Catholic Psychotherapy |
Spiritual Counsels |
The Rage from Feeling Abandoned |
The Rage Continues: Pushing Away |
Its Your Fault! |
To Heal the Rage |
Love: The Imitation of Christ |
The Mystical Price of Love
SYCHOANALYTIC writers tend to focus on
identityor, to be more precise, the lack of a stable identityas
the core of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). But in
my experience, given what I know about
identity (its all a
illusion), the real core of BPD,
and other personality problems with
BPD elements, is rage. Rage is a raw and primitive
form of anger as a response to the fear of
intellectual, physical, or emotional abandonment.
The Rage from
If you have problems with borderline
symptomatology, and if you look closely, you will see that all of your
interpersonal difficulties in both the past and the present wereand
arebased in feelings of rage as a result of beingor
feelingunnoticed and emotionally abandoned. You will find that your
whole being is given overconsciously or
unconsciouslyto inflicting hurtful
revenge on the world around you for neglecting your
emotional and physical needs.
In essence, this rage is a sort
of knee-jerk attempt to get back at the person who injured you.
Even masochistic self-abuse (also called
self-mutilation) can have a component of this revenge. In cutting, for example,
a person lets out her rage in slow, controlled doses; in seeing
her blood, she sees herself showing her woundher lifes bloodto
the Other who, she feels, has disavowed the value of her
So, too, attempts at
suicide are attempts at revenge. Ill show
them! Maybe when Im dead they will realize how miserably theyve
Of course, suicide can also have
the component of a desire to silence the rage. Drugs, alcohol, and
sexuality can also be used to
silence the rage. But none of these attempts to distract
your attention from your rage can ever be successful. What is rage, after
all, but a frightened infant crying because she has been abandoned? Ignoring
her and walking away wont silence her crying. The only way to soothe
her is to pick her up and find out what she needs in the midst of her
fearprecisely what your parents didnt bother to do.
a difficult thing to admit that your parents did not love you. Most likely,
though, they didnt love you because they couldnt love
because they were afraid of love because their parents
didnt love them.
And what is the
proof of this?
Well, the whole
purpose of bringing a child into the world is to take responsibility for
guiding an innocent soul into mature purity before God. Now, if your childhood
was filled with loving trust in God because your parents lived in chaste
loving trust in God, then we can say your parents loved you. But if your
childhood was filled with insecurity, hostility, self-loathing, and disobedience,
then you have the truth right under your nose. All you have to do is see
Yes, all you
have to do is see it.
Sadly, some persons
prefer to destroy themselves by suicide or by slow self-sabotage rather than
admit that they
their parents for not loving them.
The Rage Continues:
Yes, when you
were a child, your father abandoned you emotionally,
if not also physically. Maybe he was alcoholic; maybe he was emotionally distant;
maybe he was weak and timid; maybe he was abusive; maybe he abandoned the entire
family. Maybe your mother was harsh and critical and, not knowing how to reach out
to you in real love, abandoned you emotionally as well. And to cope
with that pain, you protected yourself by pushing them away. You found your
revenge on them by becoming emotionally closed
off; you hid your true feelings from them, and you
out in disobedience to hurt
But now, as you
are older, the rage continues. Whenever others offend you, you become enraged
and you push them away, just as you pushed your parents away. Everyone who
offends you, you push away.
The dynamic of
pushing away actually begins as a benign defense in childhood when,
confronted with your parentss general lack of real love, you say, if only
silently to yourself in frustration, Stop! All you want is for
the mistreatment to stop. But then this initial protective act grows into an aggressive
act. You slowly transition from passively trying to stop the pain to actively
getting revenge by pushing away anyone who offends you.
Sooner or later,
then, you will look around and feel completely alone. Look! you
say to yourself. Im all alone! Even God has abandoned me!
But God hasnt abandoned you. You did it all to yourself. You pushed
them all away yourself. You pushed them away in rage.
