My mother had an affair and left my father for my former best friend and coworker, whom she met thru me and my job. This happened over a year ago, and I’m past the initial shock.. I came to realize I cannot change what happened, and that I can either stay angry about it forever or accept and try to help my self and the rest of my family by incorporating this new unwelcome person into my life.
My parents marriage had been unhappy for over a decade (not an excuse for her behavior), so them finally breaking up was a relief. I had been raised/trained to be the one that kept the arguments diffused, that kept us all laughing, that would try and keep a semblance of a happy family. I know now that was really unhealthy, but I did it since I was a pre-teen.
So it wasn’t the splitting up that hurt- It was the way it happened and the fact my mother asked me to cover it up when I found out (I did not). With the support of my wonderful husband, friends, and family, I became less angry. I have put up firm boundaries with mom. I’ve become a stronger person for it.
So I’m ok with it…For the most part.
But sometimes, when I’m out with her, and she starts to talk about wonderful X is to her, or he calls and gets all stupid sappy over him, I have this…massive two part rage towards them and her.
1) She hurt my family and he hurt his and they hurt each others so deeply, How can I just idly hang out with these people who hurt us all so much, never mind go to their house and eat dinner at their table?
2) I was my moms best friend (in an unhealthy way, I know that). If I suggest a girls day, she will suggest he comes along. She only invites me to lunch if he is out of town. Sometimes I just want time with my mom, and I can’t seem to make her understand that.
But then the rage simmers back down (Or i beat it with big stick, whichever) because I’m so tired of being angry. I’m so tired of feeling hurt over the whole fucking mess.
Am I a weak coward for this?
Retired Family Ref
Elodie Under Glass here.
Retired Family Ref, you’ve got a case of a Rageasaurus. And that is perfectly okay. Rageasaruses, like border collies, are high-energy, high-maintenance pets that can absolutely wear you out. And this Rageasaurus of yours is very badly trained. It will run circles around you and destroy your furniture and distract you from your work, which is to say, your life. It will color your interactions with others. But you are not – NOT – a weak coward for having it in your life. Ref, this is an understandable creature. I don’t want you to beat it with a big stick any more. There’s a reason for this Rageasaurus. I would like you to understand that.
I think this is a legitimate creature, this rage of yours, and it may be unreasonable to expect it to just drain away. I don’t know if you’ll ever be in a place to forgive your mother, or to make nice and eat dinner with your former friend. (Making nice is not always a good thing.) But you can’t live like this, so I think you should take this Rageasaurus to obedience classes.
This ‘saurus was formed from a big soup of emotions and fuckery, and it carries your feelings around in its mouth like an old chew toy. You are not a weak coward for having those human feelings and emotions. You’re fine. You’re good. It’s THIS shit that’s fucked. You don’t have to be okay with it! You are not going to get cookies and rewards for being the Cool Daughter Who is Okay with It! You aren’t going to get a big gold star for Being Your Mummy’s Best Friend While Covering Her Two-Timin’ Bum. There is no prize money that you get for Being the Nicest to People Who Hurt You.
It is okay to feel weird about this. This is weird shit. Nothing in your upbringing, your culture, or your stories prepared you for “how to smile at your mother’s lover, your former best friend and colleague, across a chasm of smashed trust and terrible actions and ask them nicely to pass the potatoes, without setting the whole goddamn tableau on fire.” You probably have a better idea of how you would, say, defeat a dark wizard/keep a boy for ten days/stay alive during the zombie apocalypse than how to handle this. This is fucked-up territory. It’s hard to deal with. That’s okay.
You’re learning some big, scary things, Ref. You’re learning the deeply frightening lesson that you are often more mature than your parents. You’re learning that sometimes your loving parents can hurt you, and smile while they’re doing it, and expect you to smile too. You’re learning that adults are imperfect and unreliable, with jagged edges, and those jagged edges can cut you when they hug. You may want to be friends with your mother, but you’re learning that your mother can be a very bad friend. You’re learning that “I love my mom and want to spend time with her” and “I hate my mom and never want to speak to her again” are two feelings that can live in the same heart. These are scary things to learn, and they will wear you out. I can tell you that this part of your hurt is something that will pass with time, and it’s part of growing up.
Ref, you don’t have to swallow your pain and choke on it to sit at somebody’s dinner table. Some of the strain that you’re feeling comes from the fact that you took it upon yourself to keep this family together, and someone close to you came in and smashed that to pieces. Release yourself from the obligation to Make Everything Okay for these adults. This will be hard, because families like to have a Glue that Keeps the Family Together, so that they don’t have to take on all the emotional work of a family. (And this is work, which most people don’t recognize; no wonder you’re tired out.) You’re starting to do it. Keep doing it. Talk to people, your husband and friends and family, and professionals. This part of your hurt is something that you are dealing with pretty well.
And I also hereby declare it Okay to Walk Away From This. You are an adult, with friends, family, and a husband who are outside the love triangle of mother/father/formerbestfriend. You stand in your own shoes. You will be okay. You can go a few months without speaking to your mom, if you want to. You can walk out of the room when Mom’s Lover walks in. You can tell them that you can’t handle this right now, and you’ll be in touch when you can. You can stop talking to them altogether. It really is okay to hang up on your mother! It really is okay to exit a conversation when it’s too much for you! You get to choose. You get to say no. You get to decide when, where, and how often, and in what situations you would like to spend time with your still-beloved mother. You don’t have to put yourself in situations where you’re going feel this drained. You’ve done a good job, Ref. Keep going.
There are some scripts you can use to get the things you want. If your mother expresses an interest in bringing her beau along on a girly-date, you can say “No, Mom. I want to spend quality time with you. I’m picturing mother-daughter time.”
If she brings him along anyway (“Surprise!”) you can smile at him graciously and say “X, what a surprise. What will you be doing while Mom and I get our manicures? Meet us back here in two hours.”
When she starts gushing about X, you can tell her, graciously and calmly, “Mom, I cannot talk about X right now. Tell me about your new carpet.”
Your social and conversational boundaries around X can definitely be strengthened. The Captain’s archives have lots of great examples like this one and this one.
This Rageasaurus that you’ve created? It is wearing you out, but it also wants to protect you. The reason that you’re feeling hurt is not because your mother has a new lover or because your imperfect family has become even less perfect; it’s because these people lied to you, because they consistently cross your boundaries, because they expect you not to be hurt by their behavior while doing little to make amends, because they behave poorly and unreliably, because they expect you to take on too much of a burden, because these two people who are supposed to care for you are making it clear that you have little priority in their shared life. Because they expect you to smile and eat potatoes when they want to play happy families, and because you are not in a place where you can do that yet. Because they drain you, Ref. They take an awful lot of your sparkle away, and they don’t give you much back.
And your Rageasaurus stands up and roars when this happens. Like any other pet, when you telegraph your tension, it picks up on that. Of course you’re tired by all of these feelings! They’re exhausting. And they are coming from the places where your boundaries are being crossed.
In its awkward, clumsy, saurus-y way, your Rageasaurus is standing up for you. When your mother breaks a date, you, the Glue of the Family, accept it. This makes the Rageasaurus roar even more, and you beat it with a big stick, because you think This Is How To Be Good. Then you feel worn out and cowardly. I’d like you to listen to it next time, and accept what it has to say: “No, Ref, this is not okay! I don’t like it when people treat you like this! RAWR!”
The Rageasaurus does not understand why you insist on returning to people who have wounded you, and who poke the wounds with a stick, and deny the hurt they caused you. That’s why you may find your emotions becoming uncontrollable around this situation, and why you’re interpreting that as self-betrayal. (Those bottled choky tears you might be getting after hanging up the phone, and you maybe don’t know why? Your Rageasaurus knows.)
It’s really, really good for you to recognize the two parts of your Rageasaurus. This is the first step to taking control of it. You can take your Rageasaurus to the trainer, which is to say, the therapist, if the rage is that bad. You can let it stomp and snarl and say what it needs to. Depending on how much it has taken over your life, maybe you should.
Becoming a stronger person does not mean that you beat your feelings with a stick when you have them. It means that you stop, and hug your Ragesaurus, looking into its eyes and stroking its feathers until they go smooth, and tell it, “We were violated. We are angry. And you know what, baby? We are going to be okay.”
And then you and your saurus? You should hold hands, pour yourself some extremely Irish hot chocolate, and take yourselves a much-needed break.
What do you think, Awkward Army? How have you made peace with your sauruses?
175 thoughts on “#391: How To Train Your Rageasaurus”
Your rage is protecting you,its telling you its not o.k, you want a relationship with your Mum, but you can still have that, but why should you endure this man for even a second?..,you still love your Mom, but dont like her actions, she did this thing, but expects there to be no consquences for it! You need to tell her you love her, but are not going to tolerate the ‘man’,your elationship with your Mother is precious, it will survive this.
… your relationship with your Mother is precious, it will survive this.
I dunno. As you pointed out, it’s not just the new boyfriend’s fault–Mom’s actions here have been pretty shitty, too. Just based on this reading, I’d even venture to say that the LW’s relationship with her mother falling apart a little bit/becoming more distant for a while? Might not be such a bad thing.
No i see what you mean,distance would help, i speak out of experience about mother child relationship,mine and my daughter have survived through some bad stuff, didn’t talk for a year, and dont totally trust her now, but at least we communicate, as a christian i have to forgive, what hit me hardest was missing my grandsons first year or two, you dont get those back.I divorced my Violent ex,we were only married a year, and only lived together for 9 months,he has been around the edges of my life, for 6 years now,getting in with my friends,going where i go,to the point where i have to leave,he started visiting my daughter,which she hid from me, even though she knew what he did to me,so i had to see her away from her house,i am ashamed of her,and ashamed to tell other people what she did.He was violent to my then 5 and 6 yr old boys,which i did not know about until after i kicked him out, she knows this too, but he still Babysits my Grandson.I have been a battered wife twice, raped,have a disabled son,my Mum died in december, non of this was as painful as my daughters betrayal. We came back from that,you can too.
I am so sorry you’ve had such a terrible experience wrt your relationships with your daughter and ex. Walking that road must have been so, so difficult and disheartening. Bless you.
That said, I still think the LW’s situation is different than yours, and both the mother and boyfriend are culpable in their actions and should be dealt with accordingly. Unlike your ex, it’s the mother in this situation who is constantly reopening the wounds and crossing boundaries. Unless she changes significantly, the LW has to reevaluate what she wants her relationship to look like–or whether it should survive at all.
Elodie has some great, targeted advice regarding how to do that, and even the original letter indicates that the writer has a pretty solid bead on it.
I feel that what is the point of letting the rage out,it does not change anything and then i just feel so upset for days, and am not able to fuction,bad things happen, people treat us like we are shit, not human less than Human. We cant stop them.We as females cant fight like Men, when we are beaten and abused it is just upsetting, if that happened to a man he would get angry and fight back, to us its just confusing,in the sense that violence is overwhelming.We dont have testosterone like them,something triggers in our Brain,i saw it in a medical study a few months ago, we dont have the fight or flight response.
When we get away, we stay away, if we are one of the few ones to escape domestic Violence, its pretty discourging, i just read on twitter a woman say that as we walk down the street we have to judge which of the men we encounter will rape us….. We are Prey animals,always feeling hunted,always in fear. I am sorry to be so discouraging, but i am subjected to being stalked by Ex who was violent, controlling,i am not stalked in the traditional sense, of persistant letters, phone calls, he is too scared i will go to the Police, its more a thing of finding out where i go, and being there, invegling himself with friends,my family, til i appear the crazy one, Police cant or wont help, because he has not treatened or been violent in this instance, he ignore solicitors warnings.Sorry again just need to vent!
