Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I am a big fan of your page, and all your advice is so good. Now I write to you in order to solve a problem.
I have anger issues.
For me, getting angry is really easy, and to get out of anger is really difficult.
This has brought me problems with all the people around me.
The problem is I have reasons to be angry. I have been a victim of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. However, people don't see I’ve suffered injustice: they only see my rage.
I try to explain, but people stop loving me, and I end up having to apologize for my anger, and I feel doubly victim: first for suffering injustice and second for having my feelings not validated and having to apologize for then, without receiving the validation I need.
What can I do?
— Suffering Woman
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Dear Suffering Woman,
My heart goes out to you.
I know firsthand how trauma can disrupt the ability to regulate emotions.
As someone who grew up lacking coping skills, I didn’t learn how to handle my anger until I was well into adulthood. I had suppressed my trauma and anger for so long as a child and adolescent, that when it began to come out, it exploded and I couldn’t control it.
It seems this is what has been happening with you as well. That rage is your body’s reaction to any perceived threat. That rage is a form of hypervigilance that is a method of survival. That rage is the aftermath of trauma.
It’s not your fault that all this rage has come up, but it is your responsibility to get some help.
Likely, the people who are on the receiving end of your anger now, do not deserve it. I know for me, I lashed out at people who didn’t deserve it. I frequently overreacted because I was furious with other people, people who’d hurt me a long time before.
And I was so mad at myself. In some twisted way, I held myself responsible for my depression, for my PTSD from sexual abuse, because if I held the blame, I had some control.
But I was out of control, much as you are out of control now.
Reaching out to me is a wonderful first step. I encourage you to follow up with therapy. You didn’t mention in your email if you have had any therapy. But you need a safe space to process all of that abuse and be guided in learning tools that will help you regulate your emotions, rather than letting them control you.
The person your anger is hurting the most is you.
I cannot stress enough how vital it is that you get some professional help. Unchecked, these anger issues will continue to plague you for the rest of your life. No matter how kind the people are around you, no matter how many times your feelings are validated by others, until you work through the trauma and work to change your behavior, things will remain the same.
You can be free from feeling this way all the time. You really can. But you can’t get there alone.
In addition to therapy, there are many resources available online, as well as IRL in the form of support groups. If you email me, I can give you some leads in your area.
Don’t lose heart. You can get to a place where you are no longer controlled by your anger.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Tiger’s Eye, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo