Disproportionate Anger In Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse

I recently read an article about something called gunnysacking.  Turns out, that is the term for having a disproportionate reaction to someone due to having held in anger for too long.

I’ve experienced this many times, & I believe it’s a common abuse tactic of narcissists.  They push your buttons & somehow let you know that you aren’t allowed to confront them on their bad behavior.  Eventually they say something that is far from the worst thing they’ve ever said yet you lose your temper.  They enjoy this because it proves to them how irrational, crazy, etc. you are.  It also leaves you wondering if the narcissist may just be right about you being irrational or crazy.

The best example I can give of gunnysacking in my life happened in 2016.  At the time, I wanted to go no contact with my parents, but the timing felt wrong somehow.  I maintained the relationship only because I trust my instincts.  When my mother in-law died that April, a few days later, I saw my parents’ number on my caller ID.  They just saw her obituary in the local paper & were angry I hadn’t told them she died.  They were worried what my in-laws would think of them for not being at the funeral.  My parents knew I hadn’t spoken to any of my in-laws in 14 years at this time.  They also only spoke to them maybe 3 times in the 22 years my husband  & I had been together.  I felt betrayed that my parents showed such loyalty to people who they knew mistreated me.  They couldn’t understand why I felt that way., & I was furious.  That was the last time I spoke to my mother, & one of the last times I spoke to my father.

This was hardly the first time my parents showed they cared more for someone else than me.  It also wasn’t the worst thing they had done.  Years of stifling my anger just reached a boiling point in that conversation.  The anger just gushed out even though it wasn’t proportionate to the situation.

I believe there is another variation on gunnysacking, too.  When you have a relationship with a narcissist, yet rather than blow up at the narcissist, you blow up to your spouse, friend, sibling, etc.  This is a bonus for a narcissist because it proves that they have control over you & also causes you problems in another relationship.

Unfortunately I have done this too.  I would speak to my parents, then after the visit, when I’d see my husband, I’d snap at him over nothing.  I was angry with my parents, & unable to hold it in any longer by the time I saw him.  (Yes, I apologized when this happened since it wasn’t fair to him.)

Gunnysacking may feel good at the moment since you’re finally getting those emotions out, but it isn’t healthy.  When you are overwhelmed with emotions, you can’t think clearly.  Negative emotions that overwhelm can trigger survival instincts to kick in & that means rational thought is put aside.  Stress levels are raised & that is certainly unhealthy for your body.  Not to mention, attacking someone disproportionately can damage your relationship.  No one wants to be treated badly but in particular when they haven’t done anything wrong.  Also, in a relationship with a narcissist, as I mentioned earlier, they’ll use gunnysacking to prove how awful you are to yourself & others.  They love to say things like, “She just started yelling at me out of the blue.”  “I don’t know what set him off.  We were talking then suddenly he was screaming.”

To avoid gunnysacking, it’s best to deal with your anger as it comes up.  Since confronting narcissists rarely helps, find other ways to process your anger.  Write in a journal, talk to a friend, draw or even pray.  God can handle your anger & help you get through it.

And lastly, never forget, there is nothing wrong with feeling anger, especially when you’re abused by a narcissist.  Everyone does sometimes, & even Jesus got angry.  It’s perfectly normal.  It’s when others are hurt by your anger that it becomes a problem.

28 Comments

Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

28 responses to “Disproportionate Anger In Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse

  1. You are a nice person because you apologized to your husband when you blew up. You knew this wasn’t fair to him. Narcissists and selfish people never do this. They just keep heaping on the blame to whomever they can find that will take it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ibikenyc

    Cynthia, I swear you’re psychic!

    Over the past two or three weeks I’ve become very aware of just how much stored-up rage I carry. Of course, realizing that and, especially, WHY it’s unexpressed, made me even angrier!

    I’ve learned to start affirming / praying for Guidance about that rage and the manipulation that engenders it even when things are “calm.” That’s been tremendously helpful. I also remind myself that I can use the same techniques when dealing with any difficult people or situations out in “The Real World.”

    I hear ya loud and clear about “I felt betrayed that my parents showed such loyalty to people who they knew mistreated me.” Mr. Happy loves to talk about all the cool stuff owned or being done by those who’ve been jerks to me.

    I have “gunnysacking” open in another tab and am gonna spend some time reading up on it. Thanks for giving it a name.

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL Yea, I’m psychic.. you let that cat out of the bag! lol

      Interesting timing though! I’m so glad it’s helping you! I actually wrote this post some time back (I write posts to publish months in advance) but the last couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling like you with the rage inside. Didn’t feel it much when I wrote it. Guessing this is God’s way of saying, “It’s time to deal with this stuff!” to both of us! Yay us.. lol

      Ugh on Mr Happy telling you that stuff. Hubby used to do the same with his family. I really don’t care a whit about them & haven’t in years. Even less since I learned his sisters are buddies with his ex of 30 years ago. I think he finally realized that telling me anything about these people is a waste of his breath…

      You’re welcome for giving it a name. I kinda stumbled across it & am glad I did. Always helpful when something has a name, I think.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. ibikenyc

    “Guessing this is God’s way of saying, ‘It’s time to deal with this stuff!’ to both of us! Yay us.. lol”

    No kidding! When it started coming to mind (again) recently, I had a very strong sense of its being “next on the list.”

