My name is Elizabeth and I am a survivor of trauma and sexual abuse. My younger, most impressionable years were far from anything resembling a childhood, and yet I’m still here to talk about my experiences of a fragmented life. I survived in an environment where most people would not, and no matter how much I tried to deny it, I suffered. God only knows how much I suffered throughout those years. It hurt to breathe some days because of the physical pain of being sexually violated by men who were more than four times my size.

Talking and writing about sexual abuse and trauma is not something we enter into willingly. I feel compelled to write about it so that people can change and be open to listening to us. When we, as survivors, share our stories of what abuse feels like, we enable our broken society to listen. People don’t want to know and hide away from it behind excuses. People choose to turn away and ignore the truth because there is so much of it. The news cycle is constantly spitting out story after story of our world full of pain and suffering. People look away and shut it out because it’s too much. For trauma survivors, however, looking away is not possible. Anger is also impossible to ignore.

In this post, I want to explore the topic of anger in survivors who are suffering from Complex PTSD. I am counting myself into this category because like so many abuse and trauma survivors out there, I developed Complex PTSD. I have come a long way in my healing journey, and what I have discovered during therapy is that no feeling is wrong. Feelings just are. Everyone has feelings. They allow us to make sense of the world around us. If we are hurt, our feelings will become more intense, and we will react in a certain way. Whatever we feel is our own unique interpretation of that situation or situation. The more we experience, the more reactions we may have. Feelings depend on our character and how we deal with what is happening.

A life full of trauma and sexual abuse will definitely cause some kind of reaction and everybody with such experiences has these reactions. Even the people who seemingly have “no reactions and no feelings” are showing a freeze reaction to their individual experiences. Sometimes, as survivors, we feel “too much,” and our feelings become so intense that we cannot handle them, and we go into an emotional “shut down.” It can last for hours, days, even months, or years when we are stuck in an emotional freeze. Dealing with and healing from Complex PTSD is just that, it is a complex state of living. Trauma changes the very essence of who we are and how we are developing as human beings. There are many articles and other forms of research out there about how trauma changes our brain chemistry. I can only think of one way to describe the healing process, and that is grief. We grieve from the hurt and the pain that we endured and suffered for years after the trauma and abuse happened. Trauma is something you never get over, but you do learn to survive with the knowledge that it will always be within you.

There are five stages of grief that are often mentioned as a process of healing.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Source: Kübler-Ross grief cycle model from article: The Five Stages of Grief:

All of these stages are vital in recovering from grief. In survivors who have suffered from trauma and abuse, these are very familiar components, and most of them take part in our everyday lives. They happen in waves, overwhelming our senses day in and day out as we are exposed to triggering stimuli around us. Our healing process is not linear, where we start out with one specific process and then move on to the next. By dealing with traumatic events, survivors are constantly flooded with painful experiences. We almost always get too much, and we have to stop, or we succumb to a dark emotional shutdown. There is a certain balance in healing from Complex PTSD where you have to take experiences into account and focus your efforts on certain parts of the trauma. It takes time to heal. We experience the grief components of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance over and over and sometimes all at the same time when we are triggered. Complex PTSD makes us feel so much more intensely within every situation because we have already suffered too much for one lifetime.


Anger is a feeling like all others, and everyone has, at one point or another, felt angry. It is an intense emotion where the adrenal glands in our bodies release stress hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. We feel flooded with an intense surge of energy as our brain reacts by sending blood away from our core into our muscles so that we are prepared for a physical reaction. Our blood pressure increases with our heart rate at the same time as a rise in temperature, and we might sweat, but our mind is focused and sharp.

As a survivor, I often feel angry. I’m angry with the whole world even though, realistically, I know that isn’t actually true. I also do not consider myself an angry person. For the most part, my anger is a result of feeling completely ignored and abandoned. I can now recognize that it was how I felt as a traumatized child. I was ignored and invisible, and I had no voice. When I spoke, no one listened to me, and I was hushed and silenced. I was trodden on repeatedly and physically beaten until I couldn’t say anything. I was a nobody as if I did not exist. That feeling is still with me now, years later. I’ve had decades of life experience and therapy, but I still feel a deep-seated anger and unworthiness.

