Category Archives: Anger And Violence

Were You Prone To Outbursts Of Rage As Child?

In my youth, I was very prone to outbursts of rage. For instance, I once punched a hole in a wardrobe door. On another occasion, I threw a large and heavy paperweight through my bedroom window. And then there was the time I hacked several deep grooves into the back of a wooden kitchen chair with a 12-inch bread knife. I could go on, but you get the general picture?

So, the question is, what factors contribute to such outbursts of rage in children?

It is not unusual, of course, for children to lose their temper; however, the outbursts of rage displayed by a traumatized child tend to be of a different quality : more intense, more sudden and more out of control; animalistic, even.

One reason for this is that significant, prolonged trauma adversely affects the brain’s biology (in particular the way in which the brain produces the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol, is disrupted). This means that when the traumatized child senses threat or danger (either emotional or physical), the brain’s hardwired circuitry automatically stimulates the child into aggressive behaviour – as a defense mechanism.

It is important to reiterate that the child’s aggression in these circumstances is essentially and fundamentally DEFENSIVE and triggered (unconsciously) by FEAR . This fear may be of being physically harmed or emotionally harmed (eg rejected, abandoned, demeaned or shamed).

During his/her history of being abused, the child has learned how devastating these physical and/or emotional attacks can be and becomes desperate to defend him/herself from further harm – so much so that his/her aggressive behaviour is automatically and unconsciously triggered even when the trigger may seem objectively mild. This is because the child has become hypersensitive to threat so that, even when there is the smallest hint of it, s/he launches (on automatic pilot) a pre-emptive attack (to prevent the threat rapidly escalating – which past experience has shown the child it otherwise will)); the child, in these circumstances, has unconsciously learned that such behaviour has ‘survival value’ and that ‘attack is the best form of defense.’ (In different circumstances the child may learn that AVOIDANCE is the best defense and, therefore, automatically, emotionally ‘shut down’ when s/he senses danger).

It is also known that those who have suffered significant, chronic abuse can cause damage to the development of the brain region known as the amygdala which, in turn, can lead to severe problems controlling the emotions – this will, of course, exacerbate the problem.

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Resentment : Effects Of Holding Onto It

If we experienced significant childhood trauma, it is quite understandable that we may harbor feelings of deep resentment. However, such feelings can serve only to prolong and intensify the mental pain we feel. Below is a fairly well-known quote that encapsulates this idea :

‘Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die’. 

– Malachy McCourt

Feelings of resentment against another usually build up over a long period of time, often years. If we are still in contact with the person we resent, these feelings may be triggered by present events (such as again being let down by the person), perhaps giving rise to anger that seems, objectively, disproportionate to the current provocation but reflects the intensity of the omnipresent, latent, resentful sentiments that underlie this anger.

Indeed, feeling resentful involves constantly replaying and reliving in our minds the wrong that was done to us and so it can potentially give rise to strong emotional and visceral responses.

The reason we feel resentful against another person may be due to acts of commission (what someone did to us) or acts of omission (what someone failed to do for us), or both.

Feelings of resentment can torment us and make it impossible for us to achieve any semblance of peace of mind. We may, too, displace our feelings of resentment onto others, making us cynical, suspicious and incapable of forming meaningful and reparative new relationships.

So why do we hold onto feelings of resentment?

We may hold onto our feelings of resentment out of a sense of ‘moral integrity’ and a conviction that it would somehow be ‘against justice’ to allow our resentful feelings to abate (in other words, we may firmly believe that our feelings of resentment are ‘just’, therefore to jettison such feelings would be ‘unjust’).

Indeed, we may be of the view that to forgive the perpetrator would show us to be weak and make us vulnerable to incurring yet further psychological damage.

Or we may feel that to let go of our resentment would in some way seem to diminish the seriousness with which we feel the offence against us should be taken – rather like saying what we experienced ‘wasn’t that bad after all’ (which would constitute self-invalidation).

Finally, by hanging onto our resentment we may create for ourselves the illusion that we have more control and power over what happened to us than we actually do.

What Can We Do To Free Ourselves From Such Self-Destructive Feelings Of Resentment?

