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Emotional Issues

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We can often try and convince ourselves that we have none or can be totally overwhelmed by them, either way, emotions are a direct response to the trauma experienced.

To help you understand the emotions you are experiencing, we have created a number of information pages.

We have also built a great Self Help Resource, thanks to NHS England; Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, and Jam Creative where you can download a wide range of guides dealing with a range of issues. Each guide is also accompanied by a audio version. Its an amazing resource and we want you to have access to it, which you can do by clicking here.

Click on one of the following Emotional Issues links to open the relevant impact information:

Annoyed, vexed, pissed off, enraged, maddened, outraged, furious, combusting, fuming, steaming, incensed, aggravated, antagonised, riled, irritated… it seems like we use such a wide variety of words to describe anger, depending on the intensity of it. But what is it? Why do we get angry? And if anger is as much of a human emotional response than any other, then why is it that we’re so often afraid of being angry or afraid when others get angry?

Anger is, in fact, often a direct response to the perception of a threat due to a physical conflict, injustice, negligence, humiliation or betrayal. Varying in intensity it can encompass aspects of hostility, self-defence, passive-aggressive behaviour and tension as a ‘passive’ emotion; and as an ‘active emotion’ the angry person usually, verbally or physically, lashes out or attacks the target of their anger. Anger is usually magnified and lasts longer when a cognitive decision is made about the intent of the individual inflicting the pain. In other words, if one decides the pain infliction was intentional or deliberate, the emotion is usually more intense.

When a person gets angry, physical effects happen within the body as their heart rate increases, pumping blood quickly around the body – especially into the muscles which then become pumped and ready for action; and biological changes take place with adrenaline level rising and the suppression of endorphins, the body’s pleasure chemicals.

It can come from feeling frustrated at not being heard or understood; not being able to be our true selves but rather having to contain our feelings and identity; at feeling alone and isolated and not cared about; and carrying traumatic memories around with us. For many survivors, managing anger is a daily battle and if not expressed in a positive and healthy way then it can cause us to act out in ways that can damage ourselves, objects and others.

Now this may be hard to believe but it’s ok to be angry, it really is, but ask yourself this question: Shouldn’t the anger be directed at the right person… the abuser?

This can be really difficult because many of us were groomed and coached into believing the reason the abuse happened was our fault, so we’re angry with ourselves. Some abusers were our dads, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, teachers, mums, adults we knew in positions of authority and power and when society generally teaches us to love these people, how can we be angry at them for what they did to us?

It can be hard not to re-direct the anger we have internalised or projected onto our current loved ones that was and should be directed at the abuser. So how can we manage our anger better?

Tips to Help With Better Anger Management

Recognise the external triggers that are likely to increase your anger. For example, hunger, tiredness, being in traffic, being in a crowd, being ignored etc. What is it about these situations that you find so upsetting? Ask yourself what thoughts or self statements you make to yourself in those situations. We all ‘talk’ to ourselves consciously or unconsciously. Find out what you are saying to yourself and then attempt to alter those statements. Work out a list of helpful self statements such as:

  • This is going to be upsetting but I can deal with it.
  • If I find myself getting upset I know what to do.
  • Stay calm, continue to relax – take a few deep breaths.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • I’m not going to let this person get to me.
  • This is a challenge – relax those muscles.
  • Congratulations – you handled that pretty well.

Recognise the physical signs of tension in your body, e.g. clenched fists, tightened biceps, rapid shallow breathing, accelerated heart rate. Then, try to relax. Practice muscle relaxation exercises and slow controlled breathing. Say to yourself a soothing word such as CALM or imagine a peaceful scene, or try something that distracts you such as counting backwards.

Manage your background stress levels. Anger can also be a symptom of being overstressed and feeling unable to cope. If you are feeling very stressed look at ways of changing your lifestyle. Talk about your worries.