Rageasaurus; I never knew it was called that!
Ref, I live with someone who doesn’t know how to deal with his Rageasaurus, and probably doesn’t even know it’s a problem. It causes a lot of strain in our relationship. Denial and repression are like his two best friends. I think it’s totally awesome that you _recognize_ this situation for what it is, and I think it’s going to do wonders for you.
One of the hardest things to learn is that our parents are people too, and that they are as screwed up as we are, and that it’s okay to step out from under that umbrella of Parent > Child into a more equal setting. What would you do if this were one of your friends pulling this crap? Treat it like that. Good luck – this sounds like a shitty hand you’ve been dealt.
My very best friend of nearly a decade has a Saurus too. I’ve never been quite sure how to deal with it, but I found that therapy and plenty of self-care helped me, while I gave her hugs and opportunities to listen for her benefit.
Elodie, this is beautiful!
LW, Jedi hugs to both you and your Rageasaurus.
Not to state the obvious or anything, but this sucks! If anyone else had betrayed you so badly, you would probably cut them out of your life. You’d say “clearly, you are not someone in whom I can place my trust, and without trust what is there? So bye bye.” But this is your mother, and you want to have a relationship with her because there’s a place in your heart labeled “Mom” that no one else can fill. Only you’re not sure you want to let her in there again, either, because last time she was there she trashed the place.
The thing is, you’re pretty primed to forgive her! You’ve acknowledged how unhappy she was and that ending her marriage with your father was a good thing for all. At least once upon a time, you liked the guy she’s with. And you WANT to be able to let her in again. I for one don’t think you’re weak, or a coward, or pathetic in any way for wanting that. She’s your *mom*, and you were close.
The sticking point — and it’s a big one — is your mother and Guy’s failure to acknowledge that they were not acting in a vacuum, that there were other people (notably YOU) who would be (and were) hurt by what they did and how they did it, and that asking you to cover her affair was a really shitty thing to do. How can you move on and have a relationship with people who have betrayed your trust before, when they haven’t even acknowledged the betrayal, asked your forgiveness, and made some sincere and serious efforts to earn back your trust?
I think that’s what you need to tell her. Lay it on the line: “You and I used to be really close. I would like to have it again, and I think it is possible. But it is only possible if you acknowledge the hurtful things you did to ME. Not your relationship with Guy — I understand that you didn’t fall for him at me. You just fell for him. But the way you handled it was really shitty. [Specify things she/they did that were lousy for you].
“To move forward, I need you to admit that was wrong, and tell me you’re sorry for not thinking about how your actions affected me, and making the effort to do things the right way. I need you to show me that you are sorry and that you want to earn back my trust. Which you can only do by being trustworthy — which means acting like your relationship with me is at least as important to you as your relationship with him. Which means not forcing me to deal with *him* in order to spend time with *you.* Someday, if Guy apologizes for the way *he* betrayed my trust as a friend, and shows he deserves another chance, I may even give him one. But to get there, you both need to respect and prioritize MY needs for a change. Otherwise you’ll be telling me my feelings don’t matter to you, and that obviously is going to keep us from being close again.”
Alphakitty, I love this. It’s a great way for the LW to move forward and repair the relationship with her mother (if that’s what she wants to do.) A very powerful script.
Definitely only if that’s what she wants to do. Rage and “you know what? I just don’t want to deal with you for a while… I’ll let you know if that changes” would be entirely justified!
I absolutely love this script, and I am definitely am going to memorize and repurpose it.
Oh man – Amen time a bajillion. Compassion goes both ways. If mom expects understanding and acceptance about her actions, then she needs to accept (and acknowledge) daughter’s feelings about them and their consequences.
This is such a fantastic response. Mom and Mom’s New Boyfriend/Former BFF broke the social contract here, it’s not LW’s job to pretend like that didn’t happen (much as I know how crushingly hard it can be to break that habit as another Family Glue Make Nice Daughter) or to beat the Rageasaurus with a stick to stop the totally justified feelings.
Also, LW, it’s totally okay to take a break from Mom for awhile so that you can sort through your own feelings, even if you do have this talk and even if she responds well to it. I’ve had to take breaks from both my parents at different times and my relationship with my mom is a million times better for it, while I realized that I didn’t need or want to renew the relationship with my dad. In both cases making the choice I needed to make I don’t think would have been possible without that break.
Can I give a hells yes to the taking a break. I am sensing pressure for you two to stay the BFFs you were as you were playing ref. It’s a pretty intense drug to be on because it feels like you are one in control. You had a feeling of being able to control your parents’ marriage. When you mom went off script in a super awful way, the rug got pulled out from under you. Take a break. Just say you need some space to process everything and pull back. On one level it’s a concrete consequence for them putting you in the middle of everything. On the most basic level, it’s space. Give yourself a chance to feel life without the drama and then see where your mom can best fit into your life.
I used to beat my Rageasaurus with a stick, too. Little did I know she was just trying to get me to ACKNOWLEDGE her. Now we’re buddies, and when she nips at me, I pay attention. I hope you and your saurus can come to a coexistence that works for you, LW!
I don’t post here very much, but I had to today. I read this reply and I burst into tears. I’m not going through anything nearly as bad as what the LW is going through, but I just had an awful breakup with a guy who lied to me over the course of our entire relationship. He wanted to keep being friends, and every time he spoke to me, I would find myself furiously angry.
Like you said, my Rageasaurus was trying to protect me. I ended up telling him that we can’t be friends any more a few days ago, and I’ve been second-guessing it. Thank you for writing this, and giving me permission to trust the anger.
Solidarity. All the jedi-hugs to you.
“We were violated. We are angry. And you know what, baby? We are going to be okay.”
Your anger is there for a reason LW, and it’s okay to feel it. You will make peace with it, but at risk of sounding like a reality TV contestant, it’s going to be a journey. Keep on taking care of yourself and don’t be afraid to walk away when you need to
Oh, gosh. This spoke to me *so* hard. What a great name for that experience. I used to have such a rageasaurus in my mid-20s, and even went to a therapist about it who did absolutely nothing to help (she did reflective listening for the entire hour, literally – everything I said she just asked back to me. “I want to get help with this anger.” “So, you want help with the anger?” “Yes, I’d like to find something or someone to help.” “You think there might be something that could help?”… rageasaurus came out fighting as I left and on the way home I bought my first ever self-help book!!).
I still get it from time to time and this is an excellent reminder that it’s there to help.
ooooo very poor therapy fit. wow.
“It’s because these people lied to you, because they consistently cross your boundaries, because they expect you not to be hurt by their behavior while doing little to make amends, because they behave poorly and unreliably…”
Ouch, right in my sometimes-in-denial heart. I’m still trying to work around my dad cheating and leaving my mom. Sometimes I forget why I’m so angry at him ALL THE TIME, and this sentence is exactly why, specifically the “expect you not to be hurt” part. Every time I expressed how upsetting the divorce was or how I didn’t like his mistress, he had the gall to act as if HE were the victim here, and I should be praising him for “finding a way out.”
I have no additional advice for LW, other than it might be helpful to know that other people go through this too, and it takes time. This is not something you were prepared for, and even if you were, that doesn’t make it easy. Now, I’m going to go reread this entire post because damn I need it.
Oh yes. My Rageasaurus came out when my best friend and my boyfriend decided to hook up. While said friend and I were roommates. As in “sharing the same bedroom”. And for 4 months of them boning 15 feet away, they told me how I was overreacting.
I got a counselor finally, and she said “There’s nothing wrong with you. No one should have to put up with that situation, and it’s okay not to be okay with it.”
I moved out. I moved on. She still hates me 20 years later.
‘sokay. Because I’m pretty sure a bunch of us now hate *her.*
Oh, yes. We do. Jesus.
I know I hate the pants off of both of them. What a couple of shitlords.
Were you supposed to join in or something? I mean…. what?
Where’s that *headdesk* icon?
SHE hates you? Urrgh. My rageasaurus is swiping her head off with my spiky tail. BLAAARGH!
She does, but she’s managed to convince mutual friends that I’m the one with the problem. Our HS reunion was last summer, and everyone was asking me “Is it ok if X sits with us? I know you have a problem with her!”
Aren’t you the one who *rightly* has a problem with her? You didn’t do something really shitty to her, she did something really shitty to you. So own it! “Yes indeedy I *do* have a problem with Nightmare Chick — I’m not going to rake up the past, but you wouldn’t believe the crap she pulled when we were roommates. You can be friends with her if you want, but I wouldn’t trust that girl to hold my sandwich, so no…. I don’t want to hang out with her.” Say it completely unapologetically!
Wow. I wonder what she’s been telling your classmates?
“Oh, manybellsdown is such a jerk! Can you belieeve she didn’t want to hear me and her boyfriend doing the reverse cowgirl every night? She’s suucch a pruude, you guys! Why couldn’t she be happy for us, or at least hold the camera? Or make those chika chika chika noises on the Casio keyboard? No wonder he dumped her for me!”
Not that the dude here doesn’t deserve roasting. What kind of person has sex in the same room as the ex, with the woman he dumped the ex for?
“Yes, I mind.”
sheesh. Geek fallacy! Which one is the one where Everybody Has To Be Friends?
I hope your “friend” and your shitheel ex are torn apart by a pack of rabid carnivorous squirrels.
My rageasaurus is in full roar today, lol.
I hope they married each other. They deserve each other, and it would keep two champion gaslighters out of the general population.
I hope they married each other and the squirrels attended the wedding. In force.
Personally, I’m a fan of weasels.
Totally with the “hating them” brigade. Seriously? There was NO OTHER PLACE in the WORLD that they could get it on?
(Also still laughing at “shitlords” — stealing that one.)
Wow. I’m glad that they’re both out of your life now. I’ve never even met them and I hated them within three seconds of reading your comment.
This article on Rageasaurus really spoke to me.
I won’t go into the sordid details of what happened to me, but for the longest time my rage was also uncontrollable but everyone kept giving me the usual platitudes of “let it go”, “get on with your life”, all the while that deep rage was still lurking underneath the surface and just would NOT leave, like a phantom Loch ness monster. It has no where to go and everyone kept telling me to ignore it .
Thank you Elodie, this was one of the most helpful things I’ve read in months with respect to handling my own Rageasaurus.
You can’t let it go until you have really felt it!
I use the “invite it over for tea” model. Sometimes it is RAGE TEA, but still, if you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it. Feelings can be inconvenient, but they’re never wrong. Or right. They just are.
My rageasaurus and I drink strong black tea (sometimes with sugar) and listen to feminist electro-punk music, loudly. Except this week, because I’m on an antibiotic that don’t like caffeine, so we’ve switched to peppermint for the duration. The music is still loud, though.
We’re collecting collars for her, but I don’t make her wear a leash any more. This has improved our relationship considerably.
Ooh, could you recommend a few bands? Your taste sounds great! (In return, I can tell you that Celestial Bengal Tiger Chai is the best noncaf tea I know of, though don’t know it’s availability in the US.)
Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice Chai with a picture of a tiger on the box? Yeah, it’s available in the US (west coast, anyway). I always have two boxes in the house, just to be sure I never run out. It gets all spicy if you steep it for 10 minutes or so; it’s crazy fabulous.
LOL, I thought for a second that Celestial Bengal Tiger Chai was the name of a feminist electro-punk band. Which would be awesome.
(As herbal teas go, I’m obsessed with Yogi Women’s Moon Cycle. It’s supposed to relieve menstrual cramps, but I haven’t noticed it being particularly helpful on that front. It is, however, delicious, and I drink it all month long.)
