When I was in the middle of severe trauma after D-Day, I was filled with so much rage I didn’t know what to do. I am not someone who gets angry normally, so this was something very new to me. And the anger felt like toxic acid that was going to kill me if I kept stewing in it, ruminating about every horrible thing my husband did. Therapy, exercise, and a meditation app were life savers, but I had to come up with additional ways to cope. Here are some unconventional things that worked for me. When I was filled with intense anger, doing them calmed me down and made me feel a bit better.
I wrote down my thoughts and then burned them. I would think of things that I was extremely mad about in that moment (i.e., How could he throw away 27 years of love and devotion? How could he spend thousands of dollars taking his girlfriend to a luxury spa while I’m watching every penny shopping at Walmart? How dare he blame me for his betrayal and say he lies to me because he doesn’t trust me! WTF?!!). I would write each thought down on a small piece of paper, wad it up, and put it into a disposable tin foil baking pan. I would spend several minutes furiously writing and crumpling up the strips of paper until the pan had a decent amount in it. I then took the tin foil pan into a safe, windless part of the backyard and lit the papers on fire. As the papers burned, I did my best to imagine that I was purging those horrible feelings of anger out of my system. Somehow it gave me some comfort to see the tormenting thoughts turn into ash.
I kept an “anger magnet” in my pocket. I found a small round pebble outside and washed it up. I would then put it in my pocket any time I had to see my husband in person (after I filed for divorce and kicked him out). When I would feel like yelling at him and telling him what a scumbag he was, I would instead hold onto the pebble. I imagined that all of the rage surging through my body was exiting into the pebble as if it were a magnet for my anger, and I imagined that the pebble was neutralizing all of it. I think this was basically a mindfulness activity that helped keep my rage from spiraling into the extreme during those stressful early days.
I tuned in to live animal cams. The San Diego Zoo website has a lot of great animal cams that are live streamed every day. I found that watching the cute polar bears, koalas, and baby elephants playing melted a bit of my anger away. I highly recommend them!
I realize that these are unusual coping mechanisms, but they were super helpful to me when I was going through the worst time of my life. They were tangible things I could do when I was desperate to get even a tiny amount of relief. I am now five years post D-Day and l thankfully haven’t needed to use these methods for years, but I wanted to share them in case any new chumps find them useful.
For the Friday Challenge, I hope other chumps will share creative strategies they used to deal with rage when they were going through the trauma.
Thank you for all that you do, Chump Lady!
Great challenge idea. I might reword it as how do you deal with intrusive thoughts and overwhelming emotions. Anger at being abused is perfectly normal. It’s the paralyzed chumps I worry about. The ones so numb and mindfucked, they can’t find their anger. They stay stuck. To me, anger is fuel to get you through the worst of it. To assert yourself and gather an army (legal, medical, psych).
But I get your point. A person can’t go through the day imagining their cheater’s head on a pike when there’s laundry to fold.
I love the creativity of your approaches, especially the diversions of animal cams. Or whatever brings you joy. Part of getting through the trauma is giving your brain some stimulus other than pain.
So, CN, what’s your advice on getting through the overwhelming anger stage?