Monday, March 29, 2010

Unit 7 Lesson 2, Healthy Anger, Part2

Anger is part of God's nature.  The New Testament records that Jesus expressed anger on several occasions.  We can conclude that anger in itself is not bad, but unresolved anger becomes destructive.  Unresolved anger inevitably causes us inner turmoil.  The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26, "Be angry, and yet do not sin" (NASB).  Most of us know how to be angry, but what we need to learn is how to be angry without sinning.

Anger is  apart of God's nature.

How do you feel about that statement?  What effect does the fact that anger is a part of God's nature have on your recovery?

Anger is a signal that God has given us, just as pain is a signal.  Anger tells us that we rae being hurt, that something is wrong, or perhaps that someone is demanding too much.  Sometimes our anger becomes generalized and we us it as a defense.  When you understand the simple dynamics of anger, you see that, as a survivor of abuse, you have been deeply hurt.  Anger would be a natural response.  To remove that anger, you need to acknowledge it.  Hurt may be a residual emotion that you feel even after you have dealt with the anger.  You may express your anger in sudden outbursts, or you may reveal it in passive ways such as isolation or depression.  If you have displayed your anger in unproductive ways, you will probably retain that anger until you can learn how to release it positively, and use it to find out more about yourself instead of lashing out against yourself and others. 

Anger is a surface emotion.  Underneath the anger you will usually find other feelings that also need expression.

In your journal, write the feeling words that create the greatest emotional response...

Hurt     Rejection     Shame     Used     Humiliation     Alone     Unimportant

You may be using you ranger to protect yourself from feeling humiliated, used or hurt.  To feel anger is less painful than to feel the underlying emotion.

When you have been rejected, humiliated, used or when you have been hurt mentally, physically, or emotionally, the normal response is to become angry.  A young woman who had been a child victim of sexual abuse described how rejected and humiliated she felt as a young girl when the police came to her house.  She said, "I had been walking home from school when a man approached who said he would give me candy.  I never got candy, even though I went to the woods with him.  He raped me.  I was so sore, and blood was all over me.  He tore my dress.  A woman had seen me go with him, but it was over so quickly.  My mother got real mad at me and kept saying, "How could you be so stupid as to go anywhere with a stranger?"  With tha tstatement, my mother gave me a good weapon to punish myself.  I was so confused.  I didn't think anything could feel worse than what he did to me, but this was worse.  I thought, She's right, my mom's right.  Why did I go into the woods?  I was stupid.  I hate myself."

Because we have trained ourselves not to feel our emotions, sometimes we can more easily feel angry about the ause that happened to someone else.  In your journal, describe your feelings about what happened to the little girl you just read about.

Describe your feelings about the fact that the victim was blamed for the abuse.

Is your story similar to the story of the little girl?  Explain.

When Bill read the story it reminded him of how his father had shamed him because of the abuse he suffered from an aunt.  He was finally able to be angry at his father for not listening to him and understanding.

How is your story different?

You need to allow yourself to feel your anger about your abuse and about the way others reacted to your abuse.

Note the following methods you have been using to deal with your anger.

I suppress it.
I have sudden outbursts.
I have become depressed.
I turn it inward through self-hate.
I act out in passive-aggressive ways.
I am self-destructive.

None of the methods listed above are healthy expressions of anger.  Acknowledging that you are angry, validating your own significance, and focusing your anger on the abuse are healthy ways to deal with your anger.

Describe your feelings about how others have reacted to your abuse.

Jim had panic attacks when he thought someone needed something from him.  He discovered the source of those attacks.  He had never allowed himself to be angry at the soccer coach who sexually abused him.  Jim hated what the coach did to him in the locker room but craved the coach's praise on the field.  Jim was also angry at himself for wanting the praise.  Sexual abuse often puts the victim in a double-bind situation.

Remember your memory verse.

"Be angry, and yet do not sin."  Ephesians 4:26

Your anger is not a sin.  To feel angry when others take advantage of you is healthy and normal.  As you feel your anger you can deal with it in appropriate ways.  Then you will use less of the destructive ways mentioned above.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"I want to punch them"

Out of the blue, my 6 1/2 year old son says, "Hey, Mom, do you ever want to talk to your dads?"  Having no idea where this came from or where it was headed, I gently answered, "No, not really."  He replied, "Really?  Never?  You never want to talk to your dads?  You never wonder what they're doing and want to talk to them?"  My husband was driving, so I was able to turn my head enough to make eye contact and explain again... 

"My first dad abandoned me when I was a baby.  I found him when I was 26 and spent a weekend with him at his mom's house.  After that weekend, I called him a lot, and sent mail and email and he never responded.  He didn't want anything to do with me.  He doesn't love me like a Daddy should, so I've had to move on with my life without him.  My second dad adopted me when I was really young, but he didn't treat me right.  He abused me terribly and touched my body in ways that no child should ever be touched...  I told my mom about it when I was eight years old, but she never made him stop.  The abuse lasted until I was old enough to make it stop myself at age 15 1/2, and then a judge told him when I was 16 that he couldn't see me anymore and he told me that I was freed from his abuse.  The touching hurt my body, but more than that, the way my mom and dads treated me hurt my feelings and my heart.  I carried that pain with me every single day until I was almost 30 years old, when God really started to help me feel better.  To this day, my mom and my second dad won't take responsibility for what they did, and sometimes my mother even says it was all my fault.  They don't love me the way a Mommy or Daddy should, so I don't really ever think about wanting to call them just to chat."