I feel like I’m slightly less likely to get smacked about the ears with rage-inducing lyrics if I’m listening to music made by self-identified feminists, or anti-racists, or [insert other anti-oppression stance here]. If they’re intersectionally awesome, that’s even better.
So, to start with: Le Tigre, Peaches, and MEN. (I may have a little music crush on JD Samson?)
Straying a little further from the original tags, I also love music by Dragonette, Metric, The Pack AD, a local-to-me group called Like A Motorcycle, and others. I am a musical omnivore.
Also local-to-me is a group called Geordi Vision that sings about sex and Star Trek. I am so, so lucky.
And Kate Nash recently did this unexpected thing: http://youtu.be/JIB3YCGihp0
And in Canada (which is where I am) that tea is called Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice. I might well pick some up later.
Ooh, I hate the platitudes. I think, if you could’ve let it go, you would have? Some people are really uncomfortable with anger, and try to silence anyone who expresses it.
Absolutely. Especially if that fully justified anger is at THEM.
Let it go my ass. It’s okay to be pissed off and angry, no matter how much society tells women we’re not allowed to.
Oooh – fuck “let it go.” Venting allows us to acknowledge our feelings and have them be acknowledged. “Let it go” is a passive-aggressive way of saying “I don’t want to listen.” It just adds extra rageahol to the fire.
“Let it go” is right next to “don’t be so sensitive” on my list of “least helpful things to hear EVER in the history of the universe.” They both sit right below “everything happens for a reason”.
“Don’t be so sensitive” is extremely helpful to me–it’s a straightforward, quick way to learn to never talk to that person about feelings again. Ever. Even nice feelings. Ever.
Thanks for clueing me in to my own Rageasaurus. I’m gonna have to sit down with it for a chat. One that gets further than ‘OMG RAR FIRE DEATH’ at someone who’s not even in the room for twenty minutes while I ought to be doing something productive, like eating lunch.
I wish I’d had someone tell me the ‘don’t be so sensitive’ was a warning sign — one of the current targets of my Rageasaurus has said that to me more than once. Though — if someone had, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Lessons.
Can I “like” this without a like button…? Help, Facebook has crippled my ability to interact online without the use of gimmicks
Don’t forget “you shouldn’t worry so much”, “you’d be so much happier if you didn’t worry as much as you do” and its ilk. So very helpful.
I have lost count of how many times in my life I have been called ‘too sensitive’ and then felt even more awful for feeling sensitive, leading to this loop where you feel bad for feeling bad, and then feel bad for feeling bad for feeling bad………. It took years of therapy to get rid of that, to just accept that I was allowed to be that ‘too sensitive’ person.
My Rageasaurus very often comes out as a Cryosaurus.
When I’m really angry, I burst into tears and wail. I used to think I was being weak, feminine (hello internalised misogyny), immature etc.
Turns out, if I go with it and let myself feel really angry and sad, I feel much better much faster. I bounce back about an hour later, versus weeks of feeling down if I suppress it.
Hm, good observation. I think I might do that too. I’ll have to think about that.
Definitely worth giving it a go. The most sensible thing I ever learned from therapy was that sometimes you just need to sit with the bad feelings and really really FEEL them to be able to let them go. Having a really good cry and a wallow in the anger/sadness/whatever is a lot healthier than telling your Rageosaurus it needs to settle down and go away
It works so well for me that nowadays I do it deliberately. If I can feel I’ve got a load of crappy emotions to deal with, I seek out a way to get angry(*), and then I can cry it all out.
(*) If my boyfriend is around I ask him to be irritating, which luckily is part of his skill set.
The difference in how I feel is like the weather before & after a thunderstorm. Hot, cloying and overcast vs fresh and clear. You just have to go through the storm in the middle.
It doesn’t solve any underlying problems, but it let’s me start fresh in dealing with them, not the huge emotional thundercloud as well.
(*) If my boyfriend is around I ask him to be irritating, which luckily is part of his skill set.
This made me laugh so hard, I choked on my apple. It also calmed my own rageosaurus, so props to you, sir/madam.
Yes! I cry, too, when I’m angry! It’s just been in the past year or so that I’ve finally figured out that if I have a good little cry, I feel better and can rebound faster, rather than if I just hold it all in and try to soldier on. Part and parcel, I’m guessing, of become a devoted lurker of La Capitana and attempting to get better about Using My Words and trying to de-assign morals to emotions.
So much better once I accepted it and used it. I used to get angry with myself for crying, which leads to a ridiculous self-loathing feedback loop.
I now reckon that, at least for me and maybe for others, a lot of stress and depression is misdirected anger.
Love the rageosaurus and it will look after you.
Crying has never been cathartic for me– I sort of feel like I’m missing out or doing it wrong, because for so many people, it is a release, but crying just makes me feel everything I felt before crying, and worse. All the emotions are still there, sometimes more, and I feel headachy, hungover and miserable physically. The only thing that crying ever does for me is send a very obvious “animal in distress” signal that tells people I need hug and to be taken care of for a bit, and with my nearest and dearest, I can just, you know, say it.
It’s not because I was raised to be particularly emotionally repressed or anything—my family is pretty good on expressing emotions and responding when other people express theirs. But crying itself, I tend to feel better in myself and *coping* more if I can breathe past it or head it off than if it happens.
There might also be a physical aspect to some of this! For most of my life, I thought everyone got pounding, multi-hour (sometimes -day) headaches after crying. It turns out that most people don’t. But for those of us who do, it makes sense that we feel worse afterward, because everything is worse with a headache.
[does the ‘we are not alone in this’ dance]
Once, my then-therapist told me that crying would unleash happiness chemicals in my brain and I’d feel better if I would just cry when I was unhappy. I kinda ignored that, because hey, I know my own experience … I cry for five minutes and then I am full of snot, have a headache, have used up some tissues, am now annoyed on top of being sad … and NOTHING HAS CHANGED.
I’m like this, too. There is no such thing as a “good cry” where I’m concerned, just an unavoidable cry. And then I feel wretched for the rest of the day, and maybe even a couple of days after because nothing was really solved. I do get catharsis from songwriting, when I can articulate what I’m feeling well enough to make a song out of it, but crying is worse than nothing. It just leaves me feeling raw and worn out in addition to whatever I was feeling before.
I know this feeling, too. I am very much a cryer, but I don’t like it. I feel sadder during and after it. The longer it lasts, the worse it is at the end.
Feeling you all on the crying when angry thing. I’m still working on the acceptance of it part, especially since the family have a habit of telling me to suck it up and stop being ridiculous *grr*
I love that Rageasaurus is a dinosaur that has feathers.
Rageasaurus is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops — at all
Actually, the whole poem works pretty well with the substitution
And sweetest is the fearsome roar
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the Rageasaur
That kept so many warm.
Tears of joy, oh my god. Tears of JOY.
I love you both.
I hereby pronounce the you two have won the Internet today. Have a shiny virtual trophy!
It can be so hard to give myself permission to feel, sometimes.
If you haven’t Had It Out With Your Mom, you might try that. It doesn’t always help, but if you’ve never told her how angry you are, it might. She might have no idea how upset you are (even though she obviously should, people are not good at shoulds.). She might come back at you as if it’s out of nowhere and what’s wrong with you and all that, but that’s just her defensiveness.
I think you want to get to the point where she thinks you’re The Unreasonable One Who Cannot Deal With Her Love, and doesn’t try to push the two of you together anymore. You can’t deal, you’re not gonna be able to deal, so that part is totally true; from her perspective it’s obviously unreasonable. So might as well just take on that role and really own it.
“I will not speak to him.”
“If he comes, I will leave.”
“I am just not in a place where I can be happy for you about this.”
“I don’t have to approve who you love or who you marry, but I sure as hell don’t have to have dinner with him.”
“I will miss you at Thanksgiving, but I will not attend holidays with him.”
Stand your ground! Right now, you’re paying the price for her choices. Transfer the cost of those choices right back onto her where they belong.
Also… if you go to therapy to work on boundaries, you might expect to discover that some of your habits from your family of origin have transferred to your family of choice. You might find yourself needing to draw new boundaries that are disconcerting with your spouse. You can do that, and communicate around it, and it can be a good thing. It’s just a possibly scary thing. You can also decide not to do that, even if you learn more about boundaries and all!
If your rage is affecting you in other parts of your life, that therapy thing is probably a good idea.
good luck. This is so, so hard.
A lot of what I had to do in therapy was to learn to actually feel my feelings and not skip directly to suppressing them or intellectualizing them away. Bad feelings that aren’t acknowledged can turn into a gross FEELINGSCYST that will eventually need to be drained so that it can heal.
Once I adopted The Incredible Hulk as my spirit animal, two things happened:
1. I wrote terrible haiku, or HULK-ku:
HULK SMASH BAD GUITAR PLAYER
2. I had a handy way to actually feel, visualize, and process angry feelings. Jennifer could keep her shit together because HULK was occasionally allowed to prance about in purple shorts, smash things, and write poetry.
HULK APPROVE OF RAGEASAURUS. THEY SHOULD GET TOGETHER AND RAMPAGE THROUGH A CITY CENTER SOMETIME.
HULK RIDE RAGE BEASTY
RAGEASAURUS BUCK HIM OFF
GRR HULK STEP ON TAIL
STEP ON HULK HEAD WITH BACK FOOT
HULK NOW UNDERGROUND
HULK DIG OUT TO SKY
RAGEASAURUS THINK THAT COOL
HULK AND BEASTY FRIENDS
I am just in awe–this is amazing!
Between you and the Captain, I’ve got some serious feelings. I never knew that Hulk-ku was such an important missing piece of my life.
These days, I think Nelson Van Alden on Boardwalk Empire is my spirit animal.
Once I adopted The Incredible Hulk as my spirit animal…
Without context, all on its lonesome this is quite possibly the single most helpful thing I’ve read here in a LONG line of helpful things I’ve read here. I’d like a variation of it in the Awkward Army Throw Pillow Arsenal.
I like the idea of adopting the Hulk as a sort of counsellor/guide, but maybe not so much as a spirit animal? Because that has a really specific cultural context.
You’re entirely correct. I’m not going to replace it in the comment, because then your comment wouldn’t make any sense, but I will find a new way to say that in the future. Thank you.
I often go for “patronus” when I need terminology for this.
Thank you, that works for me going forward!
How about your Daemon? Like in His Dark Materials?
Patronus is more culturally universal, though.
This is a good point. But someone I know has a symbolic animal that he ‘met’ when he was quite young, which has really helped him with some horrible psychological situations. It seemed to happen spontaneously and wasn’t a conscious cultural appropriation.
It could be argued that having such a creature to help you through difficulties is an important symbolic human, er, thing, and that’s why it comes up in popular culture – familiars, Patronuses, Daemons. (Are teddy bears linked?)
So what to call it? Maybe you have to use the term that fits your own cultural context best. Not sure what that would be for a white Londoner…
I’m calling a pufferfish as my spiritual … whatever. Here I am, swimming around with my chubby cheeks, but poke me once too often and SPIKEBALLSPLOSION
This is goood.
As for being able to visualize my feelings, it really helps when I can make them external. Thus, I think I’m going to sew a plush rageasauraus. I’m planning to make them (giving them my own pronouns) out of whatever scraps I have, and then decorate them in mood-appropriate emotive fabrics.
The more I think about this, the more I like it…
If you ever wanted to merchandize, I would totally buy a, “THE INCREDIBLE HULK IS MY PATRONUS” t-shirt.
I would fear running afoul of *two* copyright issues!
