DarkHorse Ministries

Eye of the Hurricane: Recovery from Compulsive Shame and Rage

As a direct result of being raised in a pathologically sick alcoholic family, for many years into my adulthood, I almost did not survive. Indeed, I spent every day in an abundance of fear, shame, rage, loneliness and every possible negative emotion. It took very little to trigger these psychological demons and I would become compulsively entangled in sticky webs of psychic mess over and over again. It took a very long time for me to see any real possibility of a different experience of life.

In the early 2000's, I first had the courage to wonder what my life might be like if I continued to work on my emotional recovery. One day I serendipitously constructed an affirmation that represented the furthest possible stretch of my imagination up to that time. It was: "I live in the eye of the hurricane!" I dared to envision that one day I would somehow have the ability to be completely okay in the midst of tremendous chaos. At that time in my life, it still took very little to trigger me into compulsive emotional reactions that might even spiral on for hours or days. I later shared my newfound ultimate goal at a small alcohol recovery meeting, before promptly forgetting about it.

Well over five years later, I experienced a major emotional provocation and did not have to react in any way. A very volatile acquaintance that I had known for a long time through recovery meetings, was triggered when I set a boundary and began compulsively raging at me directly in front of my face. (This person, like myself, had experienced major childhood trauma). While this was occurring, I felt entirely clear and centered within myself. I somehow intuitively knew that I had no fear or rage because through my ongoing recovery work I had at least temporarily reached the bottom of my shame-based core. I clearly understood that it was the absence of shame that kept me from being triggered into fear and rage!

After some reflection I then knew that shame and rage are often opposite sides of the same coin. I have since increasingly become much more conscious of the entire emotional dynamics that I habitually experienced. The triggering of my unconscious shame by some external or internal stimulus, would immediately awaken my belief that I was inherently defective. Unlike simply seeing that I had made a mistake, the belief that I am basically flawed is a problem to which there is no solution and no hope for change. This in turn would create a fear that because I was inherently defective, I was totally vulnerable, or that I would not be able to keep others from completely taking advantage of me. Then, out of this primal fear for my own long or short-term survival, I would compulsively rage. I would exert my negative or false power with the seriousness and intensity occasioned by the belief that my very life was at stake. (Indeed from my perception, it was). Rather than judge myself harshly, I can now see that I was only trying to survive in the only way that I knew. Incidentally, this was also the pattern of my otherwise unconditionally loving mother. She too, grew up in a pathologically alcoholic environment and experienced a massive amount of trauma. Her resulting unhealthy shame or low self-esteem was held back by a hair-trigger. She very frequently became scared and would immediately turn this fear into compulsive rage. I witnessed this many times in private and in public throughout my childhood. In fact, this was the most likely origin of my own entrenched pattern.