Last year was my year of anger. I had never really felt anger before then. It was one of the many emotions I kept dissociated from myself. I was always acutely aware of how powerfully destructive anger could be to me. I still do. When I feel even a hint of anger making it’s way into my body, I immediately push it away. It is intensely uncomfortable for me.
There are at least two parts of the System that are primary carriers of our anger. One (Julia) carries a more benign, teenage-angst type of anger. It is mainly fueled by self-loathing, shame, and absolute helplessness. It is an anger that comes from feeling so completely out of control and scared that you are certain you will implode and die right on the spot. It is an anger built on top of decades of being so abused, tormented, and destroyed that you find your own existence intolerable.
The other (Scooter) holds onto an anger that frightens me. It is a venomous, toxic anger that seems to parallel the psychopathic rage of our abusers. He is mimicking their ability to destroy as a method of self-preservation. Much like the Hulk, he is prepared to swell up and abolish any threats to the System.
Since we’ve cut off our family/abusers, it is incredibly rare for Scooter to need to front. I don’t feel him directly, but I can sense the potential for him whenever I’m in a threatening situation. In some ways it is comforting to know that there is someone at the ready to fend off any would-be attackers. In other ways, it is terrifying to imagine the potential for destruction. I am afraid to be angry because I think if I truly allowed myself to touch that anger, I would destroy the entire world. I know much of that sentiment comes from the emotion stored within Scooter.
Julia, however, has always been just underneath the surface. Last year, her anger made a headline appearance in our life as she began to reveal herself more. At first I wasn’t sure what was happening – I felt something different in my body and then self-harm marks began showing up unexpectedly. The all-consuming rage she’d been holding onto for so many years came rushing out in every direction, causing the System to destabilize rapidly. Eventually, it all became too much and we ended up being hospitalized for the sole purpose of maintaining safety.
After that, we were constantly writing, editing, and signing various “safety contracts” that just caused more unease and fear. It wasn’t until we went to the Trauma Program that Julia was able to find enough of the right tools for managing her intense emotions. Unfortunately, it was shortly after we completed that program that Zooey terminated with us, so all of Julia’s hard work was sorta left wide open and unfinished. Luckily, however, she has held onto those skills just enough to stay level and we have seen very little self-harm since then.
I have enjoyed getting to know Julia. She is essentially my co-pilot in this body of ours and I find her to be incredibly charming, funny, and fiercely protective of the System. I know I can count on her to step out in moments that just seem too much for me to tackle alone. And she is always close by, ready to help or give me a little nudge if I need it. We are often blended together, creating joint pieces of art or poetry that help us connect to each other.
I still cannot feel anger alone. If I feel it at all, it is generally because Julia is so close to me that our emotions become indistinguishable. I’m actually not entirely sure what anger feels like. Sometimes my body just feels a certain way and it seems to make sense to be angry, so I assume that must be what’s happening. But I am still afraid of anger. I deny it. Even when it would make perfect sense for me to be angry and my body is signaling that something is happening, I will tell myself it is something else – frustration, fatigue, helplessness, whatever – anything but angry. I am so wildly uncomfortable with the very idea of being angry that I cannot allow it to be part of my personal experience.
That being said, working with Julia and beginning to integrate her story and experience into my own has been both challenging and rewarding. The last year (or so) has been painful and frightening at times, but I wouldn’t undo the progress we’ve made. When Zooey first asked me to describe Julia, I called her an “attention-seeking whore”.
Now, I am appalled I ever felt that way and I can’t imagine going through this life without her. I may not be ready to feel anger for myself, but I believe that doing this work with Julia has made this System better and stronger. A solid (and much needed) reminder that sometimes it does indeed get worse before it gets better.