Hulk-ku is probably the greatest thing I have heard in a long time. Writing some on twitter has helped me to not throw a lamp at my uncle’s head.
LW, Elodie speaks all the truth. A well-trained Rageasaurus, one that can indicate to you with a nod or a wink (rather than smashing you to the floor and making you cry) that This Shit Right Here Is Wrong, can give you the strength to do many things. Best of all, it’s a back up – someone to say ‘That decision you made to protect yourself (putting the phone down/walking away/saying don’t do that it hurts) was the right one.’
My Rageasaurus was untrained for a long time and I smashed about and made a lot of mess and noise, but in the end, it took me in the right direction. And the times when I ignored it and beat it down were the times I was miserable. Now, when some well meaning person says things like ‘But she’s your mother, can’t you just put it behind you?’, I can say ‘Thank you for your input, but this is a boundary I drew for my own happiness and as you can see, I am very happy and I don’t want to ruin it.’ Instead of, you know, bursting into tears and running away.
And my Rageasaurus gives me a thumbs up and we go about our day.
Training the Rageasaurus has also given me the space to realise that I will be angry about what happened for a long time but that anger doesn’t need to feed into everything else in my life. Me and the Rageasaurus hang out from time to time and I practice those conversations and perfect steel put downs and comebacks for discussions I may never have with my family about what happened. He listens, approves and then I carry on as normal. It stops me from feeling guilty about feeling angry (which may be one of the worst feelings EVAH) and also stops me from getting it all over the people I love and care about.
LW, your mother is being a really shitty friend to you right now. Actually, she’s being a pretty crappy mom.
I have a Rageasaurus too. I am generally a pretty mellow person, which has not always served me well over the years. I was always obsessed with being The Bigger Person, like when my friend/roommate slept with my first love, I acted like I wasn’t that mad. There were a number of years when I would just let people walk all over me and I would try to act like I wasn’t hurt. It felt a lot like eating my feelings, which I would eventually barf up in the form of giant, earth-scorching fireballs.
I can tell my Rageasaurus is getting twitchy when I start planning elaborate revenge plots. This happened a lot in college, the person who hurt me would do one more inconsiderate thing one day and I would just snap, and then I would write that person a long letter that said, “This is why you do not belong in my life anymore” and it would be a Rain Man list of grievances – and then my relationship with them would be over forever because I would no longer acknowledge their existence.
I’m not as extreme as this anymore, but now, when my Rageasaurus starts rumbling, I know to put the person who triggered it in Time Out. I tell them: “That thing you did? I really didn’t like that,” and I listen to the response. Is it just a barrage of excuses and justifications and guilt trips, or are they genuinely reflective and sorry? I give myself a break from talking to them for a while. I evaluate the relationship, to see if the behavior stops, or if it’s part of an ongoing pattern.
This does not mean that you necessarily have to get stuck in the trap of giving a person a chance and a warning before you decide to walk away. Some offenses are firing offenses right out of the gate. What your mom and your ex-friend did is one of them. It’s OK to fire your mom from being your mom. You can choose to re-hire her again in the future, but I think your Rageasaurus is telling you that you should fire her for now.
As a matter of fact, I am going to go out on a limb and argue that your relationship with your mom has a better chance of surviving the long term if you give yourself the time you need to heal – away from her and X friend – right now. Because if you continue to choke back your Rageasaurus in the interest of passing the potatoes and smiling so tightly it hurts the sides of your face, one day X friend is going to feel comfortable enough to make a teeny, innocuous comment about the amount of salt you put in that chili you made, and your Rageasaurus is going to leap over the dining room table and throttle him.
Good luck, LW.
I love the term rageasaurus. It will be my new pet. Mine has purple feathers.
I’m in a situation where I need to be civil to my abuser in public. It sucks. My rageasaurus wants to rip his throat out, scream, tell him exactly what I think of him, and then end all contact. But, there are Reasons not to burn that bridge yet. The rageasaurus has forced me to really, really clarify those Reasons and what boundaries I’m putting in place to protect myself and how long I’m willing to live this way. It still thinks the compromise sucks (and it does!), but it rampages somewhat less. It’s still hard to accept that this… thing… really is my friend. And that letting it roar is okay.
Sometimes it helps me to imagine I am Adora Belle Dearheart. Do you know her from Terry Pratchett? Because she would be able to be so cold to the abuser, everyone, including hir, would be really uncomfortable. Dunno why, but for me it helps.
Adora Belle is fantastic, but I don’t know her well enough to pull it off. Besides, Adora Belle style freeze-outs is my family’s version of screaming at each other, and the point here is to lower tension levels instead of raising them. Cordelia Naismith, now, I can do. I love that Cordelia is often just as confused and conflicted as I am, but still manages to kick ass and take names.
Well yeah. If it stresses you out, it’s of no use. I don’t know Cordelia, have to go looking for her 🙂
All the hugs to you. All of them, ever.
I used to neglect my poor Rageasaurus so badly she’d stop bothering with warning growls or raised hackles and just go straight for the throat when she felt she had to protect me. This analogy is so great!
LW, your mum did something really bad. Both your parents have wronged you, by letting you grow up feeling like it was YOUR JOB to keep the family together. That is an immense and totally unfair amount of pressure to heap on a child, and it’s not an easy thing to grow up with. Of course you feel angry – all the work your mum made you put into keeping the family together and then she turns around and smashes it all to pieces with someone you thought you could trust.
Maybe it’s time to reframe the nature of your relationship with your parents. You were your mum’s best friend, but also the Family Fixer. I used to think of myself as my mum’s best friend as well, which was great when life was fun and good, but became a painful confusion of relationship roles when things weren’t, because there’s that closeness and obligation of friendship, but there’s a power differential there, too.
Therapy is a GREAT way to find the space to retrain your Rageasaurus, and to work out strategies for dealing with your mum and her new partner, and making sure you have a solid Team You can give you space to exercise the Rageasaurus and help tire it out so it can rest.
“There is no prize money that you get for Being the Nicest to People Who Hurt You.”
Tonight, I will embroider this on a pillow. And then I will give the pillow to my Rageasaurus so she can sleep on it at night. And throw it at me when I’m being a dodo.
Until very recently, I acted like “Being Nicest to People Who Hurt You” was an Olympic sport, and I was training for a gold medal. Whenever my Rageasaurus would wake up and I would start crying/getting angry/want to throw things, I would stuff my Rageasaurus back in a cage and tell myself I was a weak person for ever letting Rageasaurus get out.
Now Rageasaurus and I are friends. Most of the time. It’s a process. Sometimes she still needs to go on a rampage for me to wake up and smell The Roses Of Someone Treating Me Like Shit. But now instead of stuffing her back in her kennel, we take long walks together. We’re partners, not enemies.
And all those years of fighting my Rageasaurus taught me something very important. If I have the strength to push the Rageasaurus – a creature that is trying to protect and help me – back in her cage, I certainly have the strength to stand up to the People Who Are Hurting Me but Expecting Me To Be Nice To Them. If I stop fighting the Rageasaurus, I can take all the strength I needed to push her back in her cage – I can take that strength and use it to Erect Boundaries and Stand Up For Myself.
It’s not easy, but it can be done. And LW, I hope you find a way to do it. Me and my Rageasaurus are cheering you on.
As the owner of both a poorly trained border collie (crossed with a spaniel crossed with a perpetual motion machine) and a Rageosaurus currently in training following some fairly spectacular Not Good Family situations, LW I feel you. Your mum has behaved really, really badly. Incredibly badly. If she were not related to you, I, along with lots of people above, am willing to bet your response would have been to run, not walk, away from her. But she is related to you, so you’re left with this weird situation where you are so amazingly mad at her and yet she’s your MUM, so you love her and don’t want to lose her. Again, I feel you.
All I can suggest is that:
a) You have a Conversation with your mother where you tell her, really and truly, that she fucked up, and she hurt you and you are really Not Okay with that. Include that you love her and want her in your life, but I think that you maybe need a chance to tell her that she’s hurt you, and see what she does with that. She may respond brilliantly, and be willing to do whatever she can to help repair the damage. She may respond horribly, and try to gaslight you into seeing that it wasn’t really all that bad (do not listen to that, LW. Listen to the stomping of your Rageosaurus). She will probably do something inbetween. Either way, I really feel it’ll give you some much-needed clarity.
b) Ensure your Rageosaurus is getting adequate exercise. I think right now you’re doing the emotional equivalent of the time we forgot that the crazy dog was in her crate and left her there for several hours. When she got out, it was BONKERS. Instead, try taking your Rageosaurus for an extremely long walk. To wit, maybe it is time to do some feeling of your feelings? Maybe you need to write some HULK POETRY or a giant FEELINGSLETTER or throw things around for a bit? Exercising your Rageosaurus should help give you a little space to breathe.
c) You don’t really mention your dad in this letter. Maybe you could focus on spending some time with him? Maybe, instead, this is a time where your chosen family trumps your born family and you need some No-Family time. Give yourself space from what’s happening. Put yourself first. This whole situation is horrible and messy and painful. You are allowed to walk away for a bit.
Also, just in case anyone is considering the purchase of a collie-spaniel cross, don’t. Rageosauruses are way easier to manage.
Here’s something that I was once told, OP: It’s okay to be angry and hurt, but you need to feel the feelings before they’ll go away. I don’t mean ‘act on your rage’ [which you obviously know], but don’t beat it with a stick to make it go away. Write a letter to your mom and/or your former best friend that you’ll never send saying all the things you’ve wanted to say to them about what they did but haven’t, and then burn it. Blare your own ‘Fuck You’ song when you get home from seeing your mom, or after you get off the phone with her, and something happened to wake your Rageasaurus up, or whatever works for you. But just spend some time just feeling it, instead of trying to hide it away.
Also, remember that you don’t have to hang out with them if you don’t want to, and don’t let anyone tell you to ‘just get over’ what happened. A lot of people don’t realize how dismissive and hurtful those comments can be in a situation like this [believe me, I got enough of them after getting kicked out of my home to know], and they don’t always realize how hard it can be to get over a betrayal of trust on this level. I hope you find something that works for you LW. -jedi hug-
How have I made peace with the rageosaurus? By accepting it’s okay to have one. Through much mindfulness practice and looooots of therapy, I finally accepted that it’s okay to feel whatever I’m feeling. It’s okay, whatever I feel, whenever I feel it, it’s okay.
If you just accept that you’re allowed to feel those bad things, and that you’re human and can’t be a robot, and not fight or berate yourself…. goodness, the bad feeling feels lighter. They won’t go away, but you’ll be able to get through the bad feelings quicker – “Huh, xyz happened and I feel zyx right now. That’s okay” – and move on with the rest of your day quicker than otherwise. If you don’t move on for a while, that’s okay, because you’ve been through a lot, and treated badly, and it’s okay.
Just accept and process those negative feelings any time they happen without beating yourself up over them. You’re not awful, you’re just reacting to awful things, and that’s okay, that’s human. And if you don’t want to see certain people? That’s okay. And if the rage keeps coming? That’s okay. It all is. Accept the feeling, let it pass, and go get a hug from your husband or friends. And be proud of yourself for getting through something like this.
I have a difficult relationship with my rageosaurus because one of the tricks my depression will play is to sneak up behind my rageosaurus and jab it with a cattle prod. So I will react extremely badly to things like not getting my own way, or minor problems (They put cheese in my sammich! I dont like cheese! SAURUS SMASH!) Or things which I can do nothing about, like my cat dying or losing my youth to depression.
Then once my saurus is all tuckered out, the depression will cone along and mock and taunt me for the mess my rage and I created, never mind that the depression was what caused the rage in the first place.
I know those feels.