The bottom line is that tenaciously holding onto resentment, like a snarling pit-bull terrier with a cyanide-laced bone, is often extremely self-defeating and can act as an insurmountable obstacle between us and recovery.

To overcome feelings of resentment it can be useful :

1) to remind ourselves that our resentment may be negatively colouring our view of others, the future and the world in general

2) to remind ourselves that we might be displacing our feelings of resentment onto others who do not deserve to be treated badly, spoiling our relationships

3) to view our insistence on clinging onto our feelings of resentment as a kind of addiction or obsession which needs to be overcome

4) to remind ourselves that the stress and mental anguish our resentment causes us is almost certainly not worth it, especially as we cannot change the wrong that was committed against us and that our resentment is likely to be hurting us much more than the person we resent

5) to consider undergoing a therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help us think less negatively

6) to remind ourselves that our belief that our feelings of resentment make us more powerful, in control and strong is likely to be an illusion

7) to remind ourselves that staying resentful, in many ways, allows the perpetrator to continue to make us unhappy, thus giving him/her continued power over us

8) to consider forgiving the perpetrator

Resources:

Self-hypnosis MP3s/CDs:

 

LET GO OF THE PAST – click here for more details.

DON’T HOLD GRUDGES – click here for more details.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Controlling Anger And Other Emotions

controlling anger

We have seen that significant, protracted childhood trauma, particularly if it leads us to develop borderline personality disorder or complex post traumatic stress disorder, can result in us having extreme difficulty controlling our emotions, such as anger and anxiety, as adults : in psychological terms, we are at risk of developing emotional dysregulation.

Sometimes, intense emotions become so painful that, as a defense mechanism, we shut our these feelings down (we may do this deliberately by using alcohol and drugs, or it might happen automatically – in the latter case we are said to be dissociating).

REASONS SOME INDIVIDUALS KEEP THEIR EMOTIONS ‘BURIED.’

Some people try to keep their emotions ‘buried’ (suppressed). There can be a number of reasons for this, including:

– growing up in a household in which any display of emotions and feelings was considered a sign of weakness or ‘not the done thing’

– being in an occupation in which displays of emotions are not encouraged e.g.police, military

– fear of losing respect

– fear of losing control

THE PROBLEM OF SUPPRESSED FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS:

However, keeping feelings and emotions buried takes up large amounts of mental energy and means they tend to be kept simmering beneath the surface, building up pressure and ready to explode.

And, very often, the emotion of anger is the one that is nearest to the surface, and therefore the one that is most frequently experienced and expressed.

HOWEVER, anger very often conceals, and has its primary roots in, the fundamental emotions of FEAR and HURT.

So, in fact, very often, when we express anger, what we are really expressing is this fear and hurt; to put it concisely:


OUR FEAR AND HURT IS MASQUERADING AS ANGER.


 

Acknowledging Our True, Authentic Feelings And Having The Courage To Express Them:

It is therefore necessary to become aware of the real feelings behind our anger, feelings that are likely to be intensely painful and that we have preferred not to acknowledge (or even not allowed ourselves to become consciously aware of) and to start the process of expressing them, understanding their origins, working through them and resolving them (ideally with a highly trained, professional therapist).

By getting in touch with our feelings beneath our anger, and working through them therapeutically, we can reduce or overcome outbursts of rage, self-destructive behavior and bodily complaints such as fatigue.

If we do not get in touch with feelings such as hurt and fear (completely normal emotions that everyone experiences to one degree or another), but instead keep them ‘locked out’ and ‘buried’ , we pay the very high price of not being able to get in touch with, experience or express positive emotions, such as happiness and joy, too. Our aim is to feel comfortable with all our emotions and to channel them constructively.

What We Can Do To Help Ourselves To Control Our Emotions :

In order to control our emotions we can apply certain skills, such as:

– learning to identify what we are feeling and linguistically label our emotions e.g. ‘anger’, ‘fear’ etc – when we verbally name our emotions and describe them in spoken (or, indeed, written) language we are more likely to be able to control them and are less likely to act them out.

