And my mother used to laugh and say, “Go ahead. You’d be doing me a favor.”

    She did physically abuse us, but the psychological abuse was much more severe and longstanding – AND CRAZYMAKING! I used to wish (and apologies here for those who were physically terrorized…don’t mean to minimize your pain) that I had physical marks to show anyone (teacher, priest, whoever). I never mentioned anything that was going on in my house outside of it for two reasons: 1) Nobody would believe me; and 2) They would think I was crazy.

    My grandmother used to relate a story to my mother about me (when I was young and did something wrong, I guess) in such a way that it wasn’t the truth but wasn’t EXACTLY a lie. So you could scream, “THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED.” But you couldn’t exactly explain how it DID happen so it was different than her account. It makes my head hurt to remember it. And I’m still fighting that. It made me doubt my own perceptions and I am still doubting them.

    Anyway, thanks for your kind words. And thanks to everyone in this community for giving me “permission” to tell my story.

  15. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 15th December 2010

    Lisa B.,
    I whole-heartedly agree with what Lynda said: Your story deserves all the time and all the word that it takes for you to tell it.

    Lynda,
    Thank you so much for sharing the Navajo way of story telling. I love that! What a great way to illlustrate what all survivors of abuse need to hear!

  16. By: Susan Posted: 15th December 2010

    Lisa….first – thank you for choosing to share your story and your truth here with us; EFB is a wonderful place where we can safely peel back those layers of hurt and begin to find healing as what has often been denied is validated, our pain recognized. As I read your note I feel such sadness for that little girl and much righteous anger at the way you were dismissed, violated and abused repeatedly. I am so so sorry that these things were your experience.

    What you describe about how your (very justified) anger snuck up on you sounds so familiar to me. I lived in that place of denial for a long time myself and when I finally began to look at my life, the anger that others had seen in me became visible to me as well. This is part of the pattern in abuse; when our protectors (and others) deny our reality we also learn to and become conditioned that this is “normal”. So when we begin to look deeper and seek the source of our pain, to acknowledge it, felt so wrong. It hovered around me for a long time until I learned to recognize this anger as a guide in my healing process.

    When you describe that feeling of being “mixed up”…the confusion at the feelings of anger and love, understanding and compassion….those I’ve found are very valid feelings and quite normal for abuse survivors. As a child, I naturally attached to my caretakers…thats what children do. At the same time, in the abuse, I was conditioned to believe that somehow the abuse and neglect was my fault, that I was bad, that I was the cause of my parents misery and how dare I not accept my fathers “I did the best I could” as the final say in his abuse and neglect. Like I was supposed to just “get over it” because he had “done his best”.

    What I found in my healing journey though is that I don’t have to decide to either hate my parents for their abuse and neglect nor do I have to love them simply because they were my parents. And it was in directing my righteous and justified anger at no longer accepting that “they did their best”. It was in putting complete responsibility on them/him for their actions, their lack of compassion and caring, the neglect, the violations the abuse and yes, that they did not protect me from my abusive siblings and other relatives and persons – adult or child.

    When I was able to direct my anger at those who had violated my trust and love – my parents in this case – I was able to ease out of containing and stuffing my anger or directing it at others or myself and I no longer felt so powerless over these feelings that seemed so huge and overwhelming. I was able to begin to grieve the life that I should have had, that I deserved but will never get and let go of the idea and hope that one day I would ever be or do anything “good enough” to be truly loved and accepted unconditionally. That feeling of ambivalence does still crop up for me, but now I can recognize it as my mind attempting to compartmentalize something that cannot be so limited simply because of the complexity of the need of a child to attach, bond and belong.

    The ongoing internal conflict that I’ve had with my family and siblings was confusing for me; but in learning this lesson of putting the responsibility on my parents instead of feeling bad for feeling angry at being violated, abused and neglected, I was able to start setting some boundaries for myself in that I now had the confidence to do so since the way they treated me was no longer “my fault” or that it was ok because they had “done the best they could”. This allows me to live beyond the anger and gives me the ability to choose to accept them as they are – or not – without letting them continue to take over my life.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Lisa; it is in the telling of the story that we begin to make sense of these things that are so senseless.

  17. By: Lynda Robinson Posted: 15th December 2010

    Lisa, when I posted last night about my gratitude for finding this community of women, I didn’t see your post. If I had, I would have addressed it immediately. Maybe there is a delay after the time we post, before anyone else can see it?

    Your story touched me deeply. Although my childhood traumas were different, the feeling of powerlessness, of being so alone and so small and helpless, is exactly the same. When you are completely at the mercy of someone who has no mercy…

    I can’t even begin to find the words to express what is in my heart.

    I was struck, too, at how you apologized for your story being “long.” I always feel compelled to apologize for that, too. And, also to apologize for the sadness/horror of my story, for any discomfort my story may cause the reader to feel. I’m thinking now that this is just one more indication of how conditioned we are to always put other people’s comfort first, ahead of our own.

    For the past few years I’ve been living in New Mexico, in an area surrounded with Indian Reservations. I’ve gotten to know some “Native Americans,” and I’ve read several novels written by local authors that have brought their different cultures alive for me. In the Navajo way, they don’t apologize for a story being long… they expect it to be long, for they traditionally start at the very beginning, which may be several generations back. To tell a story in its entirety, often requires going way, way back, so that the listener can understand the full meaning of the story.

    Even a full introduction of who you are/what is you name, in the Navajo way, takes a lot of words and a lot more time than just simply saying, “My name is Lynda Robinson.” The traditional Navajo introduction includes the mother’s clans and the father’s clans, and the paternal and maternal grandparents’ clans… something like this: “My name is Lynda Robinson. My father was Ronald Robinson, and his father was Frank Robinson, from Kentucky, and my father’s mother was Nellie Eisenhour, from Missouri. My mother was Barbara Holt…” etc.!

    We spend hours of our time every week, watching mindless tv, playing useless video games, etc. But, take a little time to properly tell a story in its entirety, and we feel we have to apologize.

    Sorry if I strayed too far from the point… I just want to say, Lisa, that in my opinion, your story deserves all the time and all the words that it takes for you to tell it.

    Peace,
    Lynda

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