Jedi hugs. Because that sucks.
Secretly though it is pretty awful when your cat dies or that you feel you lost your youth to depression (although that particular description tastes like DepressionTalk to me). I mean, maybe you felt it that moment because depression, but it is totally legit to have big sad feelings about that stuff.
It’s also legit to have big feelings about CHEESE ON MY SAMMICH RAR but I suspect that you were displacing rage over something else onto cheese. As a cheese fan, I would say that cheese doesn’t deserve it.
But you know, depression is both something to be RAGEful about because it is an awful thing to be stuck with… and it is a thing that tends to feed the RAGE because that’s just what it can do sometimes.
Either way, you are okay. Your rageasaurus is still just trying to protect you, it just sounds like it’s got kinda bad aim. Like, it knows you’re hurting, it’s just aiming at CHEEZ instead of VAGUE BIOCHEMISTRY or whatever.
HULK LOVE YOUR RAGEASAURUS ANYWAY. WITH SMASHING OF CHEESE.
I’m pretty okay now, but I really did lose my youth to the fucking thing. 19-24, the years of supposed carefree funtimes with alcohol and boys were a mess of hospitals and drugs and ECT and wanting to die. And I mean, I know its okay to be angry about it, and angry and sad about my cat dying – but I can’t get those years back, or get my cat back, and the rage had prevented me from moving on and fully enjoying the non-suicidal times. (Also, my cat was 21, and his heart just wore out and he died painlessly and quickly with me holding him and it’s the kind of death everyone should be able to have.)
I’m working on an uneasy truce between the depression monster, my rageosaurus, and me, because it’s hard to trust your rage as a not-entirely-negative thing when you have been stopped by the police for smashing glass in a rage over the equivalent of cheese in your sammich.
Mindfulness therapy helps a lot with settling the saurus after a cattle prodding.
Yep, I feel the exact same. “Best years of your life?” I sure as hell hope not. I’ve been working a lot on trying to accept and acknowledge that rage and get it out in a healthy way. It’s a struggle.
I am discovering, at nearly 28, that the best years of my life are truly yet to come. Not because my youth particularly sucked or anything, but because generally, let’s face it, being young and not knowing yet how to handle conflict and boundaries and not knowing what you think about things or what you want from people, that shit sucks. I wouldn’t wind back ten years to the supposed ‘best years of my life’ for anything.
Public perception has it all wrong. While all my similar aged colleagues are whining about how they’re becoming another year wrinklier/uglier/irrelevant-er each birthday, I am all, YES. TODAY I AM ANOTHER WHOLE YEAR MORE AWESOME AT BEING ME. LET THERE BE CAKE. ❤
STORY OF MY LIFE LAST NIGHT, AHAHAHA~ OTL
Jedi Hugs and fist-bumps from across the internet, comrade. Depression is awful and unfair and I wish people didn’t have to put up with its bullshit.
Oh, I feel this too. I don’t have A Diagnosis but I have some sort of anxious depressive panicky thing going on (and am seeing a psych about it, not to worry) and sometimes I get SO FUMINGLY SIMMERING MAD and I don’t know how to channel that at all. Once it was because none of three stores I checked had the exact kind of chips I wanted (and was most likely Really about culture shock). Time to have a good long chat with my Rageasaur I think.
I really hear you on the inappropriate Rageasaurus behavior. Mine used to do that too (and will still do that sometimes, I’m not done training it). It came from a long history in a birth family where anger was not allowed (for children, girls, you name it). So Rageasaurus spent a long time in a dark closet (with a lot of other things, sadly) which was not good for it at all.
The trouble is, Rageasaurus is not stupid. What happened wasn’t that it broke out of the dark cage and headed for the throat of the first thing that mildly pissed me off; Rageasaurus started triggering on safe things that made me angry. Not the things that were really making me angry because that would have been too much explosion at once. That would have resulted in Godzilla destroying Tokyo. I would have become Akira and grown tentacles of pure rage and cleared everything around me to bare earth (emotionally speaking). So, instead, I was calm as could be about [crappy abuse in the family] but fumed for days over someone being mildly rude to me in a store.
What happened was that I read an issue of Hothead Paisan. (I’m old, okay?) It’s the one where she was eating bricks. And someone asks, “So, how long have you been eating bricks?”
And I asked myself that question and let Rageasaurus out.
It hasn’t been easy. Rageasaurus actually makes a good companion and watchdog, but you have to take care of it — no beating with sticks and no locking up. Otherwise, Rageasaurus starts doing the DEATH TO THE WRONG CHEESE thing. It gets scared, too.
At least I know now that when that happens I’ve been keeping poor Rageasaurus from telling me something I needed to know.
I love Hothead Paisan! I think Hothead Paisan is *Rageasaur’s* Patronus.
Hi, its such a shame that those people who are supposed to love and care about us are the ones we have to be wary of,are your two family members trying to make you ‘tough’ like them?( i dont think they are tough, just bullies)? they seem to view you as too soft,they are wrong you have strenghts they dont have, and are to good a person too bully anyone! The trouble is as i am finding, that you cant live your life acording to others rules, eventually the bullies cross the line, then the relationship ends, this is the real stick they beat us with,they beat our love for them out of us, and they can and do this with words. Its like domestic Violence, the ‘Victim’, really holds the power because the Abuser know the relationship exists only as long as the abused can stand it.
Gavia,people who abuse us, verbally or physically DONT love us, they cant, they are incpable, Normal people who love, respect and value the person they love, encourage them, build them up,want the best for them, AND never CUT THEM DOWN TO SIZE WITH WORDS OR FISTS.
This was a huge revelation to me! having grown up in a disfunctional home, all i knew was people fighting, i live in peace now. When you get to be old enough you need to get away,even if its college,you seem quite young the moment, think about what will happen when you have your own children, do you want this for them?. Put yourself in your kids shoes, would they want this for you, take care of yourself.
I can relate to this so hard. Good luck to us both!
You wrote that you can either stay angry forever OR accept them and try to help yourself and the rest of your family. First of all, soothing the rest of your family can be your LAST priority right now. You don’t need to uphold your usual family role of Peacemaker. Fix your own oxygen mask first. Actually, it sounds like all the other people involved are all capable adults who can take responsibility for soothing themselves. Also, you don’t need to accept X’s constant presence just to maintain a relationship with your mom. They have a relationship but they aren’t grafted together as Siamese twins.
I would like to share some perspective from the other side of an unfortunately similar situation of which I’m not proud:
Your mom and X likely feel your withdrawal as a direct judgment on their blossomed relationship. They badly want you to wish them well and share their happiness, because they are soooo happy, and love conquers all, and if their love has to bulldoze over things in its path–like their families–well, star-crossed love is all the more romantic. Of course this line of thinking is bullshit, as the Rageasaurus instinctively knows. But Mom and X have likely spent many tense conversations plotting how to get you to come round to their side. Relationships like theirs can be isolating and guilt-ridden, and your approval and validation would assuage all that.
Winning you over gives your mom and X a common cause, because for a long time they were a team of two against the forces of the universe that kept them from being together. After pushing against something for years it’s unsettling when there’s suddenly no resistance. So you cast around for things to replace the old obsession; you throw yourself into projects that might go better with a lighter touch.
I suspect your mom’s constant mentions and tag-alongs of X are more than just butterflies. It sounds like they are very deliberately trying to incorporate you into their shiny new togetherness, the way you were naturally part of the family your mom used to have. But you don’t have to be ok with X now or ever just to set your mom at ease.
There’s an excellent book called A Grief Out Of Season, about adults whose parents divorce. According to the authors, paleolithic rage is a pretty typical response. It’s out of print but hopefully you can find it at your library; it’s a bit pricey on Amazon.
Best wishes with extra peace and healing over the approaching holidays,
I heart the border collie analogy so, so much. They are wonderful dogs and I adore them, but if you do not occupy them, they occupy themselves. By herding the shelties. And the cat. Neither of these activities ends well. Not that I’ve ever had to rescue the cat from the border collie…/eyeroll.
It’s the same with Ragesauri. If you deal with them and let them wear themselves out naturally, they are so much happier, and by extension, you are too. If you leave it crated, then when it gets out- or breaks out- it’s not a pretty sight. My friend who owned a border collie also had sheep and ducks to work her on. I think the human equivalent would be crying and telling people you’re mad at what’s really going on.
…oh GROSS. LW, that is one shitty situation to deal with — I’m really sorry, this must be a painfully awkward and frustrating for you. I get my hackles up a little bit when I read this, since there’s just this… sense of betrayal all around. I mean, a parent cheating is uncool enough, but the fact it was with your best bud at the time? GROSS. Awkward, gross and a heavy blow to the gut. (Also, to clarify: my use of the word gross isn’t to reflect some sort of sexual shaming thing, rather that I think the situation is icky and stupid and crummy!)
I’m also a victim of an uncooperative Rageasaur, and I gotta say: giving yourself permission to and forgiving yourself for feeling those really fucked up, angry feelings is a giant step. See, once you can accept your anger, you can deal with it. You can feel it and let it pass through you, or at least keep it in check around your mom and her new partner. The really important reason not to be mad forever, though, is that it can be really destructive to your life. If you carry untouched anger with you, eventually it catches up! (Mine sent me into depression and took a year of my life away, and, I TELL YA, it’s not fun.) So, for your sake (and I think, from the tone of your letter, you understand this already), take care of yourself.
Concentrate on getting yourself balanced again before you start to tackle potentially offering forgiveness and playing nice and whatever you decide to do in the end. I think, once you’ve figured out exactly where you stand and what you feel (because good lord what a messy pile of feelings and thoughts to sort through, augh), the rest will come naturally. You’ll be able to ask for and get what you need, and offer what you’re willing to give.
I recently discovered by rageasaurus is Cthulhu. I’m okay with that; I enjoy tentacles. But LW, you have every right to tell mom and friend to stick it. I get that the heart wants what it wants, but the heart is also at times a selfish asshole.
Wow. Elodie Under Glass, you are amazing. I really needed to read this.
Elodie, I love what you wrote here. It brought me to tears, because it feels so true.
I have recently begun trying to deal with my own anger issues, and this was exactly what I needed to read at this exact moment. I had literally just put down a book having finished its chapter on dealing with negative emotions like fear and anger, and had a brief conversation with my husband in which I doubted that I could do the things in the suggestions i.e. letting myself really feel my feels, so I popped online to see if the Awkward Army had anything to say about it – and here was this letter.
I have so much more hope now than I did twenty minutes ago. Thank you.
Ahh, I remember the Rageasaurus. Time and distance were most helpful in taming mine. So sorry you’re going through this, LW. It sucks when family falls apart like this. Good luck, and lots of Jedi hugs. ❤
This is a beautiful post, Elodie Under Glass.
Dear LW, in my experience keeping some distance is indeed very helpful. I used to be my mother’s best friend, too, so she dumped all the stuff that went wrong in her relationship with my father on me. That was not healthy for either of us. Moving away helped some, her getting therapy helped some more.
I hope you can keep yourself safe.
An old lady here – to suggest that “wanting to leave is good enough reason to leave” is valid for mothers too. Your mother had every right to leave her unhappy marriage. Yes, it hurts all around. Yes, you have a right to be angry. That said, I want to throw a little understanding your mother’s way. She appears to have endured an intolerable marriage for a very long time. Chances are, she gave it her best, the best of herself and the best years of her life, and gave up only after it was totally clear there was nothing left. That it happened so dramatically – happens. It was horrible, but leaving is hardly ever clean and easy. Not for her, or for anyone depending on her. Maybe one day you can forgive her.