When children have to cope with
dysfunctional parentsespecially when
the mother is demanding and the father is absent
physically or emotionallythey learn to suppress their own needs and
capitulate to the needs of the parents. Essentially, the children learn that
hiding their true thoughts and feelings is the surest way to
Eventually, the child will carry
this emotional hiding right into adulthood, where it will cause her frustrating
difficulties in interpersonal relationships. Always holding back her true
thoughts and feelings, she will feel constantly misunderstood. And then something
odd happens. Blind to her own defenses, and
unable to see her role in the communication difficulties, she will blame
others for everything. Its your fault! She will always
be at odds with others because, in blaming them, she fails to see that she
is unconsciously speaking the angry
wordsIts your fault!she feared so deeply to
say to her own parents.
explains why BPD clients are so dreaded by many
psychotherapists. If the psychotherapists
havent done their own psychological scrutiny to immunize themselves
from from getting caught in the unconscious of their
clients, those unwary psychotherapists will find that no matter how hard
they work, no matter how much of an effort they make, it only takes one BPD
client to make them feel like miserable failures.
hiding and blaming doesnt stop in the social
world. It even interferes with spiritual growth. After all, how can you love
God when every difficulty in life is seen as Gods fault? Its
your fault! How can there ever be healing when those words of
blame are constantly on your lips?
To Heal the
Now, some persons will insist
that because your original wound happened in your early infancy, before you
could communicate with language (that is, in a pre-verbal psychological
state), the psychotherapist must take on the actions of a caring, supportive
parent until you can experience pre-verbal healing, and then you can progress
to a higher, cognitive level of treatment. Well, that idea misses the point
that you are now an adult with adult language skills, and that the
point of the treatment is to give adult linguistic expression to a trauma
that overwhelmed you as an infant precisely because the trauma could not
then be contained symbolically in
Consequently, learning to speak
about the pre-verbal pain and terror does several things. It provides a sense
of safety, through an acceptance of your thoughts and feelings as
non-threatening; it desensitizes you to the troubling aspects of your
memories of the traumatic experience; and it integrates positive
growth into your lifestyle. Thus you
can draw wisdom from pain and tragedy.
So, to heal this rage, it will
be necessary (a) to recognize that it affects
you to the core of your very beingthat is, to recognize how every childhood
wound from your parents lack of real love continues to live in every
emotional hurt inflicted on you in the present. It takes good, honest
scrutiny to do this, along with
patience and training in emotional
sensitivity. Then it will be necessary (b) to
recognize in the moment how feelings of rage follow right on the heels
of feelings of insult, abandonment, and helplessness.
Then it will be necessary (c) to make the conscious
decision to push past your fear and respond to that
insult without rage.
Learn to look for
the actual events (notice the plural) that have been bothering you recently.
Take each one separately. What are all the
feelings about that event? (It wont be
just anger, because anger is the final, hostile
reaction to all the other feelings.) When you have them all separated out,
then you have an idea of what is really happening to you, apart from the
Next, follow each
example of hurt back into its roots in the past to all those times and
circumstances when you felt the same way. Carefully
scrutinize your childhood and examine your memories
of painful events to discover what you were really feeling then.
Remember, your impulsive
reactions to present injuries are the unconscious expression of the original
emotions and fantasies you experienced, but suppressed, in childhood.
the previous two steps, now deal with each event separately, according to
the thoughts and emotions specific to that event. Do something constructive
and creative about each problem individually, something emotionally honest
and not based in the desire to hurt the other as you have been hurt. That
is, choose something different from our pagan cultures Satanic Rule:
Do to others what they do to you. Choose something based in true
Finally, all of you,
be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble.
Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary,
a blessing. . . .
Its as simple as a-b-c.
And that difficult. Because, essentially, it requires you to surrender your
unconscious satisfaction in
a victim and then learn to give to the world around you the very thing
your parents failed to give to you: real love. But,
if you do this, you can turn to your parents and say, In spite of your
failures, I still managed to discover true love. So I offer you my success
as my love for you.
