Category Archives: Anger And Violence

Were You An Intensely Angry Child? A Possible Explanation.

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Anger displayed by traumatized children differs markedly from anger displayed by non-traumatized children. The anger exhibited by such traumatized children (in comparison with how anger tends to be exhibited by non-traumatized children):

  • is more extreme and intense
  • comes on more suddenly
  • is more difficult for carers of the child to calm
  • is more out of control
  • has a more ‘primal’ / visceral quality to it
  • can give rise to more obvious physiological changes (such as dilation of the pupils and tension of the facial muscles)

Why Does Such Extreme Anger Occur In Developmentally Traumatized Children?

Reasons for such extreme anger responses may occur because :

  • it is instinctive and hard-wired into the brain as a DEFENSE MECHANISM / SURVIVAL MECHANISM
  • the experience of severe and protracted trauma damages the biological development of the brain leading to extreme impairment of the child’s ability to regulate (control) his/her emotions
  • the child’s conscious and unconscious memories of his/her previous traumatic experiences
  • the child feels a deep sense of betrayal by his/her parents / primary caregivers
  • the child has fantasies of revenge against the parents / primary carers

anger - Were You An Intensely Angry Child? A Possible Explanation.

Anger Result Of Underlying Fear And Need For Self-Protection :

The intense anger that traumatized children show is due to both conscious and unconscious fear. This fear does not only relate to perceived danger of being physically hurt, but also of being emotionally hurtthe latter is frequently linked to fear of rejection or of being over-powered and controlled.

The Pre-emptive Nature Of Intense Outbursts Of Rage :

To those who do not understand the child, his/her explosive outbursts of rage often seem very disproportionate to the precipitating event. However, there are actually logical reasons (even though the untutored observer may view the child’s behavior as ‘irrational’ and ‘illogical’) for the way in which the child reacts and the reasons are these : based both on the child’s conscious and unconscious memories of how s/he has been physically and/or emotionally endangered in the past, s/he is constantly on the alert for signs that further danger may be imminent.

Subtle Indications Of Imminent Danger :

This self-protective state of alert works on a ‘better safe than sorry’ basis which means the child is likely to react angrily / aggressively (and, I stress again, the anger / aggression functions as a defense, summed up by the maxim, ‘attack is the best form of defense’) to even very subtle signs that this danger may exist (such as slight changes in facial expressions or intonation which may be barely detectable to others.

A Desperate Need To Feel In Control :

As already alluded to above, the traumatized child’s proneness to extreme anger may frequently stem from a desperate need to be in control. This acute need is likely to relate to the child’s past experience of his/her parents / primary carers having abused their control and power over him/her in the past, resulting in physical or psychological injury to him/her. Therefore, the child is terrified  (on an either conscious or unconscious level) that not being in control will make him/her vulnerable to being harmed yet further.

The Need For Empathy :

Rather than being punished, children who have problems controlling their intense feelings of anger need their parents / primary carers to understand and empathize with the underlying reasons for the behavior and, based upon this understanding and empathy, to respond compassionately rather than judgmentally. Children who have been traumatized very frequently (and irrationally) blame themselves and are wracked with feelings of self-hatred. Their anger is a symptom of their trauma and being punished for it is likely to perpetuate their feelings of worthlessness and psychologically damage them further.

 

RESOURCES :

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

 

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A Study On The Childhoods Of Murderers

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A study conducted by Lewis et al (1985) and published in the American Journal Of Psychiatry examined the childhoods of nine convicted murders with the aim of discovering what characteristics (if any) they had in common. The main characteristics identified fell into four main categories :

  1. Acts of violence as children
  2. Psychiatric / medical history
  3. Psychiatric history of parents / first-degree relatives
  4. History of parental abuse

ACTS OF VIOLENCE AS CHILDREN :

All of the nine individuals in the study had perpetrated extreme violent acts as children / adolescents. Examples of these violent acts include :

  • two had committed robbery at knife point
  • one, at the age of four, had thrown a dog out of a window
  • one had set his bed on fire
  • one, at the age of ten, had threatened his teacher with a razor

PSYCHIATRIC / MEDICAL HISTORY :