– acknowledge and accept emotions nonjudgmentally (as taught through mindfulness).

– change our thinking. Our feelings are connected to our thinking processes – consider trying cognitive therapy which can help retrain our thinking style and which, in turn, can lead to much improved emotional experiences.

eBook:

control anger

Above eBook available for instant download on Amazon. Click here for more details.

Resources:

control angerControl Anger Pack (Download or CD). Click here.

 

control emotionsControl Your Emotions (Download or CD). Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Effects Of Authoritarian Parents

 childhood_trauma

What Are Authoritarian Parents?

Authoritarian parents are strict, endeavour to exercise strong control over their children, may use corporal punishment such as smacking, often raise their voices and shout at their offspring, and oppressively restrict their lives.

Whilst the way in which they punish their children is often unusually severe, they tend to compound the resulting ill effects by failing to explain to the child why s/he is being punished.

Furthermore, they often pay little regard to their children’s feelings and emotions.

Such parental behaviour may be relatively ‘well-meaning’ when they believe they are acting in their children’s ‘best interests’ – preparing them, as they see it, for an adult life in which they will need to be tough enough to cope with a ‘cruel, unforgiving, dog-eat-dog world’, rather like a sargent major preparing his troops for battle by enforcing a harsh training regime. In other words, the authoritarian parent’s rule of thumb may often be ‘it’s for your own good…’

However, such parental behaviour, even when well intentioned, can cause the child to develop numerous problems later on in adolescence and adulthood; I provide examples of these below:

1) The child may develop poor social skills.

This problem may arise as the child has grown up following his parents’ instructions in social situations rather than having been given the opportunity to learn through trial-and-error and on his/her own intiative. For example, as a child s/he may have been instructed only to speak to adults when spoken to, or to be ‘seen but not heard.’

authoritarian_parents

2a) Because of the way in which authoritarian parents may condition or ‘program’ their children, they (the children) may grow up to be :

  • highly conformist (i.e. acting in line with the prevailing views and attitudes of others, irrespective of whether it is right or wrong to do so)
  • unthinkingly obedient (making them vulnerable to exploitation)
  • excessively self-blaming (consciously or unconsciously inferring, erroneously, that they must be ‘intrinsically bad’ for having so frequently incurred such severe parental wrath).
  • more than averagely susceptible to depression

2b) However, the reverse may also occur (depending, in part, upon the child’s particular temperament), namely : the child may develop into an adolescent/young adult who is highly rebellious due to the anger and resentment s/he harbours against his/her parents for their excessively controlling behaviour. 

These individuals, too, may be highly self-blaming and self-critical and turn to drink/drugs in an attempt to reduce such painful emotions.

 

Effects On Conscience:

Research suggests that children who are harshly punished but are given no proper explanation as to why they are being punished (e.g. it is not explained to them that their behaviour has had a harmful effect on others) tend merely to learn not to get caught rather than to change their behaviour because it preys on their conscience.

In other words, they are less likely to develop a strong conscience and, if they choose to avoid doing wrong, this may be more due to reasons of expedience rather than of morality.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Freeing Ourselves From Anger About Our Past.

let_go_of_anger

It is far from uncommon for those of us who have experienced a traumatic childhood to remain angry and resentful about the past, specifically, perhaps, about how our parents badly treated us. This can result in us bearing grudges and feeling bitter for years, decades, or even for a whole lifetime.

We have all heard the expression, ‘forgive and forget’, but how applicable is it to the kind of situation that I have just described?

Well, first of all, it is not possible to forget (unless, that is, we have unconsciously repressed the memories of what happened to us as a means of psychological defense).

But what about forgiveness? As we are all different, and as our past experiences are also all different, this boils down to a matter of personal choice. Notwithstanding this, many psychologists advocate forgiveness, not least because the act of forgiving is very likely to benefit us, and, of course, the flip side of this is that a decision NOT to forgive is liable to damage us.

let_go_of_past

How Does Remaining Angry Harm Us?

If we constantly brood about how we were wronged in the past this can be mentally exhausting and cause us to feel perpetually anguished, unhappy and unable to enjoy the present or look forward to the future.

