Anger: The Role of Owning & Expressing Anger in Empowering
Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
An SIA World Service Conference Literature Committee Roundtable Discussion to Create Text for the SIA Gold Big Book Hope Heals
You Can Make Our Big Book Reality! The SIA WSC Literature Committee & Gold Big Book Subcommittee is seeking your assistance in making our dream of an SIA Big Book come to life. To help with the creation of this text, we are conducting a series of discussions by experienced SIA members about various chapters in the book. You may listen in and participate in these discussions. Each discussion will be 2 hours in length and non-speaker panel members are encouraged to participate during the last portion of the meeting. Additionally, all SIA members are encouraged to share their experience, strength and hope in written form with the committee and participate in our monthly Literature Committee Meetings on the first Monday of every month at 6:30 P.M. ET/3:30 P.M. PT. To participate in monthly meetings call 712-451-6000; pin number: 190373 #
Date: Sunday, 9/08/13
Time: 4:00 P.M. – 6:30 P.M. Eastern Time/1:00- 3:30 P.M. Pacific Time
To Participate: Dial 1-626-677-3000; then press 673296 #
Why is Owning & Expressing Anger Empowering for Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors?
As it says in our SIA Literature,* . . . when we first start dealing with the incest, we get in touch with intense pain and anger. We need to make some concrete expression of the fact that we have been victimized, that we did not deserve abuse, and that the abuser was responsible. We have spent years denying and betraying our own feelings and perceptions. We were silenced for a long time. We heal ourselves by giving voice to that child inside us. We were hurt, we deserved better and now we are recognizing it. We will not be intimidated into denying these emotional realities anymore. We will need time to remember, time to get angry, time to cry. We suffered so much, so long. We need our ‘day in the sun.’ (1) We have often gone to extremes to avoid feeling anger. Most often we have exchanged guilt for anger and paid a very high price since guilt evokes self-destructive behavior in many incest victims. (2)
We denied the feelings of anger, fear, resentment and rejection that are connected with incest, yet we continued to act on those feelings in our everyday lives. (3) Many of us are terrified that if we get angry we’ll (lose) control since the adults we knew were often out of control…Anger isn’t destructive unless we deny or misdirect it. We are free to make choices about what we’ll DO with our anger. We can choose how to express our anger…there are ways to express our anger without inflicting pain on anyone. (4)
In SIA, we learn to focus our anger, directing it where it belongs rather than on ourselves…In the safe setting of an SIA meeting, we can learn how to place the anger squarely on the shoulders of our abusers. (5)
When we recognize our pain, anger naturally follows. Anger is a healthy and an appropriate response to pain. The sense of unfairness, irretrievable opportunities, loss of innocence, feelings of being exploited, realizing that he or she got away with it, questions like “Why should I be hurting still?” are all common responses and they make us angry. (6) In other programs, we are taught that anger only destroys the container it comes in, no matter how justified…we are taught that we can’t afford resentments…So far, the person we’ve resented the most has been ourselves. We have taken the blame, and now we can’t afford to misdirect that anger any more since the consequences have been so devastating in our lives…Anger directed at the appropriate people is healthy and redeems our pain. Once we have experienced self-love, anger closely follows. We’ve been hurt and no one had the right to hurt us; we didn’t deserve this abuse…We become honest about our feelings…We learn to honor our feelings. We learn to own our anger and to appreciate its value. This is one way we can make direct amends to our Inner Child and begin the healing process. (7)
In SIA, we learn to express our anger…we give ourselves ultimate justice… (8)
* The above paragraphs are excerpts from the following SIA pamphlets, and all of them are available for purchase on the SIA World Service website at SIAWSO.org.
1. Must We Forgive? Pg 2
2. Ways We Denied, Pg 7
3. The 12 Steps & The 12 Traditions of SIA, Step 3, Pg 11
4. Bittersweet: For Those in Other 12 Step Programs, Pg 2
5. Building From the Void: Survivors Frustrations with Parenting, Pg 6
6. Stages of Reaction to Trauma
7. Bittersweet: For Those in Other 12 Step Programs, Pg 2
8. The Confrontation, Pg 11
Questions for Consideration
In the SIA pamphlet “Ways We Denied,” it is noted, “We have often gone to extremes to avoid feeling anger. Most often we have exchanged guilt for anger and paid a very high price since guilt evokes self-destructive behavior in many incest victims.” Please share with us the prices you’ve paid or self destructive behaviors fueled by avoiding anger.
Describe how sexual child abuse impacted the way in which you have used and expressed anger in the world and/or how you responded to the expression of anger from others.
Anger is a natural and healthy response to abuse but many survivors tend to become anger anorexics (no anger at all) or rage-aholics (anger all the time). Do you fit into either of these categories, and what were some of your reactions to your anger and/or the anger of others?
Do you believe there are “healthy” and “unhealthy” expressions of anger? What would you consider to be healthy expressions of anger? What would you consider to be unhealthy expressions of anger?
What “healthy” techniques have you used to work with anger (examples: deep breathing, singing, beating pillows, going to the airport to scream in car while planes fly overhead, gardening, dancing hard, etc. etc.)
How does it feel when you work with anger (before, during, after)?
What are some of the issues you’ve faced in owning and working with your anger?
What are some of the messages that come up when you feel or express anger? Have they changed when you work with anger? How?
Were there emotions and/or memories hidden or contained behind your anger and how did you show up for them?
A new type of SIA meeting has emerged in the last three years. It’s called an Anger and Feeling Release meeting. Have you attended one of these meetings? What has been your experience in the meetings?
Has owning and expressing your anger toward your perpetrators affected levels, intensity or expression of anger towards yourself? Has it helped you to let go of anger and resentment towards yourself?
Do you feel that owning and expressing anger has helped your healing processes? In what ways? Has the expression of anger empowered you as an individual?
Fall 2013 Roundtable Topics
Fall of 2013 & Winter of 2014 begins our 4-Part Series on Working the SIA Steps
Sunday, October 6: Working Steps 1-3
Sunday, November 3: Working Steps 4-5
December: No Roundtable