I was not teary-eyed or angry as I spoke...  I was calm, truthful and reassuring to him that these are things that his Mommy and Daddy would never, ever do.  When I stopped talking, he replied, "I want to punch them."

I had to turn away then, because my eyes were immediately filled with tears.  This was only the second time anyone ever expressed anger over what happened to me.  The first was my husband...  God really blessed me with my husband and sons.  They really know how to wrap their arms and hearts around me and love me into wholeness.

As I quietly cried, my husband jumped in and talked with our sons about forgiveness and surrendering everything - good and bad - to God.  Isn't it amazing how God provides, day in and day out?  He never leaves us or forsakes us.  He has, without question, provided my guys to me as a gift.  They help me to recover more every day.

"Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the LORD." Romans 12:19

Monday, March 15, 2010

It is sad ... but God's got a plan

My feelings fluctuate as I grow, recover and get to know myself more deeply.  I am humbled by God's care and concern.  I am immensely grateful to be an ever-changing, ever-healing person.  I cannot put words to how it feels to know God's provision the way that I do.

But that does not always keep grief at bay.

For years my overwhelming feelings were anger, bitterness and rejection.  I felt grief for the first time four years ago.  It was freeing; comforting.  I was able to feel grief because I was finally able to see, believe and process the losses in my life.  Feeling grief involved recognizing that I was worthy.  That I deserved more than the treatment I received from my parents.

Ever since that day four years ago, grief  has been an occasional visitor.  It most often comes when I marvel at something that my children have that I did not.  You know - things as simple as childhood vacations or parents who volunteer in class.  My grief is generally a fleeting emotion, but there just the same.

Grief is visiting right now.

My teen years were spent formulating an escape plan.  I had to get out of my mother's abusive home the moment I graduated from high school.  For a few years, I bounced between living arrangements with friends, worked several part time jobs at once, and full time jobs at other times.  I went to college part time, and some semesters not at all.

I found myself completely unprepared to succeed in college.  I was unable to focus on my studies.  I lacked the self-esteem to be a motivated, self-starter.  Paying rent was my top priority and I knew nothing about grants or scholarships.  I didn't trust the idea of asking for help, as asking for help had failed me before.  I had the smarts for day-to-day survival, but did not know how to be an ambitious college student.

I left college with no degree.  It didn't matter to me at the time, but 16 years later it's a little crushing.

It didn't matter back then because all I wanted was to be a wife and mother.  I didn't care about a career.  If I'm being completely honest, I didn't think I had anything to offer professionally.  I knew I could be a good wife and mother - just do the opposite of my parents - but my image of myself said that I couldn't possibly contribute to anything professionally.  I was just trash.

I'm almost 36 now, married and raising two little boys...  I'm also trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up!  I want to do something I care about.  Work with abused children, or in child abuse prevention, or do fundraising for a worthwhile non-profit.  These jobs require a degree; a Masters in some cases.  So, my mind is completely overwhelmed with ideas of how to return to college.  I'm more than a little out of practice when it comes to the classroom!  And how do I fit college into my already busy life with two young children, volunteer work at school and church, a home to keep up and a husband that I want to spend time with?

As these thoughts have coursed through my brain over the last few months, I have fought back a few grief-filled tears.  Sexual abuse not only pierces a person's body, but their mind and heart as well.  Their life.  You wouldn't be reading this if you didn't already know that...  It's just so profoundly sad what childhood abuse can take away from a person.

I wouldn't change my life for anything...  If I wasn't a wreck as a young girl, I might have made drastically different decisions and ended up in a completely different place than where I'm at.  And I love where I'm at.  I love my husband and kids and pretty much everything about our lives.  I'm happy.

But, still, the suffering of children, young adults and grown men and women everywhere breaks my heart.  Sexual abuse has the power to collide with and destroy every aspect of a person's life.

As I ponder that fact, my mind goes to children around the world, waiting in foster care or orphanages for forever families to love and care for them.  These are children who have already been removed from their family's care, and often from their family's minds.  These children have the odds stacked against them.  They have every reason to struggle and fail as they move into adulthood; feeling abandoned, unloved and unworthy.  I pray for their healing and restoration.  I pray for loving families to intervene and give them their lives back.

It is not an overstatement to say that the losses caused by childhood abuse are profoundly sad.  They are.  But, I also know first hand that God is always present and in the middle of all things.  He loves every single one of us.  We were all made special and with a purpose.  And He provides hope and healing.

"Even though you planned evil against me, God planned good to come out of it. This was to keep many people alive, as he is doing now." Genesis 50:20

Read Genesis chapters 37-50 for more from God's word about a family's betrayal and God's perfect provision and plan.  Do you see any parallels between your life and Joseph's?  Do you see God's hand?