"Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." Felice Dunas
I've noticed lots of angry friends lately. Women friends. Women who feel victimized; helpless before forces that scatter their energy. While most can't shake the emotional hold of past relationships, for some it's present relationships that make them seethe. For most women this is reflected in their primary love relationship, but it also develops when she is caretaker of an elderly parent or someone who is bedridden.
Once in awhile I digress in this blog and don my therapist's cap. I'm going to do this now, because rage is so pervasive. I read it in blogs, I see it on Facebook, and at its worst it shows up in court appearances for restraining orders and even murders. I want to share a model for dysfunctional relationship. This model is called the "Rescue Triangle." This model comes from my work with the Bay Area Radical Psychiatry Collective. Draw a triangle. On the top point write, Rescue. On the bottom right point write, Victim. On the bottom left point write, Persecutor.
A rescue is defined as anytime you do something for someone that you really don't want to do ... over and over again, without saying how you feel about it. Enough rescues and we begin to lose touch with our true desires, even our sense of Self. Relationship balance becomes skewed because we put out more than we get back. There are legitimate rescues, of course. There are times in every adult relationship when we choose to give more to help someone in need. But if you continually rescue in an adult relationship, beware of the next phase: Victim.
As a victim you feel, "Poor me: here I am in this predicament and I don't want to be here." You may be physically and emotionally exhausted. Spiritual bearings weaken. Poor me, he isn't calling me. Poor me, I'm doing all the housework. Poor me, I have all the responsibility for (fill in the blank). Poor me, my best friend only calls when she needs something. You get the picture.
Enough time as victim and you progress to the next role: Persecutor. You're PISSED. "I'll show HIM/HER!" It's revenge time. The more one rescues over time, the more potent the punishment. It can get out of hand fast: tweets, road rage, angry threatening letters, stalking, using kids as weapons, lawyers. The danger is that anger can explode at those not involved, who happen to show up at the wrong time. The victim carries persecutor energy within them. They are a walking time bomb.
There are many off-shoots of this that are worked out in therapy. Suffice to say, that the key to stepping out of the Rescue Triangle of Dysfunctional Relationships is honest communication. To say what you feel when you find yourself repeatedly giving yourself away. Once one persecutes you begin the circle over again. That triangle you drew? Now draw arrows from one point to the next. Because the bottom line is, you play one role you play them all, and you continue to go round and around.
Awareness of behavior (helped with a journal) is the first step. How one begins to cleanse of deep-seated rage is the next step. Having worked with women for years as a psychotherapist, I know too well that despairing feeling of, "if I let it begin to come out, I 'll go over some dangerous abyss and won't come back." Fear of rage becomes worse than the rage itself. Over the years I've come up with some powerful rage rituals. Happy to share them and will do so in my next blog. I'm also happy to work with any of you out there who are stuck. You can contact me through my website: www.christinanealson.com.
On a global level, there's much to be enraged about these days, and every woman knows the power of well-placed anger when it's transformed into action. Legitimate rage, like legitimate rescue, is part of our lives. But if you find yourself red with rage in a disproportionate way, stop and ask yourself: is there somewhere along the line that I rescued when I shouldn't have and do I continue to do so? Give yourself permission to constructively express what you're feeling. And if you're with someone with whom you can't do this ... you're in the wrong place.
In peace ... Christina