Ventilate and explore your feelings. Aim to improve your assertiveness skills. Increase your level of physical activity.

For further information and support, we have teamed up with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation who have produced a range of superb self help guides covering a range of mental health issues and subjects. The publications we thought were suitable for this page include:

  • Controlling Anger
  • Domestic Violence

To download a copy of any of the Self Help Guides click here

British Association of Anger Management are the only UK centre of expertise for all aspects of anger and conflict management.

Anger Management

Mind have created this fantastic resource on dealing with anger, certified by the Information Standard.

Mind

If you feel like you need more help with your anger management then all you need to do is ask. Contact us and we can help you work out what your best option of assistance is.

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Fear is an emotional response to a perceived or actual threat. It is a basic, natural and innate survival mechanism that occurs in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. It is related to the specific process that ends in the action of escape or avoidance.

Although fear almost always relates to future events, such as worsening of a situation, or continuation of a situation that is unacceptable, it can also be an instant reaction to something presently happening.

Our bodies react to fear physically, with an extreme rapid heart rate, which in turn increases our blood pressure. Our muscles tighten, pupils dilate (to let more light in) and we sweat. Our senses become heightened. Now we are in what is known as ‘Fight or Flight’ syndrome.

But fear can also be debilitating. It can stop you in your tracks. It can render you speechless and still. Fear is one of the main things that can keep us silent!

  • Fear that people will think we asked for it.
  • Fear that we will be cast aside by others.
  • Fear that our friends and families will reject us.
  • Fear that we will be blamed for it happening.
  • Fear that we will be thought of as weak.

and although reading this now, you may think it’s a ridiculous idea….

  • The very real fear that they may come back and hurt us again!

As adult survivors, fear can virtually throw us back to being the child, or back to the point of being hurt. Fear can be woven right through the legacy of abuse and rape such as the fear about being in a certain space or environment, or being in the company of a particular type of person/s. Smashing through the fear is the only way out and this in itself can be fear inducing.

But hear this… you are not that child anymore. You are not in that situation anymore. You are not alone, there are people that understand, honest.

Send us an email, post a message on the board, pick up the phone… you no longer need to be scared.

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It’s widely acknowledged that guilt is one of the main emotions that can keep victims and survivors of sexual abuse silent, including men… men just like you and me!

As an emotion, guilt is what we feel as a consequence of our actions when we believe that the action was the breaking of a moral rule, social norm, personal value or statutory law that we consider to be valid or right. It’s that feeling we get when we think or say quietly to ourselves “I shouldn’t have done that”. But don’t let this confuse you, its not the feeling of shame, we’ll talk about that in its own section.

However guilt can be a confused emotion, for example, something we did that we considered ‘bad’ as a child, we can feel as guilt as an adult.

“I shouldn’t have done that” isn’t the only thought that that can continue to dwell in ones mind, others include “I should have stopped myself”, “If only I had…”, “why didn’t I just…”, “if only I’d”, and so on and so on.

Being pre-occupied with the event(s) is the reason these thoughts still enter your head. But the event is in the past, placed there by the movement of time. Maybe if you had known then what you know now, things might have been different? Maybe the event wouldn’t have happened then? Maybe you could have done something differently? But should you be feeling guilty about every action? What if you hadn’t been bad but were led to believe you had, surely you don’t have anything to feel guilty about the do you?

So how do you move forward then?

Past Behaviour – Present Knowledge.

Acknowledging the reality of the past action or behaviour is a good place to start.

  • What part did you play in the action?
  • Why did you carry out the action?
  • What was the then alternative?

Accepting that you behaved in a certain way has to be the next step in the right direction, but maybe its time to tell yourself that you now consider the actions you carried out in the past not to be acceptable to you now.

That doesn’t make you a bad person does it? Surely doesn’t it mean instead that your behaviour then isn’t acceptable to you now and therefore show development, self awareness and personal growth?