  • three had been hospitalized in psychiatric units during childhood
  • three had histories of grand mal seizures and abnormal EEGs ( the term EEG stands for electrencephalogram which is a procedure that measures the electrical activity in the brain).
  • one was macrocephalic (the term ‘macrocephalic’ refers to a condition that results in the affected individual developing an abnormally large region of the brain called the cranium) and had an abnormal EEG
  • three had histories of ‘losing contact with reality’
  • six had sustained severe head injuries as children

PSYCHIATRIC HISTORY OF PARENTS / FIRST-DEGREE RELATIVES :

  • all nine had a first-degreee relative who had been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit and/or was known to be psychotic
  • five had a mother who had been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit
  • four had fathers who were known to be psychotic (one of whom had been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit)

HISTORY OF PARENTAL ABUSE :

  • seven had been severely, physically abused by one or both parents
  • six had witnessed extreme domestic violence

Conclusion :

Based on the findings of the above study and other relevant, previously conducted studies by other researchers, the authors of this study conclude that whilst it is not possible to predict whether individuals will commit murder at some point in the future, when a person has has been affected by all of the above factors (i.e. a prior history of violence, neuropsychiatric impairment,  parental psychosis and a history of having been physically abused as a child),  therapeutic intervention is necessary, irrespective of considerations relating to what one may, or may not, be able to predict about the individual’s future conduct in relation to violence.

It seems difficult to disagree with this conclusion as, obviously, anyone who is affected by the above combination of factors is likely to be experiencing extreme levels of mental distress.

 

NB : The above description of the study is a simplification to convey the main findings as concisely as possible ; a full description of the study can be accessed here.

 

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Anger May Operate To Soothe Emotional Pain

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We have seen from other articles published on this site that many forms of childhood abuse/trauma can put as at an increased risk of developing problems controlling our anger as adults, particularly if the abuse/trauma that we have suffered has been serious enough to result in us developing a serious psychological condition such as borderline personality disorder or complex posttraumatic stress disorder.

Steven Stosny, author of the excellent book Treating Attachment Disorder, proposes that the act of getting angry may function, at times, to reduce the level of psychological pain we are feeling (it is known that borderline personality disorder can cause intense mental suffering, even agony).

How Can Anger Alleviate Mental Suffering?

According to Stosny, anger may lessen mental suffering by the chemical changes it produces in the brain, in particular by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter called norepinephrine.

‘Core Hurts’

Stosny further states that the mental pain our anger may help to soothe is pain that is linked to our core hurts‘ ; these are the painful feelings that we carry around with us that are linked to our childhood trauma / abuse and may include those of :

   – rejection

   – worthlessness

   – powerlessness

   – guilt

   – shame

   – being ‘unlovable

   – being an ‘outcast’

Anger As A Kind Of Addictive Drug :

If, then, as Stosny suggests, the act of getting angry, by producing chemical changes in the brain that serve as a psychological analgesic (i.e. pain-killer / self-soothing agent), it is possible that, just as we can become addicted to other pain-killing drugs such as morphine, that some of us may become addicted to anger as a means of coping with unbearable mental anguish.

Any Benefit Of Anger Likely To Be Short-Term :

However, the possible analgesic effect of anger are likely to be ephemeral. This is because, after the initial boost of norepinephrine, we are likely to regret, and feel guilty about, our behavior and find that, in the longer termm it has merely served to compound our already not  inconsiderable problems.

RESOURCES :

MANAGE YOUR ANGER DOWNLOADABLE HYPNOSIS PACK – click here.

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

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Effects Of Anger On Brain And Body

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We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that, if we suffered childhood trauma, our risk of developing problems controlling our anger as adults increases, especially if our experience of trauma was so severe that we have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder.

Five major causes of anger are fear, rejection, frustration, disappointment and being negatively evaluated by others. When such causes occur, a chain reaction takes place within the brain :

First, the region of the brain known as the amygdala is activated (one of the consequences of childhood trauma is that the amygdala can become highly sensitive and over-reactive); in turn, the amygdala activates the hippocampus which, in its turn, activates the pituatary gland.