The LW hasn’t expressed anger at their mother for leaving an unhappy marriage. The LW said them breaking up was “a relief.” In fact, the LW said about why it rankled: “So it wasn’t the splitting up that hurt- It was the way it happened and the fact my mother asked me to cover it up when I found out (I did not).”
Putting your kid in the middle and asking them to cover up infidelity is beyond the pale. That is so inappropriate and hurtful. I don’t care how miserable you are in a marriage, that is actually a destructive thing to ask of your kid, who will feel loyalty towards BOTH of their parents.
The LW is angry because a) their mother had an affair with the LW’s (now former) best friend and coworker and expected her to cover it up b) their mother expects the LW to be totally fine with all of this and can’t understand why the LW isn’t all that comfortable with him joining them. The mother appears to be incredibly self-centered and uncaring about how any of this is affecting her child. No, she should not have stayed in an unhappy marriage. But she should not have expected her child to cover up for her, she should not have tried to pull her into the middle, and she should not expect her child to be comfortable with the fact that some very serious boundaries were violated when she embarked on an affair with the LW’s best friend and coworker. (I can imagine that things at work are very comfortable for the LW right now.)
Yes, the mother has needs and desires and those should be honored. So does the LW. The mother needs to understand that.
I don’t think anyone’s arguing that she was wrong to leave, but the way she left, that was wrong. That she asked her daughter to lie to her father to cover up for her, that was wrong. That she keep using time-my-daughter-wants-to-spend-with-me as time-to-spend-with-my-new-husband. That it happened so dramatically, yes, is a thing that happens… but it happens because people choose to behave in certain ways. It’s not a meteor strike, it’s drunk-driving crash– it was caused by the actions of people.
Sometimes, people do things that move them from the category of “people who I trust with X*” to “people who have proved I was wrong to trust them with X”, which is what her mum did. She had a lot of good reasons for getting out of the relationship she was in, and she had a lot of bad ones for doing it in the way she did.
Like the saying goes, “love is no excuse for bad behaviour.”
I think you have a point here. But the LW has to feel this forgiveness through her bones to be able to forgive her, and the way to get there (if at all possible) is to examine her feelings with her pet rageosaurus. Like, what exactly is bothering her? If her mother had cheated on her dad with somebody else and not her friend, would it feel better than it does now? How much better? What if her mother had acknowledged that this was a dick move and asked for forgiveness? The LW could take some time to know what bothers her and how much without suppressing it. I suppose there are a lot of details we dont know – for instance, how and how soon did they spring the news on her? Maybe she can deal with things one at a time.
When I had a fight with my best friend because she hooked up with the guy I had told her I liked, I felt really angry, but it took me time to understand that the reason I was angry was not the lost opportunity of hooking up with the guy (who wasnt interested in me anyway). It was partially the betrayal of trust, but also, this ugly thing where you desperately want your best friend to have only you.
Ahhhh, you guys, there is so much awesome stuff here. I heart the Rageosaurus and the HULK-U. I going to be taking my feathery Rageosaurus for walks in the future, she’s being rather quiet at the moment but given the Holiday Shitstorm on the horizon it might be a good idea to give us some exercise in advance.
One thing I found, and it’s a huge trap to fall into. There is no magic script that will give you the response you want.
I know it. It’s the worst craving ever. You sit and rehearse and think you’ll find the magic combination of words that will make your mother go “You know what. You’re right. I hurt you and I was totally wrong and I will support you in your healing and I hope you can forgive me someday.”
But it’s a snipe hunt. There is no magic script that will make her suddenly open her eyes and realize she was wrong and you’re right. And you’ll drive yourself insane trying to find it. This is not to say that she won’t come to terms with it someday, but she has to do that on her own. That’s on HER, not on you! It’s the worst sort of self victim blaming to think her not realizing her behavior is your fault. Your job is to protect YOU and help YOU. Don’t fall into that trap, her self-delusions are not your responsibility, and don’t let the dangling carrot of her maybe, someday, magically realizing she was a buttface keep you coming back to her long after you want to end it.
Hey everyone, LW here. *thank you so much* for all the positive replies and Jedi hugs and fuzzies. I have geared up more than once.
There have been multiple times I have told my mother “we can either stop talking about this now, or I will leave the conversation/hang up the phone/sit in my car until husband gets out of the bathroom and leaves”. And at first she didn’t believe me, but I enforced it enough that now all I have to say is “mother….” And she quickly changes the subject.
I’ve also had week(s) at a time away from her, where I tole her “you have broken my heart. If you want to fix it, to protect myself I need to be away from you, and I especially need to be away from X.” After a particularly nasty fight, my wonderful incredible gets all the sex husband called her and said “look, you fucked up. You broke this. You have to take responsibility and make the first steps to fix it by admitting you we’re wrong”. And for my husband, who is on the extremely quiet polite side, to say this as I’m sobbing and cuddling what I now know as my rageasaurus, was a real eye opener for my mother.
So in that regard I keep the boundaries firm. But I hear from my family a lot “I’m so glad you are past being angry. None of us like him being here either, but we didn’t want to raise a stink about it” which made me feel all smashy self conscious about it. The family is going to a local event, which has traditionally only been ladies, and mother has decided X should come too. So I decided I will go later with my husband. And I said it without ugliness and a firm resolve, and she couldn’t say anything about it. And it felt fucking awesome and my rageasaurus chirped in approval.
So I’m glad to hear its ok for me to still be angry sometimes. Its ok for for me say “no mom, i didnt want him a long. i wanted just you” Mine is a quiet, head tilting rage. Or has become one, I will admit as a younger lady being the yelling sort. The joke is the closer to 45 degrees my head tilts, and the quieter and more monotone my voice is, the more dangerous it is.
I really like the visual of a rageasaurus , because I’ve always envisioned my anger as a wee red dragon that sleeps in my chest, and when it wakes up sits on my shoulder with its wings spread, hissing and growling and spitting fire. When its happy again it nuzzles, chirps, and goes back to sleep. So it fits. I just always worried I shouldn’t have one, that I should be zen about everything, because isn’t that what people should be in this situation? Take the high road, be the better person, pretend everything is normal for the family.
As for my mother leaving…absolutely she should have left. My father should have left. They both spent a decade making each other miserable without clear fault on either side. I know this because I knew way too much of their fights because mother told me, and so did father. However, it’s always been my philiopshy that while you may not be able to help who you are attracted to, or maybe even fall in love with, penises don’t accidentally fall into vaginas. Leave before that point, if necessary. Just my perspective.
TL:DR thank you everyone, this has helped a lot, RowR. Any additional advice is welcome.
“I just always worried I shouldn’t have one, that I should be zen about everything, because isn’t that what people should be in this situation?”
One thing most people don’t realize: being zen about everything includes being zen about your rageasaurus, which is pretty mutually exclusive with wanting it not to exist. 🙂
Parents telling you all about their fights is approximately THE WORST.
OK, I hear all this very good advice about the Rageasaurus and how to deal with it, and it should be fine. It is, really, as long as we’re talking specifically about the Rageasaurus.
However, the underlying topic of discussion is making my own Rageasaurus roar. Let me summarize: where does a daughter get the feeling she has any right to feel so judgmental about her mother’s relationships? How would she like it if her mother said self-righteous stuff like this about her self and her own husband for instance? Would that be legitimate instead? What was that about boundaries again??
We don’t know what this woman put up with from her ex in order to bring LW to adulthood with the facade of happy family that she seems to crave so much. We have an idea that she was unbearably lonely and isolated from the fact that her only close friend was her daughter. It’s also possible she ended up with the ex-friend in part because she trusted her daughter’s judgement about people, and mistakenly thought that taking up with a friend of hers would make things easier for her (don’t laugh, I’ve had the same delusions occasionally, it happens).
Now I’m not disputing the fact that the parental breakup may have been very messy, and painful for all parties. No family goes through that kind of situation unscathed. And indeed, if the mother panicked at some point and wanted the daughter to keep such a secret, it wasn’t cool. But it wasn’t a CRIME. Perhaps the daughter should consider that her own perfect relationship with “wonderful husband” is necessarily more recent than the parents’, does not give her much life experience to go on, and that she may yet have some surprises in store. Especially as she may be applying the same Hallmark veneer to her own life. Few people can maintain exemplary behavior during their whole life, and a bit of forgiveness towards others’ difficulties can be good insurance toward our own potential future needs.
But I think all this outcry above about mom’s behavior is much exaggerated. To hear those comments one would think the mom ran out with the LW’s own husband. Of course it’s natural to be most sympathetic to the LW, that’s what she’s here for. But that’s a general problem with therapy that’s often forgotten, you only get one side of a situation. And in this particular case I can’t help discerning echoes of the other side. So LW, how about you talk openly to your mother about how betrayed you feel that her, your former best friend, is now mutually sappy instead over another former good friend (both “former” statuses being evidently your doing more than theirs, right?). And allow her perhaps to express a bit how betrayed she felt that her daughter and former best friend would coldly spill the beans when she found out she was trying to finally grope her way out of a miserable marriage. And maybe try to analyze more closely your father’s part in all this, as the self-imposed necessity to pretend all is fine reminds me rather unpleasantly of some of my own family’s dynamics, and not the healthiest parts of it. Your mother at least seems to be doing her best to keep trying to repair the relationship. Maybe it’s time to look at the situation from a more adult point of view, and give it all a better chance?
I also got the impression that the mother gets a very bad rep on the comments which may or may not be fair. However, in repeating what I said in a previous post, you can only forgive when you feel like it – and when there is another choice, ie, cutting the other person off but you dont want, or no longer want, to pick it. It is OK if the LWs anger is not 100% unselfish, and she is in fact bummed because her mom used her to find a boyfriend and is not mad out of /altruistic rage/ for her dad who was dumped or out of indignation /for the broken family/. In fact, one reason she may be resisting this rage is that it has some selfishness in it, and she grew up putting always others first.
Former coworker spilled the beans to me. HE told me he was in love with my mother, and that I should just accept that and move on. HE told me this at work in a cube farm where everyone could hear him.
This was not my mothers first affair, just the first she was caught in. His as well.
MY father wanted to go to couples therapy. Tried for years to get my mother to go. She wouldn’t because she didn’t want to admit her part in the wrong doing.
MY father is no saint, but has apologized for his wrongness early in the marriage mayn, many times. And again, wanted to go to therapy. Researched therapists, tried everything he could. I begged my mother once as a child for us to go to family counseling, and she refused, because “only crazy people go to therapy”.
I was told when I was about 10 “you are not allowed to be sad, you are the one who keeps this family happy and upbeat.”
Maybe before you decide I am being a petulent child in all this, you should know all the facts. I ratted no one out. I told no one about the affair. But I refused to cover up for it by going to family dinners and pretending everything was fine while my mother was looking for a new apaprtment with X, especially after my mother said “your marriage is so happy, you owe me this.”
Oh, and this is my second marriage. My first was to a cold, abusive, emotionally manipulative asshole who threw dishes at me if they weren’t clean to his satisfaction. So please, no platitutdes about how naive I am because I have a wonderful husband. I know how wonderful he is because I have had so much worse.
“You’re not allowed to be sad.”
Oh god, how that resonates! With my mom, any emotion other than placidity and contentment is a direct slam at her. For years, she would actually call and ask “Are you happy?” in this tone that brooked no disagreement, and if I had any issues at all (and usually, they were completely justified, like feeling ill or dealing with an awful boss), she would sigh and tell me how difficult I am. Everything bad that happens to me is my own fault for not having the right attitude.
Most galling — my dad and older brother can feel exactly how they want, and she will comfort them and make excuses. I’m always on my own.