Maybe what you did then was based upon the situation you were then in? or based on the knowledge that you had then? But now you know differently. Now you’ve had time to think about who did what and what part you played, maybe now you can see a reason (its not an excuse) as to why you behaved in the way you did?

Look at why you feel guilty, is it due to something that you had control over at the time, or due to an abusive history that you had no control over? Were you able to handle situation differently, but chose to behave the way you did, regardless of the circumstances?

If everyone else has forgiven you for your action then why don’t you forgive yourself. You could base your forgiveness on what you know now or your development. Continuing to beat yourself up about it only adds fuel to the flame until it becomes a huge fire, out of control.

Remember: You have nothing to feel guilty about with regards to being abused, that wasn’t your fault.

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Shame can be one of the most crippling emotional spirals, overwhelmingly strong and because of its nature, one of the hardest to talk about.

Shame is not guilt or embarrassment although as with many other emotions it may exist alongside them.

  • Guilt is the response of the conscience; the twinge we feel when we have broken a rule or gone against a value.
  • Embarrassment will not cause a person to loose all sense of their identity or to feel despair or hopelessness.

Shame is not related to what we DO but to who we ARE and what we believe about ourselves.

  • Shame, and the defense we build to protect ourselves once in the spiral, will rob us of joy, ease, spontaneity, freedom and the virtual knowledge that we are truly worthwhile as individuals and deserves love and intimacy.

It is without doubt, the single most common feeling that keeps victims and survivors of sexual abuse and rape, silent – the exact effect that an abuser desires. But in reality you shouldn’t be carrying that shame, you have nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the shame doesn’t belong to you; it belongs to the person abuser, the person who abused you, regardless of who they are.

It is difficult at first for us to identify shame, or share it. Discussing an incident of remark that has touched one’s shame can be very difficult because of the risk of feeling the shame again.

The shame associated with sexual abuse, as a child or adult victim, ingrains itself into every aspect of our thoughts and actions in our lives. For whatever reason, we feel ashamed for what happened to us and we blame ourselves for having been abused.

We can see the abuse as our fault in some way, perhaps because we ‘failed’ to speak out then, stop it, or even perhaps because we may have enjoyed some aspect of the abuse, such as physical sensations or the closeness of another, something that was missing in other areas of our life? Know and get used to this idea… the body will respond to touch or stimulation in a way that it is programmed to, sometimes even if your conscience or mind doesn’t want it to. That can be difficult to comprehend but not understanding it can allow shame to grow.

We may see the abuse as a sign we were to blame. Perhaps you imagine that you were ‘giving off signals’ saying “look at me, abuse me”. No one ‘gives of signals’!

We can end up seeing the abuse as a, excuse for living a life that resembles a life not worth living and ‘allow’ the abuse to live our life, instead of living the life we want to and bloody deserve to. People make lots of decisions, conscious and unconscious, and act out in all sorts of ways. The decisions we make and actions we take to hide or ‘push away’ thoughts and feelings can be, and often are, detrimental to our health, e.g. drug use, alcohol misuse, self-harm. All of these things can be part of the excuse for living a life ‘not worth living’, but the reality is that rather than an excuse, there is a reason you did these things. Change it!

We can see the abuse and its after effects, as an excuse to behave badly, differently or alternatively, making sure others avoid us at all costs, but the reality is that we’re remaining in isolation. Break the silence!

We may see the abuse as something we’ll never be able to overcome and as such, don’t even bother to see if it is possible. Well guess what? it is!

We may see the abuse as a way to remain locked up in our own world, isolated from everyone, never letting people in to know the real you, and to love you, as you feel unlovable, unloved, and dirty. You’re not dirty at all!

We easily see the fact that the abuse hurt us and if anyone enters our world again we run the risk of being hurt again. So we invent an equation – best to avoid being hurt again by not letting anyone close. We have to take risks and chances, start off with calculated risks!

Shame doesn’t belong to me.

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