Anger is a normal part of the grief process, and I recognize that it has a big part in the healing from trauma. Feeling angry is natural after having been subjected to traumatic events. You may often feel “on edge” and “irritated” by people around you who simply don’t get you. As survivors, we often feel misunderstood. People just don’t understand. Our families and situations are all different, and how we feel whilst healing is and should always be accepted as unique. You have a right to feel angry, but it is how you channel that anger that is vital to your healing journey. I know as much as anyone else that when we are emotional in any way, we aren’t always perceptive to others around us. We make mistakes, and we apologize or repent for our actions afterward. We often turn to the people who we love the most and take out our anger in explosive rages. We know it isn’t right, but we still do it because they are the closest to us.

What do you do when you feel angry? Where do you go? Who do you turn to? Is there an outlet where you can channel that anger into?

It is natural to feel angry and for those strong emotions to come to the surface and be dealt with. It is vital to voice that anger, but, at the same time, it is not healthy to be angry all the time. There has to be a balance in our healing. All feelings are important in our healing journeys, and anger is one of them. If you are feeling angry every day, your body will be having a chronic surge of stress hormones, which opens up the body to negative biological side effects like:

  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased anxiety
  • Skin problems

These symptoms are the result of your body being in a heightened state of stress. Too much adrenaline and cortisol are not good for us. A lot of survivors with Complex PTSD have one or several of these symptoms. If you are feeling out of control emotionally, you need to try to recognize this feeling and incorporate some strategies to help your body get back in control. Here are some coping strategies that I do when I am feeling “out of synch” within myself:

  1. Go for a walk and move away from the situation or people that made you feel angry.
  2. Take notice of your breathing and try to calm your breath to a regular rhythm. If your heart rate is raised, you are not calm! Focus your eyes on a point in the distance and stare at it. Take in the details. What do you see?
  3. Recognize the emotion for what it is. “I’m feeling angry because…” is a great way to start. Let the emotion wash over you like a waterfall.
  4. Once you know why you are angry, come up with a solution for how you can move on from it.
  5. Do something physical — like go for a hike, a run, or a do another sport to get rid of the stress hormones in your body — and calm down from the exertion of feeling angry.
  6. Talk to a friend or someone you trust about how you feel. It is healthy to turn to others in times of stress, and just being listened to and supported can help so much more than words.

When I am really angry, I need physical activity to calm my senses. It is the only thing that helps me because, without it, I will just stay angry for longer. That anger will then start to consume me, which is when I start making decisions that are not right for me or those around me. I turn to sport and push my body to its limits. It helps me to feel alive when my heart is beating loudly in my chest. Sports help me to listen to my own body and experience calm as the adrenaline of the exertion leaves my body. Another alternative for me is music, as I play several instruments. I immerse myself in the rhythms and nuances of the vibrations and let the music flow deeply through me. Feeling alive and in the moment are the things that get me through my anger.

Close your eyes for a moment and think about your feelings right now. How are you feeling today? Notice your heart beat and your breathing. What is your body telling you? If the answer is angry, think about what you can do to feel better. Where can you go to channel that anger? Do you have a place where you can literally “let it rip”? Do you have such a place?

Think of activities you can do when you are angry or any other emotions you might have. It is always good to have a back up for a rainy day of emotions. It is, after all, thanks to those emotions that we are who we are. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less. We are all important, and our reactions to events are personal. You do matter and healing is hard. It takes time. Allow those feelings out and recognize them for what they are. Give them a channel to come out and get rid of that negativity. You will feel so much better after you have allowed yourself to experience anger.

My name is Elizabeth and I am a survivor.


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