How to Recognize Justified Anger
The title of this article may seem strange. Anger is easy to recognize, isn't it?
Maybe ... Or maybe not.
The truth is, understanding how anger feels within the body isn't always straight-forward. Most people assume anger causes agitation, antagonism, displeasure and resentment. However, this emotion isn’t always so obvious.
Often, if anger is suppressed due to extreme trauma and an inability to cope with the high levels of toxicity in a relationship, the emotion can be hidden. Individuals in abusive relationships may feel a complete lack of anger because they’re so immersed in grief, shock or denial. They may also be struck blind by the immensity of the betrayal. Others are too numb with depression to feel much of anything at all.
The topic of my last article was betrayal blindness. I discussed how trauma can cause a person to forget abusive episodes, acting as is a psychological defense that prevents an individual from trauma overload.
Abuse minimization is similar to betrayal blindness, but not quite as extreme--and it's also more common. I've spoken with hundreds of domestic abuse victims and survivors, and the stories are all painfully similar. Nearly all of survivors eventually arrive at the realization they’d minimized their situations. In a previous article I mentioned that minimization isn’t a deliberate effort to excuse the behavior of the abuser. Instead, it’s a subconscious attempt to make sense of the nonsensical and to preserve a crucial relationship.
However, minimizing abuse can't be maintained long-term. At some point, a victim has to come to terms with what's happening in order to set up boundaries and begin to heal.
Forgiveness is also a crucial part of the healing journey, but forgiveness can't take place if the intensity of the abusive relationship isn't fully admitted. In order to forgive, a person needs to know exactly what they need to forigve.
PDF on forgiveness from Nicky Verna of Hope's Garden.
The concept of forgetting abusive experiences can seem unrealistic to those who have never had to endure domestic violence. If a situation was traumatic, horrific, or otherwise heartbreaking, wouldn't that mean a person would remember it vividly, rather than forgetting it altogether? Sometimes ... but sometimes not. Betrayal blindness is a confusing, concept yet it's also a very real phenomena in the lives of many domestic abuse survivors.
Betrayal blindness, a phrase coined by psychologist Jennifer Freyd, is not only the unconscious desire to minimize disturbing events, but to completely forget they happened in the first place. This doesn’t mean a person is delusional, has a brain disorder, or is any other way dysfunctional. Rather, betrayal blindness is a result of severe trauma, especially when the harrowing events are ongoing or frequent.
To learn more about betrayal blindness, including my own experience with it, read my article on Substack.
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.