BLAAARGH ARRGHH WANT TO SMASH DOWNTOWN NOW…
If you’d ever like to read a book about this kind of shit (and you don’t know this one yet^^): I really liked “Will I ever be good enough” by Dr. Karyl McBride.
Ugh. “You’re not allowed to be sad” would pretty much keep my rageasaurus fired up, as well as the “you owe me this because your marriage is happy.” Wow. I’m happy at my job and I don’t think it means I owe someone cover if they smash their asshole boss’s care windows!
I don’t blame you for being angry–it’s not that the marriage ended (which you said was way overdue), as you said it’s because of your mother and her boyfriend’s behavior and boundary violations, as well as their insistence that you should never feel or express anything negative, ever. You’re allowed to feel angry and uncomfortable with things, you’re allowed to feel angry about the way your family treated you, and it does not make you a bad person. You haven’t disowned your mother or thrown rocks at her, you’re telling her what you are and are not comfortable with.
Though honestly? This probably makes me a really bad person–and I am NOT saying you *should* do this–but there is NOTHING wrong with putting a LOT of distance between you and someone who has a history of telling you that you have no right to your feelings. That’s just utter bullshit right there. (And it’s totally okay to have a relationship with them if that is what you want, but really–if you decided that you’ve had enough of “you aren’t allowed to feel X/you’re a bad person for feeling X”, you’re within your rights to cut the people who push that toxic, entitled, shaming bullshit off of a mental cliff.)
And how about, “You don’t really feel X.” Always a popular one.
Unagi, as the guest blogger, I thank you for your perspective and the spirit of help and compassion that inspired it. It is evident that you identify strongly with the Letter Writer’s mother in this case, and it speaks well of you that you defend.
Recently (September, I think) I realized for the first time the extent of the flaws and faults that run between my beloved broken mother and me, and how much trust I can place in her. I raged, Unagi, and loudly did my Rageasaurus roar. I keened like a whipped wolf. I broke at work several times, tearing up in the laboratory; at home I curled up in a howling ball and my husband had this look usually seen on the faces of first-time fathers when their wives go into labor. It was awful, to realize how my mother, despite her burning desperate love for me, had to be kept at a distance so that I could keep my sanity. The memories! I remembered how she had fought to get me into college as a tiny eleven-year-old, how she had gone hungry to pay for my classes, and waited outside for me to come out of the classroom, and I remembered how, in a fit of black depression, she had left my sister and I in a store, hungry and afraid, for hours after it had closed, because she was driving around in a fugue state. How she had spent her last pennies once on a dress for me that I, a nine-year-old tomboy, hated with every fiber of my being, and how I wore it anyway because I’d hoped it would put her back together, and how we both started crying because we loved each other so much and couldn’t get it right. And I remembered how she would forget to come for me, over and over again, how she would leave me trembling in the growing dark, waiting for hours until she came for me, and how sometimes it would be my father coming, tense, after fourteen hours at work, because he had come home to find me gone and my sister hungry and my mother staring at the ceiling. How I left her to move to England, how she trembled and tried not to cry, and the last thing she told me, lovingly, desperately, was to lose some weight, because she can never quite get things right. How I wanted my mother! How I hated her! Oh, it’s hard, this process of adult-birth. Even writing about it at work is nearly impossible; I just had to go and have a good sob in the bathroom, mourning this mother of mine. Just now! Oh, mothers can hurt, Unagi, especially when they aren’t mothers any more.
How awful it was last September to realize that I love her so much, and she loves me so much that she would throw herself on any grenade for me, and yet I knew that when I have a child, I can never leave her alone with it. What a gutting thing! My Rageasaurus never quite puts its feathers down around my mother, because it knows that it has to keep me safe, that my own mental health cannot, cannot handle taking on more of my mother’s burdens.
You know what didn’t help? People saying “Gosh, your mother was raped an awful lot, stop being so selfish.” Or, “Your mother’s huge mental problems make YOUR silly feelings look stupid.” Or, “Where was your father in all this?” Or, “Well, someday when YOUR perfect young husband does something upsetting, YOU’LL be SORRY!” Or, “Your mom has REASONS for her depression, where do you get off being sad, with your pretty little life?” Thankfully, nobody said that to me, except for myself in my own head. That made it so much worse.
What helped was my husband telling me that it was okay and that I could be hurt as much as I needed to. I had to scream and grieve. I did! I let my Rageasaurus off the leash and she, the beautiful thing, smashed up the world in a wild and terrible war dance, mourning and raging for my mother, and then she came back to me and laid down at my feet. And then, from a place of peace, I wrote to my mother and made it all right.
Ref did not write this mother to understand her mother better. I am quite confident that she can figure that out on her own. She wrote because she knew that her rage was making her sick. The only question she asked was how to make it stop.
Thank you for the spirit with which you shared this. I know where it is coming from, and I appreciate it greatly, which is how I know exactly how it does not help. But we all live in imperfect glass houses. It may be something that somebody else needs to hear.
Yes. This. Elodie, I love your heart.
Grieving for people who are still alive is confusing and awkward. Especially when they keep popping up and saying HERE I AM WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU THIS IS YOUR PROBLEM. But I think that sometimes the difference between who they were (or who we thought they were) and who they are is so extreme that we need a little time and space to mourn.
“Grieving for people who are still alive is confusing and awkward.”
Definitely another one for the pillow collection.
*hug* thank you. for this. that is all.
Oh holy shit. This is SO MUCH like my relationship with my mother it’s scary. Thank you for sharing. *hugs if you want them*
Yeah, no. None of what is going on here has anything to do with judging the LW’s mother for leaving a relationship that wasn’t happy. I don’t even think any of it is about the fact that she fell for the LW’s BFF. All of the rage is about how she chose to leave her marriage — by having an affair, by asking her daughter to lie to her father, by refusing to acknowledge it is legitimate for the LW to be upset by those things, and by turning every attempt at mother/daughter time into mother/boyfriend/daughter time (which is shitty in any situation, but doubly so with the history here).
It sounds like this struck a chord for you and I’m sure there are reasons that you are having a strong reaction to this story and the subsequent comments. But this is not your story, whatever that might be. The LW is not being “judgemental” about her mother’s relationship. The LW is being upset about how her mother treated her, the LW. And yes, she’s also upset about how her mother treated her father. I think most people would get upset if one of their parents did something terrible to the other.
If you think that she should be cool with the fact that her mother cheated on her father, asked the LW to cover it up, and now won’t spend time with the LW unless the boyfriend she cheated with–someone who also betrayed the LW by taking part in that affair–tags along, that’s your perogative. But the LW is not overreacting by thinking that is a shitty series of actions, and she is entitled to be angry about it.
Thank you for saying this. I wanted to too, but I worried I was going to be shittier about it than I wanted to be. This is something I grew up steeped in: my mother was this way because my grandparents were straight-up Mommie-Dearest abusive assholes. Her parents hit her, locked her in closets, verbally abused her, throttled her, all that. And it was my job, from birth, to *~*~*~accept*~*~* this and forgive it, because she had it so bad and hey, I didn’t get hit that much and she bought me things in between bouts of verbal abuse/intimidation/involving me in fights with my dad that I had no place in. I fought to do that for years, because that’s what my dad told me and I didn’t have any adults to turn to who would have helped me. I think one can understand how things happen without approving of them, and without subjecting oneself to bad treatment. Yes, my mom has her reasons for being violent and hateful. She’s not doing it at me. But it’s not okay, and it never was, and I’m not the bad guy for having some strict fucking boundaries now that I’m grown up. I think that can be true for LW. Her mom had reasons, but they don’t make it okay to hurt people, and there’s nothing wrong about LW having and maintaining boundaries to protect herself.
This kind of attitude really really pisses me off. Frankly, for me this is a red flag for people who are abusive or those who let the abuse continue so there isn’t any “drama.” (Full disclosure: this opinion is colored by my relationship with my emotionally abusive Biological Mother)
Why is it in any way ok to diminish the LW’s feelings into a childish tantrum? LW knows her mother didn’t have an affair AT her:
Did the LW go on and on about how horrible her Mother and X are? No. Did she give impossible ultimatums to her Mother? No. She asked how to handle the only thing she can control in this situation: HOW TO HANDLE HER EMOTIONS AND BEHAVIOR IN A HEALTHY WAY.
According to you, she should just beat her RAGEASAURUS into quiet submission and pretend everything is sparkly rainbows and unicorns. Because her mother had a troubled marriage. Oh and she has a childish view of the world because she was lucky enough to have a wonderful and happy marriage.
LW has just as much of a right to establish her boundaries and limit her interactions with her mother and X as mother and X have a right to be together. She doesn’t have to bend-over backwards while reading Marcuse’s theory of Eros in French and making souffle just so that Mother can pretend everything is ok.
The way I see it, the LW has been suppressing her own feelings of betrayal, loss and hurt for a while now, specifically so as not to appear judgmental. Yes, the mother’s behavior sounds a lot like it’s coming from a place where she was in an unhappy marriage for a long time, and now she can’t understand why her daughter can’t be happy for her. It sounds like the daughter was trying to be OK with this, and that the act of faking it was tearing her up inside.
I’m not the Captain, but I feel like we’ve all said what we need to say here.
Awesome post – and some really insightful comments, too. It reminds me very much of the work of a friend of a friend by the name of Eve Jacques, who runs a website called “Monstertalk”; here she deals with not only Rageasauruses, but all kinds of other mental monsters. And, like Elodie, her approach is very much to assume that they’re trying to help you rather than harm you, and work out how to make peace with them. I think it’s a brilliant way to handle these beasties, which we’ve all got in one form or another.
And, LW, you have my very best wishes.
My Ragesaurus is red with little white paws and tail, her claws are black though. She has BOUNDLESS energy. She leaps up to keep me safe every single time I feel even vaguely threatened and definitely wants what’s best for me, but left unchecked she destroyed and wrecked nearly everything she came into contact with. Likewise keeping her chained up made her howl, giving me awful headaches.
Here’s the thing: She was speaking up for me when I was saying “no, shhh, I don’t matter, go lie down somewhere,” and she’d roar “NO YOU ARE SO IMPORTANT, YOUR NEEDS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT, RAWR,” and smash things. But here’s thing thing, she was right. So now when my Ragesaurus speaks up for me I listen and try to understand what she’s saying. Now, she’s not always right, but I’ve noticed if I don’t listen, there are Consequences. So every so often she gets let off her leash and allowed some exercise.
I will rant to my wonderful fiancé about it or my friends, and I also do historical martial arts and medieval combat. Basically I will don armour and my friends and I will spar. That tends to make my ragesaurus very sleepy. Poor thing is always fast asleep after training!
I have had to erect brick walls between me and several people in my family because they think I’m a Big Meanie for not wanting to be around someone who abused me. The following (paraphrased) conversation keeps happening:
THEM: Why aren’t you coming to [family occasion]? We miss you; you should be there.
ME: Because Dad will be there.
THEM: I don’t understand why you can’t forgive him. Did he rape you?
ME: What?! No, he [other extremely unacceptable actions] repeatedly, for years. It’s not about forgiveness. I can’t trust him, and I won’t pretend to. I will not go where he is likely to be, and you kept inviting him to stuff even after I told you what happened. That’s your (really confusing) decision, but this is mine.
THEM: But he’s your father! You can’t live your life in fear. You’re just punishing yourself. Anger is so unhealthy. He loves you so much. [etc.]
ME: [SIGH RAGE SMASH GRAR etc.]