It also gives more power to those who wronged us : not only have they hurt us in the past, but, by refusing to let go of what they did to us, we allow them to keep us unhappy, both now and in the future. To put it colloquially, we permit them to score a double whammy against us.

By staying angry, bitter and resentful we may perpetuate a self-destructive feeling of unresolved anger (which we may displace onto others, ruining our relationships); emotionally exhaust ourselves with constant feelings of animosity and, in some cases, hatred; get caught up in a futile mental cycle of revenge fantasies and of waiting for those who hurt us to make amends (which, sadly, often never happens).

Moving On:

Instead of inflicting this pointless mental suffering on ourselves, we have the option to take what lessons we can from our adverse experiences and move forward with our lives, perhaps even turning these adverse experiences to our own advantage, in as far as this may be possible.

The Bottom Line :

The bottom line is straight-forward :

Does holding on to anger, bitterness and resentment make our present lives, and future prospects, better or worse?

It is, of course, up to each individual to decide.

Resources:

LET IT GO : self-hypnosis downloadable MP3. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Alice Miller: ‘Hitler’s Childhood Helped To Cause WW2’

Hitler's_childhood_ww2

 

The terror of the Third Reich was cultivated in Hitler’s own home.’

– Florian Beierl

 

The Swiss psychoanalyst, Alice Miller, was of the view that most people repress their memories of childhood trauma and may be in such extreme denial about the way their parents mistreated them that they may actually, on a conscious level, idealize them rather than castigate them. This acts as a psychological defense mechanism : protecting the individual from the painful truth.

Nevertheless, Miller suggests, the unconscious rage they feel against their parents constantly fizzes beneath the surface looking for an outlet. This outlet takes the form of displacement (the redirecting of one’s rage onto innocent victims).

An exceptionally rare and extreme example of individuals who may act out this process of repression, denial and displacement is that of some serial killers. However, Miller provides an even more extreme example, that of the tyrant and fascist dictator, Adolf Hitler.

Indeed, Adolf Hitler, as a child, was severely physically abused by his father (Alois) who would regularly fly into uncontrollable rages and beat his son. Sometimes, Adolf Hitler’s mother would intervene in order to try to physically protect her son, only to be beaten by her husband herself as a consequence.

Hitler_as_child

  • Above: Adolf Hitler as a child.

One effect of this on Adolf Hitler is that he began to bully his sister which took the form of hitting her, just as he was hit by his father.

In modern day terms, then, Adolf Hitler’s family was highly dysfunctional, and this had a damaging psychological effect on him as evidenced not only by his bullying of his sister, but also by the fact that in his teens he became increasingly reclusive, resentful and emotionally unstable (particularly when interacting with his father).

According to Miller, Hitler’s terrible and horrific actions can be traced back to this dysfunctional childhood; according to Miller, his heinous actions as an adult were driven by a psychotic and deranged lust for ‘revenge on the world’ for his childhood suffering.

Miller also argues that many high ranking SS officers had also suffered abusive childhoods, as had other tyrants such as Mao and Stalin.

Miller’s ideas have been criticized for being overly simplistic, so she is something of a controversial figure.

 

eBook:

anger management

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Why We May Severely Over-react To Minor Stressors.

Over react stress

We have seen from previous articles that I have posted on this site that, if we suffered chronic stress during our childhood, our ability to deal with stress as adults can be drastically diminished, making it difficult to cope with the daily stressors that others may easily be able to take in their stride.

We may, for example, become disproportionately enraged if we temporarily misplace our keys, inadvertently snap a shoe-lace, or are thwarted in our vehicular progress down the street by a succession of obstinately and infuriatingly red traffic lights.

The reason for such overreactions can lie in the fact that our chronically stressful childhoods have disrupted the process in the brain associated with the production of stress hormones.

In particular, levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol may have become chronically too high.

It follows that, when we experience a minor stressor, too much adrenaline and cortisol are released. Let’s look at the effect that these two stress hormones have upon the body:

1) The Effect Of Adrenaline On The Body:

– causes heart rate to increase

– causes blood pressure to go up

– causes breathing rate to become more rapid (sometimes leading hyperventilation, a distressing reaction associated with panic).

