Episodes of rage can result from intense anger and hatred.

How to Let Go of Hate & Anger After Being Abused All of Your Life

by Jill Avery-Stoss

Abuse creates trauma that leads to a wide variety of effects, particularly if it is extensive and unacknowledged by those around you. Feelings of anger and hatred are outcomes of abuse that can fester over time, damaging your ability to maintain healthy relationships in your life after the abuse. Acknowledging and understanding the origins of the emotions, as well as learning how to express and reconcile them, will lead to greater peace of mind and a healthy ability to relate to others.

Complex Trauma

According to Christine Courtois of the Psychiatric Institute of Washington, "Complex trauma refers to a type of trauma that occurs repeatedly and cumulatively, usually over a period of time and within specific relationships and contexts." Effects of complex trauma include difficulty regulating emotion and self-destructive impulses, inability to concentrate, sexual dysfunction, fear and hyper-vigilance, sleep problems and physical illness. Addressing all effects of trauma could potentially assist with the reduction of anger and hatred, since the emotions of abuse are so intricately intertwined.

Managing Anger

Anger can be a reasonable, healthy response to the abuse you endured as long as it's appropriately expressed. To be entirely consumed by anger, however, to the extent that it overrides all other emotions, is to be robbed of a fulfilling life and rewarding relationships. In "Psychological Self-Help," Dr. Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd suggest finding means in which anger can "co-exist with your sense of appropriate behavior and your philosophy of life." Working toward this goal with an experienced counselor or therapist using emotion-regulation techniques will likely prove effective.

Techniques for Management

Tucker-Ladd reviews methods for the management of your feelings of anger and hatred. Stress-inoculation aims to create an awareness of distressing thoughts and ideas. Meditation, relaxation and catharsis are also therapeutic. Moreover, when you are angry, adrenaline flows and you become energized. He suggests that, "Instead of using this natural high to hurt others, we can use it in constructive ways." You might try exercise or athletics, gardening, journaling, artwork or other hobbies. Other ideas for coping with hatred and anger include learning assertiveness and empathy and avoiding "hostility-generating groups and sub-groups," according to Tucker-Ladd.

Hatred and Forgiveness

Feeling an intense dislike or repulsiveness toward those who have abused you is natural -- even healthy. You may feel hatred toward others who may have known about the abuse and failed to intervene. You may even feel hatred for yourself if you believe you did something to provoke the abuse or think you could have done something to stop it. A way of working through hatred is to aim for forgiveness. This is a complex concept to consider, however, since many perceive it as forgetting what happened or embracing the relationships with those who have hurt you. Seeking professional help can aid the process of forgiveness as the patient is given tools for healthy action toward forgiveness.

What Forgiveness Isn't

Tucker-Ladd clarifies that forgiveness does not mean lifting responsibility from the perpetrators of abuse. It is not an "approval of what was done" or giving permission for it to happen again, he explains. Instead, it is an attempt to rid some or all of the bitterness within you, to move toward greater peace of mind. Acceptance may be a more appropriate term for this concept. As for those who enabled or perpetrated the abuse, many victims are never completely able to forgive, as it seems that by doing so they will be giving up a measure of self-respect and that some actions are too reprehensible for forgiveness. Work toward forgiving yourself first.


About the Author

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

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