We cannot make someone be kind to us. Not even people who are SUPPOSED to be kind to us, like our parents. All we can do is:
1) Be honest about what we need, whatever that is. Boundaries! Space! Communication! We are NOT wrong for needing these things. These are well within the range of normal things to be needed by humans (or Rageasaurs, or velociraptors).
2) Hope that the person we love will listen and act accordingly.
3) Know that they might not listen and act accordingly, even if we really love them and really want them to. Or there might be a delay. So we may need to take additional steps to enforce our boundaries, and choose different people to be around us for a while. It’s difficult, but it’ll be okay; there are a lot of awesome people around to choose from.
I’m in sort of the same situation, my parents are breaking up and my mother has a boyfriend right now. The thing is, I can’t step out of this, because I’m still financially dependent on them and was living in their house until a month ago (I got an exchange student scholarship, moved to another country for a year, still trying to get a job). So… I removed myself from the situation physically, but I still talk to both practically daily and it’s so hard. It’s weird and awkward beyond belief and I feel so angry on behalf of both of them. And I miss them a lot. And I can’t help but think if I’d be around things would go better between them. So a lot of anger and guilt tend to swamp me when I feel down, but it’s ok, I cry a little, I ring my boyfriend (who is a wonderful wonderful person for listening to this crap so often) and I get better.
The worse thing about this situation isn’t the anger or the awkwardness, it’s the whole Parents becoming Immature Children all of a sudden. It’s seeing your parents bicker over the tiniest things and telling you two different versions of the same fight. It’s feeling like a kindergarten teacher trying to please two very silly kids. It just shouldn’t be done, ever.
Elodie, this was a wonderful post. I relate to it so much. And LW, you are brave and strong for surviving this. You deserve to be happy. Your mom really hurt you; it was a bad situation, but she had no excuse to act the way she did to you. I really hope that the two of you can make it up and become friends again, but if you can’t, don’t feel bad for staying away. Distance is healthy and there’s always the chance that you might be able to heal the wounds when they’re old and not still fresh. You get all of the Jedi hugs from me and my Rageasaurus.
What do you do if you think you’ve hurt your Rageasaurus too much?
I was bullied severely in middle school and high school and was clinically depressed for five years. I was on medication for three of those years and had therapy for all of them. I got better; college really was a great improvement. The problem was last year, my roommate could be incredibly sweet and a good friend, but most of the time, she was a hot mess and proud of the fact she didn’t have a filter (read: proud of being a huge asshole who would accuse me of being too sensitive when I was pointing out that she shouldn’t say racist/sexist/heterosexist/etc. things). She treated me like shit (mental, emotional, and some physical abuse) and was so codependent on me that I ended up becoming her caretaker for pretty much the entire year (including buying groceries for her and cleaning up her messes). It got to the point where I couldn’t even talk to her about anything because she’d throw a fit or sulk for days and it was just easier to let it go.
So, like I’d being doing for years, I beat my Rageasaurus and made it shush just so I could get through the year and keep her as a friend. And my Rageasaurus lost it.
I’m in a much better situation now with a non-abusive roommate, I have good friends, and I have a boyfriend who cares about me. However, whenever I think of bad things that happened to me in the past, my Rageasaurus comes rearing up and bites me in the throat. I get so angry and I stew about it and it seems like I can’t let it go. And I try to really, really, hard, but I can’t and I get so frustrated that I can’t and it makes it even harder for me to let things that happened to me in the present go after I’ve solved them. What should I do?
When you’re in a place where you feel safe and okay, let your rageosaurus out. Feel angry. scream and rage and cry and give your rageosaur as much roim and time as it needs. Then sit with it. Find out what it wants – it might be ok wit just being allowed to express itself. It might be that it thinks you shouldnt hang with your abuser cos shes not and has never been your friend.
I just wish I could let my RAGEASAURUS be in me, of me, not sure the term. I’m out of a long term abusive relationship and I’ve gotten truly angry once in a therapy session. I think before that I can remember being truly angry once in 2007. how do you let it come out?
Ha! I got that same problem. Only in the last few years have I felt like I could actually feel some anger. Or take people into dislike. Or recognize that some people are just assholes and really shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt. I have a friend who tells me I have to let go of anger and work on forgiveness so that I can heal and stay healthy. And my reaction is hell, no.
I’ve only just gotten a glimpse of my ragesasaurus peeking out of a window sometimes. I want to live with it awhile, get to know it, maybe name it Fred. I need to find my own strength and allow myself to be outraged, to call out bullshit. So I am setting out lures to bring my rageasaurus out of hiding. Then maybe I can work on training it into an awesome force of smiting and other circus tricks. Unpacking the years of repression, boy, is that hard.
Would it help to try to think about whether you could let your Rageasaurus out for a good, rounded exercise session? Would you feel able to slam some doors, kick some walls, punch some cushions and do a good long lot of swearing/crying? Or would it escalate quickly into too much destructiveness for you? Would little tiny bits of exercise help? Would a start be to say what it is you’re angry about, out loud?
I was very happy the other day ‘cos my partner got really stroppy with me about something I’d done, said he was cross, went upstairs and slammed lots of doors. Then I apologised, we talked it out, and it was fine. That was the first time since I’ve known him that he’s been able to express anger immediately and quickly get it out of his system. It took many years of practice on his part. He had had to suppress his Rageasaurus for a long, long time in order to survive, because life events had made it so big it would have hurled him off the face of the planet.
I’m so glad someone else is happy when their other half expresses irritation. People outside the relationship think its so great my husband never shows irritation. But what this means is I’m constantly thinking ” ok is he really fine, or is he afraid of disapointing/upsetting/irritating me?”
The first time he got mad at me (because I was being a cranky low blood sugar asshole) I was so happy I hugged and kissed on him. Confused he was.
Anyway, just want to say I am glad I’m not alone.
Think about the place you would feel safe. That’s where your rageasaurus will peek out. There may be a person who provides that space, or it may be an actual place by yourself, or a place you can pay to go to that’s just for letting out the rageasaurus safely.
I can either stay angry about it forever or accept and try to help my self and the rest of my family by incorporating this new unwelcome person into my life.
This is totally not an either-or! Right now, your training from growing up in a dysfunctional household is telling you that you have to make sure Everyone Gets Along, including yourself, or else you are a Terrible Person (or maybe you are a Failure At All Things, or a Bad Daughter, or any number of capitalized words put together like they mean something). When really, you are just a person who has decided on the boundaries you need to feel safe, one of which may very well be that this unwelcome person can not be incorporated into your life. This is a totally reasonable thing to decide for right now.
That is a 100% reasonable thing to decide for forever.
Growing up, I was a delightful mixture of Caretaker and Lost Child that had me believing that my only two options were not giving a rat’s ass about anything ever or taking care of everyone and every thing and fixing everyone and every thing and giving so much of a rat’s ass that I had nothing left to give for myself.
(My rageosaurus was/is a deinonychus because growing up in my house, I felt like I needed something smart and sly and big and out of my control that would completely rip people to shreds to protect me. Also, I never grew out of the dinosaur nerd phase.)
It didn’t calm down until therapy happened and also I realized that that wasn’t actually a choice I had to make. Because binaries are stupid and also crap and also lies most of the time.
So! You can be angry forever. Or you can accept the unwelcome person. Or you can never accept the unwelcome person. Or you can accept them when/if you’re ready. Or you can say fuck y’all to your whole family and walk away from it all and stop feeling anything about it. You have so, so many choices, and you can change your mind at any point in time.
I have discovered nine times out of ten my rageosaurus is telling me , very simply, that it is hungry or thirsty. I have the metabolism of a honey badger running a marathon, and about the same levrl of rage when Im not properly fed.
In my friends group, this is known as being ‘hangry’!
Yep! Hungry + Angry = Hangry. And hanger is not a good feel.
I guess I am dealing with my rageasaurus at the moment, and combined with depression, which, for me, manifests as rage too.
And I’m more apt to rage at the little things, like @WeeBoy with the cheese. So I’ll rage internally about the guy who refuses to close his legs from the “balls the size of Texas” angles when I sit next to him on the bus, but when my friend yet again says this one thing that’s racist-y, and that I’ve asked her not to say, I just immediately change the subject and bury it deep, so we can still have dinner together.
And I’ve been planning on making something for her birthday, but I haven’t touched my sewing machine all week, because, actually, I am angry at her and my cognitive dissonance hasn’t been able to stretch to sewing a present for her. But I’m also angry at me for not respecting myself and my anger and just outright saying, “Can you stop saying that, it’s offensive.”
I just find it really difficult to call people out on the meaningful shit. But on the other hand, if I start calling people out as much as I ignore, change the subject, or suppress, I’d be doing a fuckload of calling out, and that’s exhausting.
I really, really love the analogy of the ragemonster. Looking back on a situation that happened a few days ago, I’m going to step back and go over it again, this time with the ragemonster present and accounted for.
I have a couple of people that try to stomp on me often for whatever joy and peace of mind they think it brings them. Close family members, because of course. They team up when it suits them and until I could identify myself as the one being emotionally abused, it was always a toss-up between which one of them I was in tears over, believing that I had wrecked the relationship and was deeply faulted. I would have semi-annual arguments where I would “have it out” with one of them, my mother mostly, and I would patch things up as much as I could to avoid the weeks of freezing me out that would follow.
I would become absolutely sick to my stomach when I needed to stand up for myself and she would OFTEN create situations in which my loyalty (to my own sanity, folks) would be tested. The rage was unbearable. I would spend nights crying about it. So, enter the ragemonster. When it got to the point where I had no more capacity to handle the rage I was feeling, I began to look at altercations with her like, “You know what? If one of us has to exit this situation feeling like sh*t, it is NOT going to be me.” My ragemonster breathed a huge fiery sigh of relief. I took it to the streets and applied it to other jerks, too. It worked! Defeated jerks in piles everywhere!
So it’s been a couple of years of learning to process things without them eating me alive with these people. The other day, one of them said, with a smile, some really REALLY mind-twisty diabolical things and tried to create a situation in which I would agree to open my life to them further and give them some control (so vague, sorry, can’t go into detail). And I dealt with it politely, but did not really DEAL with it because we were in a very quiet public place (of course). So on the way home, my ragemonster was SEETHING, raging in a contorted fit about how exactly I needed to approach this very delicate situation.
So I say to myself (well, now I know the ragemonster was there too), “This will NOT let you go until you understand it. Then you will be able to understand how you FEEL about it, and then you will know what to DO about it. But right now you have to drive on the expressway.” The ragemonster became calm. It trusted me because it knew that my confusion was not whether or not I would take a stand, but how. And there was a lot less to be anxious about.
And the ragemonster and I drove off into the sunset and two days later, I can articulate very well how I am dealing with this uninvited quandary.
I keep calling it a ragemonster instead of rageasaurus! It’s like I need an updated fieldguide!
I used to keep rageasaurus cooped up, when I had asshole-friends that would be assholes to me (surprise!), and it’d build up and then rageasaurus would come out full-on, I’d have a fiery fit at them and end the friendship. Which I mean, still had the desired effect of no longer putting up with them, but I had had to for the months or years beforehand.
I was lucky in that I learned pretty early on how to keep my rageasaurus happy — I now let it wander free in the presence of my (not-asshole) friends, I’m always ranting/venting stuff at them. And I’m better at seeing things that will make rageasaurus become ragey after prolonged exposure, so I’m much better at avoiding asshole-friends.
Recently, a situation in life occurred that made my rageasaurus larger than I’d ever seen it before, and it went into bottled-upped-ness because there was simply so much of it I couldn’t POSSIBLY get it all out by venting to friends. So I got a new friend called a punching bag. I named him Jimmy. Rageasaurus and Jimmy are the best of friends now.
Comments are closed.