Keep in mind
here that the
part of you that falls into rage has the emotional
maturity of a two year old child. When you feel frightened, its as
if you become two years old again; you become a terrified and angry
victim, and all rationality and trust in God flies
out the window. You will attack anything and anyone, friend or foe, to protect
yourself in the moment.
It will be important,
then, that the adult part of you be able to listen to the frightened
child part of you, as a wise adult would listen to a child: with
patience and kindness. Be gentle while
the child cries and screams. Give the child permission to cry. Then be firm
in guidance. Youre crying because you feel unloved, right? Well,
to be loved it is necessary to show love to others. So lets dry your
tears, understand what happened, and find a way for everyone to be treated
In the realm of pure psychology,
constantly making that decision to love, rather than hate, can be very difficult.
Religion, however, offers an elegant solution: Christ.
Love: The Imitation
Christ endured intense
suffering for our sake and he promised never to
abandon us. And he left us His sacraments to
console us and strengthen us.
Thus, whenever you feel
insulted by anyone, put it in perspective. Compared
to the embrace of divine love, all human insult is irrelevant. Christ can
pick up the crying infant and soothe her. With Christ, theres nothing
to fear about anyone. All human insult is irrelevant. Jesus, I trust
in You! He will never abandon us.
there is an axiom that anxiety and relaxation cannot both exist in a person
at the same time; this fact has become the empirical basis for
systematic desensitization, a procedure for treating
phobias. The spiritual realm has a similar axiom: you cannot hate a person
and pray for him at the same time. And so, if you train yourself to pray
for the repentance and conversion of anyone
who insults or offends you, then it becomes impossible to hate that
personand all of your primitive rage therefore dissolves.
Price of Love
Yet there is a price to all this.
Just as Christ suffered for us, to redeem us from
sin, so we, in accepting His loving embrace, are
obligated to embrace our own suffering for the sake
of others. We are called, therefore, not only to set aside all desire to
avenge our injuries (because this desire serves
only to hide our wretchedness by defending our
pride) but also to do so in the hope that our refusal
to fall blindly into anger will be a source of
healing for others.
You say you want
to be loved? Well, keep in mind that if you curse others, there will come
a time when you will be cursed. If you hate others, there will come a time
when you will be hated. And if you love others, well, there will come a time
when you will be loved.
This, then, explains why so many
Christians fail at being Christian. No matter how much they say,
Jesus, I trust in You! they really dont trust in Him at all
because they fear the price they will
have to pay in order to trust Him: everything they havethat is, to
stop living in defense of their own
pride and to start making reparation for their
past mistakes by making sacrifices of love for
But somewhere, deep in their
hearts, they cling to the sweet taste of their own rage with a secret,
unconscious trust they have known like a good friend all their lives. They
sin out of pride, knowing
that its sin, but, in the moment at least, it tastes good. And then,
in their own fear, they create excuses to tell
themselves that they really had no choice because they are such weak persons.
And its all a cunning unconscious
fraud to avoid the
responsibility of true
It takes hard work to be a real
Christian. The Catholic mystics have said this for ages. The only path to
true love is through prayer
and sacrifice in total obedience to Christ.
Theres no room in this for protest. Protest,
after all, is a constant symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder, because
the subtle, but often unspoken, motto of protest is, Its never
1. The emotion of hate does not necessarily
mean a passionate loathing; it can just as well be a quiet, secret desire
for harm to come upon someone or something. Hate can be a subtle thing,
therefore, and it often is experienced more unconsciously than consciously.
Consequently, it will often be very easy to deny that you feel any hatred
for anyone at all. Nevertheless, whether your dysfunction be extremesuch
as suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, and
personality disordersor more
subtlesuch as perfectionism, chronic procrastination, or a lack of
success in a careerit all has an unconscious intent of hating and hurting
your parents (especially your father in regard to
his lack of guidance, protection, or emotional involvement) by hating and
hurting yourself. And, because this intent is unconscious, it can be maintained
right into adulthoodeven after your parents have died!
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