The pituary gland then activates the adrenal glands which produce stress hormones including :

cortisol

adrenaline

noradrenaline

THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF CORTISOL ON THE BRAIN :

Excessive cortisol :

– harms the prefrontal cortex

– harms the hippocampus

– reduces levels of serotonin

I provide more details about these three adverse effects below :

Cortisol can cause neurons in the brain to absorb excessive quantities of calcium which, in turn, can cause these same neurons to fire too frequently and die.

Two areas of the brain which are especially vulnerable to losing neurons in this way are the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus ; let’s look a little more closely at the implications of this :

ADVERSE EFFECT ON PREFRONTAL CORTEX :

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain involved in planning, judgment and decision making ; it follows, therefore, that the loss of neurons in this part of the brain impairs these functions.

ADVERSE EFFECT ON HIPPOCAMPUS :

The hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in short-term memory and the formation of new memories ; again, it follows that the loss of neurons in this part of the brain impairs these functions.

REDUCTION OF SEROTONIN LEVELS :

Levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin are lowered ; lowered levels of serotonin are associated with : increased aggression, increased sensitivity to painful stimuli, increased susceptibility to depression.

THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF STRESS HORMONES ON THE BODY :

Excessive levels of stress hormones generated by anger also physically damage the body ; in particular, harm is incurred by :

the immune system

– the cardiovascular system

– the digestive system

Let’s look at how these bodily systems are damaged in a little more detail :

THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM : impaired functioning of the metabolic system, reduction in blood flow

THE CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM : increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased levels of glucose levels in the blood, increased levels of fatty acids in the blood, increase in tension of the arteries – these symptoms in turn increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

THE IMMUNE SYSTEM : impaired functioning of the thyroid, increase in the number of cells infected by viruses, reduction in the levels of diseases fighting cells, increased risk of cancer

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MANAGER YOUR ANGER PACK | HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS

 

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

 

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Forgiveness And Its Health Benefits

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Why Is Forgiveness Beneficial For Our Health And Prospects Of Recovery?

If we have suffered childhood trauma as a result of our parents’ abusive behavior or neglect, we may grow up feeling angry and resentful towards them. Furthermore, as a result of our childhood experiences, our own behavior in the past may have been dysfunctional and self-destructive and we may feel angry with ourselves about this.

Feeling angry towards our parents and/or ourselves, though, can act as a very major impediment to our recovery from the effects of our childhood trauma – so this is one vitally important reason why forgiving ourselves and our parents can be an extremely positive and helpful thing to do ; after all, feeling constantly bitter, angry and resentful is an exhausting and painful frame of mind to endure (in most cases simply harming ourselves rather than anybody else; this idea is pithily encapsulated by the well known aphorism that (to paraphrase) being filled with anger, vengefulness and resentment is akin to drinking poison and expecting our enemy to die. 

In short, being preoccupied with feelings of resentment keeps us trapped in the past and prevents us living in, and enjoying, the present.

Physical Benefits Of Forgiveness :

Also, the act of forgiveness, assuming it is freely chosen and authentic rather than something we have reluctantly forced ourselves to do, is most important for our physical health and I briefly explain why below :

      • being constantly angry locks our nervous systems into the ‘fight or flight’ state; this results in various physiological changes in our bodies which, in turn, makes us more susceptible to heart disease / attacks; it follows, therefore, that letting go of our anger and practicing forgiveness will make us less likely to experience such heart problems
      • chronic anger also increases our risk of diabetes
      • chronic anger increases the risk of high blood pressure

    Also, according to research carried out by The John Hopkins Hospital, practicing forgiveness can:

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So-Called ‘Psychopathic Traits’ In Adolescents Often Symptoms Of Intense Emotional Distress

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnessedition 5 (DSMV), psychopathy is listed under antisocial personality disorders and it is currently hypothesized that the disorder is rooted significantly in genetic determinants and involves chemical abnormalities in the brain. In other words, the condition is thought to be substantially determined by biological factors.
 What Is A Psychopath?
Typically, a psychopath
ignores the rights of others
highly egoistical / narcissistic
bold
disinhibited / impulsive / problems delaying gratification
 
