Getting past my anger toward my former partner

BEAR.jpg

My former partner broke up with me or perhaps I should say that I broke up with HIM after he assaulted me. We had been on what I had hoped would be a wonderfully romantic holiday in Hawaii. Did we have a fight? Well, if you mean a screaming and yelling at one another kind of fight, the answer is no, we did not. We had words but there was no screaming or  yelling. His assault came completely out of the blue. In fact, it was the LAST thing I EVER expected him to do. Ever.

I immediately posted about it on my Facebook page and my children were all very quick to respond telling me I had to leave there immediately. I ended up staying the night and went with him the next day to the airport. We had been scheduled to take a flight from Maui to Kauai. When I arrived with him at the airport, I went to the ticket counter and told the agent what had happened the night before and asked to have my ticket rerouted to Honolulu which she did. I left him standing at the ticket counter and went upstairs to wait for my flight.

After I returned home, I contacted the local police and filed a police report but was told that because the offense had happened outside of Canada the Crown Attorney would likely decline to prosecute him. Thus began my descent into what can only be called a fit of boiling, raging anger.

I spent a lot of time  (weeks actually!) composing a irulently rageful letter to him which I eventually took to my therapist. She quickly noted the rage conveyed under  all the words I had written and she asked me a very pointed, poignant question, “Do you think that you may be feeling hurt rather than angry?” I didn’t know what to say. Feelings of hurt have never really been anything I have ever acknowledged. Yes, I have always been obliquely aware that they reside inside of me but I have never acknowledged them. “Why is this the case?” she asked me. “Because I have always been afraid that if I start to cry, I will never be able to stop,” I replied.

She then asked me “What does anger need?” The only answer I could think of was “Justice.”

She then started to talk to me about the way I tend to “jump off” when I am feeling hurt. Because the feeling is so overwhelming and because of the model I grew up with as the child of a terribly angry man who did not know how to deal with his own anger, I learned that anger is an acceptable response to hurt feelings. She started to talk about how when we feel hurt and usually want nothing more than the other person to “give us a hug” instead our body language becomes that of an angry bear with paws raised and claws extended. She said, “Who would want to approach an angry bear? We are biologically programmed to run away from danger.” I knew that what she was saying was true and I have always been aware that I used my intense anger as a way to ‘scare people away.” It became a very comfortable defense mechanism for me over the years. It completely took away any vulnerability I might have to the person who I felt so threatened by.

The conversation took a turn there and she asked me what the small, hurt child inside of me wanted which she said was probably reassurance and a great big hug and she asked if there was any way I could give that hug to myself. She challenged me to talk to my younger self in a way that would provide her with some comfort and reassurance that I would not, in actuality, abandon her which was the thing I am most pathologically terrified of. For me, this always posed such a great risk that I could not allow it to happen.

She told me that because I seem to be most comfortable expressing myself through writing that she wanted me to sit down and write a letter to that terrified little girl and tell her all the things she really wanted to know. I have spent quite a bit of time working on that letter but am not quite ready to share it just  yet. I will next week so come back here if you are interested in reading it.

What this exercise has done for me, though, is the most important piece of this blog. It has allowed me finally acknowledge the hurt I feel. When I actually started to look at the past I could very clearly see the places in my life where I became irrationally angry or acted out by taking a drug overdose and/or did something else to hurt myself either physically or emotionally were all triggered by unacknowledged hurt feelings. I “jumped off” each time and transformed my hurt feelings into another behavior that was both familiar to me and understood by me but which only served to make things worse and fuel the fire of the situation. A very profound breakthrough for me one I would never have achieved without her help.