2) The Effect Of Cortisol On The Body:

– transports energy to muscles by diverting it from areas of the body where it is not immediately needed (such as the stomach).

So, the effects of adrenaline and cortisol combined are to prepare the body for ‘fight or flight’, as if we were being threatened by a ravenously hungry tiger (when, in fact, we are just stuck in traffic or have mislaid our keys etc). In such a case, energy builds up in the body which is not dissipated, causing great tension.

 

Why do people overreact?

Above: Over-reacting to minor stressors can be caused by chemical/hormonal inbalances resulting from a chronically stressful childhood.

In order to attempt to free ourselves from this unpleasant feeling of tension, we may try to partly dissipate it by shouting obscenities or pounding our fists against some wholly innocent inanimate object (this is sometimes referred to by psychologists as a displacement activity).

In other words:

We are responding to minor stressors as if they posed severe, even life-threatening, danger. Our brain is preparing us for fight or flight because it has grossly overestimated the risk the minor stressor poses to us. It is ‘fooled’ into making this error due to the disruption of the body’s system that produces adrenalin and cortisol caused by our chronically stressful childhood.

And, following the same logic, when we’re unfortunate enough to experience major stressful events in our adult lives, we may find ourselves going into nuclear meltdown, utterly overwhelmed and unable to cope.

eBook:

brain damage caused by childhood trauma.  depression and anxiety

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MP3/CD

Reduce everyday stress.      Reduce Everyday Stress. Click here for further information.

 

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How Holding On To Chronic Anger Can Harm Us.

chronic_anger

I remained angry at my parents for a very long time indeed. I would repress it for lengthy periods, but it was always lying dormant, waiting for a trigger that would cause it to erupt. My outbursts of rage,therefore, were intermittent, and would tend to occur at times and of exceptionally intense stress or when they behaved in a rejecting way that resonated too painfully with my memories of how they rejected and discarded me in my youth.

Being chronically angry, apart from anything else, is a very destructive and emotionally distressing frame of mind to endure – it is also highly mentally enervating  and exhausting, sapping one’s energy and, often, too, spoiling one’s quality of sleep. These effects can combine to lead to a state of constant exhaustion.

Many people who were mistreated by their parents as children harbour anger, hostility and resentment towards them for years or decades. Some hold on to these destructive feelings even after their parents are dead; indeed, not only may these feelings not abate once their parents are dead, they may even intensify. This may give rise to feelings of guilt and shame, too, about not being able to free themselves from their anger.

Anger

As I’ve already suggested above, such deep rooted and pervasive anger often impacts on many areas of the angry person’s life in very harmful ways. I provide examples of how this may happen below:

– displacement of anger onto innocent victims when anger is not being directed at the parents. This may lead, frequently, to getting into conflict with other relatives, friends, work colleagues, service providers etc. and always seeing the worst in people. Often, the angry person will not be consciously aware that the anger s/he is expressing is displaced anger.

– quick to condemn those one perceives as having done something wrong/immoral and to then dismiss them as a ‘terrible person’

– gain a reputation for being an angry, judgmental, censorious and unforgiving person, even when this isn’t the ‘real you’

– loss of capacity to experience joy or pleasure in life

– a proneness to express moral outrage

– a marked tendency to be critical about everyone and everything

– strong need to feel morally superior in relation to others

– development of a ‘me against the world’ approach to life

– feelings of hatred for others easily triggered

– general misanthropic attitude towards world

– fantasies of revenge

– regard self us utterly innocent victim, persecuted relentlessly by moral inferiors and idiots

– perpetual demeanor of resentment and bitterness which alienates others

– regard self as ‘judge and jury’ when it comes to assessing moral character of others and as omniscient and infallible in one’s ‘god-like’ judgments

Resources:

Useful link about dealing with anger. Click here.

MP3

hypnotherapy_anger

Advanced self- Hypnosis audio MP3 – click here for more details

 

eBook:

anger management

Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Cliçk here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery