It came out of nowhere; completely unexpected. One minute we were enjoying our lunch and a break from homeschooling, and the next moment he was yelling at the top of his lungs. Storming through the house. Throwing whatever was in his path.
The children and I were stunned. We sat there, eyes wide open, trying to make sense of what he was raving about. Finally, I came to action. I grabbed the children and began moving them out of the kitchen. They knew what was coming. They knew what they were supposed to do. I shepherded them toward their bedrooms. All the while, he was yelling and smashing things.
Once, they were in my daughters room, I knew I had to return to the kitchen. I was scared. I didn’t want to go. I silently tiptoed toward the other part of the house. He was quiet now, probably because nobody was there to rage against. I knew it would be just a matter of moments before he started calling for me.
Sure enough, I heard my name and a loud command to get my ass in there. I scooted quickly into the room. Our eyes met. Mine, wide with worry and fear. His, black, laced with pure venom.
He reached up with one arm and angrily cleared the table with one swoosh. School books, food, plates and flowers all went crashing, shockingly, to the floor. I used to pick up these messes for him, in an attempt to calm him down, but I didn’t do that anymore, at least not until he left the house. I was tired. Tired of the constant yelling, tired of the accusations, tired of the abusive anger he’d brandish like a flaming weapon. If he wanted to clear the table of everything on it in order to force me into fearful listening, then so be it.
I was done begging. I was finished soothing his unrelenting anger. I’d try to figure out what his issues were and address those, but no longer was I choosing to molly-coddle him. Turns out that he was angry at me for spending $350 that month. I was going to financially devastate the family. I was irresponsible, untrustworthy and stupid. How dare I spend $350 (put it on the credit card, which was my only allowable access to any income at all) and stand there in front of him attempting to defend myself. We did not need that many groceries. Our child did not need shoes and I certainly did not drive to enough places to warrant filling up the gas tank twice! I was lying! Once that bill came, he’d know what I had spent so much on and then I’d pay.
I stayed calm even though my ears were ringing. I could hear my children crying in their rooms. I was frozen to the ground. I could not move. I could not speak. I could not think. I listened to his ranting and yelling until it was time for him to go back to work. Once he left, I ran to my kids.
I wrapped my arms around them. I read them a story. They cried. I cried. My older boy pooped his pants, again, the way he did every time his dad went into a rage. My daughter clung to me and wouldn’t let me out of her sight. She became a ‘dog’ on all fours, barking and removing herself by disassociating. They helped me clean up the mess. I did my best to put a smile on my face and reassure them. That is hard when you aren’t very reassured yourself.
This was our life. This sort of thing had happened time and again over the 15 years we were together. Often, I’d lure him into the bedroom where the children would not witness the anger first hand. My daughter remembers huddling with her little brothers outside the door of our bedroom. She did her best to take care of them, get them water, keep them busy, for the hours that I was locked away from them. Once I was in that room, there was no coming out until he let me out.
Witnessing his abusive anger has had a long lasting effect on my kids. They are older now, 2 of them are teens and still they deal with the emotional trauma of constant yelling and anger. They remember the atmosphere of fear. The know what it’s like to walk on eggshells. They recall how it felt to be vulnerable and scared because of the unpredictable outbursts in our home.
This was, thankfully, the last episode of abusive anger we lived with. It wasn’t long after that that we fled. It took months for my kids and me to relax. It took years for us to trust again. We cherish our peaceful home and I refuse to allow abusive anger to directly effect us again.
All behaviors have a pay off for the abuser. All behaviors are intended to promote and increase the control the abuser has over a situation as well as over another person. When things get out of the abusers control they will always choose a method of regaining control and making the victims around him get back into his line. Emotional abuse can take many different forms but today I’d like to focus on abusive anger. I almost called this post abusive yelling, because yelling is a very quick way of making the victims pay attention, but I chose abusive anger, because it covers much more than just the yelling that takes place during an abusive outburst.
Abusive anger is extremely dangerous because it makes the victims brain go into survival mode. When in survival mode, the victim will either fight back, freeze in place or flee – i.e. run away. The scary thing about abusive anger is how unpredictable it is. It can be, physically, violent free but can also, at any moment, turn violent and you never know when that moment will be. There is always the threat of it, and it’s terrifying. The victim becomes hyper-aware of their surroundings, the mood on their abuser and tries everything they can to prevent or stop the rage-up.
Being yelled at all the time changes the structure of the brain, the chemical release of the brain and how the chemicals work inside the brain. When the brain is kept in constant survival stress levels, the limbic system that regulates “fight or flight” reactions is activated. Repeated activation to these areas tells the brain that their environment is not safe. Studies have compared the brains of domestic abuse victims to the brains of war victims and have found that they are very similar. Recently, study and study has also shown that living with domestic violence can, and often does, cause traumatic brain injury/damage from the ongoing stress. That is super telling because living with domestic abuse is like living in a war zone.
Chronic traumatic stress also effects other parts of the body and how it functions. The stress of constantly fighting and living with domestic abuse increases the heart rate, putting more stress on the vascular system. It increases the release of cortisol. This is a stress hormone that suppresses the immune system and, when activated for long periods of time, also decreases learning ability and cognitive function. Having your adrenals release cortisol taxes your adrenal system and can lead to adrenal fatigue and other stress related illnesses. Constant stress puts pressure on your ability to release or utilize serotonin properly and leads to depression or addiction. An actual gene, called the autoamine oxidase A gene, is affected when children are growing up in abusive homes and physically changes to gene to increase the risk of the child developing anti-social behavior or becoming an abuser. Following is a slide show regarding the ongoing effects of stress on the brain and body.
If you are living with a partner who uses abusive anger you have a few choices. First, try to leave. Walking away is very difficult, especially if they like to follow you, but if you have a way of escape, take it. Always do what is safest for you though, and, if leaving is not safe, then the next best thing to do is to play along.
An abuser wants you to react in a certain way. Nobody knows your abuser better than you. You probably have a really good idea what it is they are looking for. Do they want you to apologize? fight back? stay quiet? grovel? Whatever you do to keep yourself safe is reasonable. When you are in a safer space, later, you can call the DV hotline or your local women’s shelter and work on safety planning so you have a way of staying safe regardless of where you choose to live.
Abusers choose their abusive anger. They know good and well what they are doing and how they are treating you. We know this because they choose where to act out, usually in the sanctity and privacy of their own home. The abusers behavior changes when they are at home, and that is when the rage-ups usually happen. Along with yelling, they blame, shame, and gaslight, they use all sorts of other verbally and emotionally abusive tactics in order to eventually wear you down. Eventually, their rages will turn physical, it’s just a matter of time. They count on wearing you down physically and emotionally because they believe it will keep you in their controlling grasp.
More often then not, they are charming and kind in public. Your pastor, your friends, maybe even your family adore him. They have no idea what is going on in your home and you are too afraid, too ashamed or in too much denial to share the truth with them. Maybe you feel disloyal because you believe he’s a good husband or father, or because he makes a good living for your family.
To speak up is to break the hold that silence has on your life. Speak up and speak truth.
Survivors that are in relationship with a raging person feel the effects of the rage all the time because they are walking on eggshells trying to prevent an outburst. The primary aggressor, on the other hand, after an episode both tends to feel better, and to quickly develop ‘amnesia’ about what happened. ~Micheal Samsel
God gave humans emotions as a healthy way to deal with the things that will happen to us in this life. All emotion is valid. Happy, sad, confused and angry all have a place in the emotional health of a human. God created emotions and our emotions are a direct reflection of a relational God. God is very clear when it comes to anger, that it is a valid emotion and that we are to maintain control of our reaction to anger. He is clear that anger, when it is not righteous leads to abuse. He instructs us to stay away from angry people. We are told that love does not include abusive anger, ever.
Proverbs 29:22 An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.
Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin;
James 1:19-20 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Colossians 3:8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
How often does abusive anger result in rage, malice, slander and swearing? Be slow to human anger, listen more than you talk, do not sin while angry and be aware of how you respond to your anger. God does not require you to live in a home where anger and abuse takes place. His home is full of love, not rage. His desire is for you to live in peace.
As a victim of abusive anger, I had to realize that this was not what God intended for my marriage or for my life. Abusive anger was killing me and my children slowly. God did not desire that I stay in an angry, stressful or abusive marriage. He came to give life, not death and since my abuser was unrepentant and totally denied his abuse as well as refused to get help, God set me free. He can set you free from your anger and from your abuser.