On Returning from a Brief (and Unplanned) Hiatus: Why Acknowledging Anger is Hard but Necessary for Protecting Your Peace

I’ve been away for a while, mainly due to writer’s block–not having the words to write what I felt–and something more: not having experiences worth writing about, or assuming I have naught to make art from as I go through my sedentary routine of work, eat, read, and sleep.

But that’s not necessarily true that I have naught to write about. I have been busy, just not in the conventional way of the word.

I’ve been preoccupied with discovering my power and protecting my peace.

J. recently gave me a book about narcissistic parents; the goal of which is learning how to identify behaviors and set boundaries for continuing relationships with narcissistic parents, and…it is, by far, the hardest endeavor I have ever embarked on. He gave me the book at the beginning of February and asked me to read the first 2 chapters and process them before my next session (which was the following week).

It took me the entirety of the week to get through just half of the first chapter! It was rough.

Normally, when I’m reading, I like to underline sentences and write notes in the margin when the author grips my soul. I didn’t do that initially because I thought J. was just letting me borrow the book (I don’t make notes in books that aren’t mine. That’s just rude! 😋) He told me later that he was actually giving me the book. So I started re-reading the chapter and underlining certain passages and sentences (basically any and every sentence that struck my soul), and periodically stopped to acknowledge what I was feeling (I used Maya for this as it’s easier for me to process through writing). It was hard.

During our last session, I discovered, through his guidance, that acknowledging and processing anger is very hard for me. I didn’t know how to do it. I had brought Maya with me to help me process and what I had written in the session wasn’t really expressing anger but rather laying out the various situations that surrounded my anger but not how/why they made me angry. And even after J. gave me a format (i.e. “I feel angry that___”) it still took a while for me to express my anger and here’s why:

In order to follow his format of “I feel angry that____” I had to get specific. And I didn’t want to because I knew it would hurt.

It’s easy to say “This person is giving off bad vibes; I don’t like them.” It’s much harder to say, “When that person does X, it makes me feel angry, invalidated, unwanted, etc.”, especially as an only child, and especially when you’re used to “staying in a child’s place” (i.e. staying quiet and obedient even to the determent of your own growth).

I fought J. so hard during this process. I walked out of his office (he’s used to it by now 🙂) and pelted him with pillows when he brought me back in (not immediately but soon after, which he is also used to and has probably come to expect but he’s a patient gentle giant.) “Don’t displace your anger externally towards me or inwardly toward yourself but at the one who hurt you,” he instructed me once I got re-settled with Maya. We sat in silence for a while, the only sound being the unforgettable staccato of the typewriter’s keys as I typed, paused, and processed my upbringing with the occasional glance up at him, my eyes silently begging for him to end this emotional torture. He didn’t.

The only time he stopped was when the process got to be too much and I started dissociating (which was brought on by a flashback) and started to have a panic attack. It took a while to bring me back to the present but once I regulated my heartbeat enough to not let past fear control me, he gave me permission to stop. I then decided that the book would remain with him in his office until we next meet, as it’s way too easy for me to spiral at home alone; it’s harder to let the memories, fear, distrust, and anger win when there’s someone physically present to walk me through this and help me ground while processing.

Facing my anger is necessary—despite the panic attacks, dissociation, and flashbacks—because without it, the cycles continue, healing is thwarted, and callouses can form on already-hardened hearts. No one wants that. I certainly don’t want that. Anger, if naught else, validates experiences, and wrongdoings, and, beneath the rage felt, demands justice and, at times, is the starting point for peace. May Jehovah-shalom go before me and be with me, and others on similar journeys, as I walk this out. I don’t know what’s going to happen while I’m on this journey but I’ve had a taste of peace, of shalom, and I’m not letting go. My appetite is insatiable now.

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