Anger is a natural reaction to relationship trauma. You feel angry that your needs were ignored and your boundaries crossed. You’re enraged that your voice was silenced and that you were not allowed to have input on what happened. The unfairness sparks fury as they seem unaffected and you’re struggling to survive.
This anger has an energy to it; it powers your thoughts and often your actions. Yet, it is not a static fuel and its nature changes as you begin to heal. These are the stages of how anger is utilized in the healing process after divorce, infidelity or other relationship trauma:
I’ll Show Them How Hurt I Am
This first stage is automatic and can be quite overwhelming, even leading to irrational behaviors. Pain demands to be heard, to be acknowledged. And anger is simply pain screaming to be heard.
We recite the wrongs done to us obsessively, meticulously enumerating all of the wounds in the goriest detail. This list becomes the soundtrack we live by, each retelling solidifying our role as the wronged one.
Sometimes we lash out in an attempt to inflict comparable pain upon them. This may bring a brief moment of satisfaction. But it is always short-lived as it never seems to encapsulate the sheer magnitude of the pain. And then it’s compounded by the fact that it never feels good to hurt someone else, even those that have caused us pain.
We may even unconsciously sabotage our chances at getting better, seeing our own healing as a sign that they have “won.” It becomes a pissing contest of pain, stubbornly holding onto and displaying the myriad of grievances.
I’ll Show Them What They Lost
In the second stage, the attention is still focused on the person that caused the pain, but the energy is directed to making them sorry instead of making them hurt.
This is the phase where people are motivated to make changes in an attempt to be perceived differently by the person that hurt them. These are often in direct correlation to any insults delivered by the injuring party.
For example, those that have been called “fat” by their spouses often dive head-first into an exercise program after divorce. If the affair partner was well-educated and the person who was cheated on always felt embarrassed about their education, they may start a new degree program.
This is an interesting phase because the outcomes can be quite beneficial even while the motivation behind them is still anchored in the past. Often these external changes contribute to a greater sense of self and confidence in our abilities. Which taken together, allow us to enter the final stage of utilizing anger.
I’ll Show Myself What I’m Capable Of
From the outside, this can look identical to the previous phase. There is a commitment to bettering yourself and courageous steps taken outside the comfort zone.
But inside? It’s quite different. Because now the motivation has nothing to do with the person that hurt you. Now, you realize that you are the one that has been holding yourself back. And now, you are ready to get out of your own way and see what you can do. Not to show them, but to show you.