Healthy Rebellion, Part II: Can anger make you smarter?
There’ve been two Me’s in my life. My friends from high school only know the Deborah Before Trauma Recovery. This Deborah smiled too much and allowed herself to be manipulated. She tried too hard to be sweet because she thought it was her role in life (you know, the whole submissive woman thing). She tried not to know things that would force her to be angry or assertive.
Now, there’s Deborah After Trauma Recovery. (Yes, I still have work to do.) Look at my 49 years and you’ll see a dramatic change at around 27…the point where I started to heal…and the point where I started to get pissed off.
Before therapy, I stayed confused. I drifted off when someone gave me directions. I got sleepy and unfocused around my family. I had trouble solving logistical problems. I could barely read without getting distracted and zoning out. I knew my thoughts were deep and creative, but I had so little access to them. It was like searching in a grassy field for one’s car keys.
Enter Dr. Larry Campbell…or Saint Larry, as my husband calls him. My first real therapist, back in Dallas. My first session with Larry, in 1993, marks the start of my rebellion and my healing.
It felt radical. An intelligent man, listening to me. Larry said…
“You experienced abuse.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“Yes, of course you’re angry.”
Being heard and believed inspired me to write. Feeling supported allowed me to think through the details of things. And getting to know my anger changed my whole life.
Nobody wants to be an angry person. But anger helps us see injustice for what it is. Anger fuels resistance when resistance is called for. Anger shines light on our own needs – or the needs of our children. It generates the juice to help us act. It motivates hard work and radical creativity. It clears the weeds so we can see the flowers growing underneath.
Healthy Rebellion Involves some Anger. And that’s okay.
Exercise: List all the things that annoy you right now. Bad traffic, noisy neighbors, high interest credit card debt, your mother-in-law’s guilt trips. Put a star by the top three – the ones that are most aggravating. Write a paragraph about each of those three. Pay attention to details. What happens as you remember specific scenes?
You may have something in your history that calls for righteous anger: abuse, manipulation, deprivation, or sabotage. Maybe you think, That’s not trauma. That’s just life. Okay, that’s fine. Let’s call it, Just Life. Notice how you feel when you think about the worst moments. Who made you feel intimidated or inadequate?
Consider the rebellious act of putting these memories on paper. Just write a few of them for now. Tell the truth to your page. Notice the texture of your feelings as you tell the whole rebellious truth.
This Happened To Me…
He told me I was worthless.
She humiliated me in front of my friends.
They bullied me.
He cheated on me – just days before our wedding.
She just stopped talking to me.
As you allow anger to help you rebel, you get more honest. You know more. You see the details of things. You pay attention differently. You get back lost energy. You focus on the important points. You sleep better. You get calmer. You have creative bursts…And soon, you don’t have to be angry anymore, because you’ve moved on. And you get to keep the good stuff.
Yes, healthy anger makes you smarter. Trauma therapy can help you mine the richness of that emotion and channel it to your advantage. Let’s talk about it sometime.
For more blog posts about this topic, check out these links:
- A Family Psychologist and EMDR Therapist’s advice on Healthy Rebellion
- Healthy Break Rule-breaking for Trauma Therapy and Family Psychology