– lacks empathy
 
– is callous, cold and unfeeling
 
– disregards the law (although many psychopaths never break the law)
 
– is prone to violence (though, again, many psychopaths are not)
 
– have little or no conscience / do not feel remorse or guilt
 
– do not fear punishment
 
The Study :
 
The study referred to in the first paragraph involved 150 participants (both male and female) residing in juvenile detention centers.
All of the participants were aged from 11-years-old to 17-years-old.
All the participants had been classified as :
callous
– unemotional
– extremely, behaviourally antisocial
– incipiently psychopathic
 images 49 - So-Called 'Psychopathic Traits' In Adolescents Often Symptoms Of Intense Emotional Distress
What Did The Study Find?
Using more sensitive and sophisticated means of testing (especially with regard to examining personality traits) than is usually used to investigate psychopathy and psychopathic characteristics it was found that although, superficially, the young people appeared callous, unemotional and pre-psychopathic their actual diagnosis (according to the more accurate and appropriare tests used), in the main, was that they were :

severely depressed

– severely anxious

– in a state of high emotionality

(In other words, they were not psychopathic but suffering from intense emotional distress).

 

Implications Of Study :

Due to these findings, the researchers pointed out that young people displaying behavioural problems such as those in this study should not be unthinkingly labelled as incipient psychopaths, punished and stigmatized but, instead, be given appropriate support and treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and help controlling their intense and volatile emotions.

 

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Childhood Trauma Leading To Addiction And Crime

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We have seen in previous articles published on this site that, if we have experienced significant childhood trauma, we are at increased risk of becoming addicted to illegal drugs as a result in order to help dull our emotional pain / dissociate from our problems (this is not only because our lives our more likely to be stressful if we have experienced childhood trauma, but also because the experience of childhood trauma can damage the development of a part of the brain called the amygdala which, in turn, makes us more susceptible to, and less able to tolerate, the effects of stress).

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Unfortunately, too, if we become addicted to illegal drugs, we then become at increased risk of becoming involved in crime (over and above the crime of buying and taking illegal drugs). Below, I explain some of the main reasons why this is so :

Why Becoming Addicted To Illegal Drugs Puts Us At Risk Of Becoming Further Involved In Crime :

– some drugs can decrease inhibition, increase impulsivity and increase the propensity to become violent (though obviously not an illegal drug, this is especially true of alcohol – and the experience of childhood trauma also makes it more likely we will abuse alcohol for the same reasons that we may become addicted to illegal drugs)

– the desperate need to acquire money quickly to buy the drugs that feed the addiction

– buying illegal drugs brings the addict into contact with the criminal world which exposes him/her to the danger of becoming ‘sucked into’ a more general, criminal lifestyle.

The Development Of The Vicious Circle :

Not only does being an addict increase one’s risk of becoming involved in crime, but the reverse is also true : being involved in crime can increase one’s likelihood of becoming / remaining an addict. This is because the money that can be accumulated through criminal endeavours can be used to start a drug habit, maintain a drug habit, increase frequency of use of drug, increase dosage of drug per session, and allow the addict to buy a new types of drugs s/he couldn’t previously afford or to which s/he previously did not have access.

And, if s/he goes to prison due to crime, s/he is likely to encounter a thriving drug culture – indeed, many prisoners state that it is even easier to acquire drugs inside jail than it is outside.

The childhood trauma / addiction / crime association is more likely to affect males than females (eighty per cent of all crimes are committed by males). However, females are more likely to turn to prostitution in order to sustain their drug habit.

Resources :

Self hypnosis MP3 / CD : Overcome Addiction

eBook :

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

 

 

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How To Control Emotions

 

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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 knowing how to control 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.

How To Control 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.


Links to resources relating to how to control emotions shown below:

Control Anger Pack (Download or CD). Click here.

How To Control Emotions(Download or CD). Click here.


 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

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Effects Of Authoritarian Parents

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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.’

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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.

 

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

 

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Freeing Ourselves From Anger About Our Past.

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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.

images 5 2 - Freeing Ourselves From Anger About Our 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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