ASK ABDI: HOW DO I FEEL WITH RAGE?

QUESTION: Recently, I have been feeling a lot of rage. Now, this isn’t the first time that I’ve felt enraged, but it usually happens when I have opened myself up to someone (romantically or in friendship). When my affections are not returned or I feel that the same emotional awareness is not given to me that I give to people, I usually turn on myself (think horrible things about myself, say horrible things about myself). However, it doesn’t stop at rage. The rage colors my thoughts heavily: everyone around me is an enemy (serious paranoia) and I feel like I have to cut myself off (especially with people I have been open with in any capacity, i.e. retracting any nice thing I ever said, every nice thing I ever did for them - I hate this reaction) and that I don’t deserve to be around people because I feel incredibly toxic and people do not deserve to be around me because in the end everyone is a selfish user and they’ll stop at nothing to get what they want, even if it means stomping all over my feelings.

Ultimately, I would like to continue to be open, but I need help in figuring out how to guard myself a little. I have trust issues as well, I am realizing, and I see all of these components, I’m just not sure how they work together or what to do about them. Mostly, I want to stop feeling like this and I’m afraid I’m going to have to shut myself off - all or nothing, you know? I don’t want to do that. Do I even know how to do that? I will also be seeking therapy (I am being proactive and I know I’m the only one who can control how I feel), but don’t you think that people should have some responsibilities toward one another? I like that. I take care of you, you take care of me sort of mentality?

ANSWER: Rage is a powerful reminder of where we need to pay attention. You say “it usually happens when I have opened myself up to someone (romantically or in friendship)”. That, in itself, needs to be examined. It is common for us to feel threatened in any intimate situation, and use the rage as a mechanism to deter true intimacy. Despite our conscious craving for intimacy, most of us are in actual terror of it. It threatens all of the masks that we have set up since childhood as a form of self-defense.

The part where you say, “when my affections are not returned or I feel that the same emotional awareness is not given to me that I give to people, I usually turn on myself”, is connected to this. Remember that we treat others the way we treat ourselves, so this piece also needs to be examined. With that, it is our own job to take care of ourselves, not to manipulate giving so that we receive. Of course this is a tall order, and most of us have an agenda with our giving in that we secretly want lots in return. This is further complicated by the fact that we are too afraid to be vulnerable enough to receive it, even if it did come back. So you can see what a tangled web we all weave, and hence the minefield that relationships can become.

The statement, “Ultimately, I would like to continue to be open, but I need help in figuring out how to guard myself a little”, is one that many of us can make. Of course, it could not be further from the truth - as the appearance of being open has nothing to do with actually being open. I rarely treat people who just happen to be open. It takes tremendous work to approach being vulnerable. We already are fully guarded, so our job is to slowly dismantle that system with people that are safe. It gets tricky here too, because it is common to unconsciously pick the most unsafe situation to be open in, get hurt, and then consciously reassert that being open is totally unsafe.

These issues are difficult to untangle without outside help. I am glad you are seeking it.