    (Cue Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” LOL!)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha ha, that’s funny, my NYC biking friend. Twisted Sister, We’re Not Gonna Take It — count me in! 😂

      “Gunnysacking” is an interesting term, Cynthia. I’ve never heard of it before, I’ll have to look it up. For some reason, it makes me think of a cat fighting wildly to get out of a gunnysack. Not that I have ever seen anything like that happen, but it seems like I’ve heard of it, somewhere in the distant past.

      Unexpressed Anger — oh, yes, indeed. I’m coming across this a lot as I’m writing my memoir. I’m still on the first rough draft. I started all over again at the very beginning, more than a year ago. I have written something in my memoir every single day since then. And almost every day, I run into a bunch of Unexpressed Anger. Yes, I knew I grew up crazy. But until I started putting my life history in writing, I had no idea exactly HOW crazy.

      I started my memoir with my first clear memory, a 6.6 earthquake that happened when I was a toddler. I woke up in my crib and everything was shaking, rattling, and banging all around me. Jars, cans, and dishes were falling off the shelves, pictures falling off the walls, lamps taking a nose dive off of the end tables — my bed was situated in the small living room, right next to a galley kitchen. From all over the apartment building I could hear people yelling and screaming. And in their bedroom, somewhere off to the right of the foot of my bed, I could hear my mom, sounding hysterical, and my dad, trying to calm her. But did either one of my “parents” stumble out into the next room to see how their little girl was doing? Oh, hell no.

      That first clear memory set the theme for my life, or at least for the rest of my childhood.

      Unexpressed anger? You betcha!

      After writing in this first draft a little at a time, every single day without fail for the past 450 days, I am only now up to the point where I am about to turn fourteen. Fourteen is when I had my PTSD breakdown, more than a decade before PTSD became an official psychiatric diagnostic label in 1980. Back in the late 1960s, when I had the nervous breakdown, to my then divorced parents I was simply “Crazy like your mother” or “Crazy like your father.” The one thing my narcissistic parents agreed on, was to go against my doctor’s advice and put me in a now-defunct state mental institution. Even though I was not, and never had been, violent or suicidal or threatening or dangerous in any way. And even though both of my parents had been extremely violent, to the point of homicidal, and also very suicidal, many times in the recent past.

      Yes, I became a handy scapegoat just when my malignant narcissistic parents needed a scapegoat the most, for their gaslighting lies and bald faced projections of all the ugliness they could not face.

      Almost every day, as I am writing my memoir, I say to myself: “Dang. Yes, he really did this. Yes, she really did that. How could she? How could he? HOW COULD THEY?!?!?!”

      Unexpressed anger that I have carried around for more than half a century — like a huge heavy gunny sack stuffed full of misery that I have slung over my shoulder. Is that where the gunnysacking term comes from? I haven’t googled it yet, but I will.

      Unexpressed anger. Raw and real and very much alive. But Baby, I’m expressing it now!

      And here’s the amazing thing. Writing my story from the very beginning is giving me an insight into my dysfunctional family, my parents, my siblings, and myself — insights into the how and why things developed the way they did — insights that I have never understood before. Wow wow WOW. Crazy as it was, in perspective, it actually makes some sense.

      My frequent prayer as I’m writing is this: “Dear Lord Jesus, please help me to see these people, the way You see them, myself included!” And I believe that I am!

      Liked by 4 people

      • ibikenyc

        That’s the version I found. Somehow I had never thought to add it to my “Goodbye To You” playlist, but it’s there now.

        Been ear-worming me ever since, too, but in this case that’s not a bad thing!

        (His HAIR! Do I ever wish!)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Music sure is motivating & powerful, isn’t it?? When I feel weak for whatever reason, Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” helps me so much.. .remembering the story behind it inspires me, It was done as Freddie Mercury was dying from AIDS. Brian May had written it for Freddie but when they went to record it, was afraid he was too ill to do it. He voiced his concerns. Freddie drank some vodka & said, “I’ll f***ing do it, Darling” & did it in ONE take! What an inspiration! He had so much strength & courage!

          Liked by 1 person

          • ibikenyc

            Oh, indeed!

            I don’t know that one by name, but I bet I’ve heard it. I’ll pull it up later on and check it out.

            Like

            • Here’s the link… I found it to share with you & have an excuse to listen to it.. lol

              Liked by 1 person

              • ibikenyc

                Gee. I gues I DIDN’T know this one (I sure do wish they had italics here!), although I had heard of it.

                Thank you for the link. How do I always forget that Voice?

                Imagine stepping onto a stage and seeing the entire population of the county / state / WORLD sitting out there, waiting for YOU!

                Like

                • Don’t feel bad.. I’ve been a Queen fan forever & I didn’t know it until not long ago myself.

                  He had the most incredible voice, didn’t he?! Such talent!

                  I can’t even fathom what that would be like! I do find it amazing though… all that fame & admiration, & all 4 members of Queen remained humble. That’s amazing. They really seem like good guys. Interesting, too!

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. Well now I have a name for that response. Curious though, did you continue to feel the waves of anger even after the no contact? I think I have experienced this after because during I had no one to “vent” to. But once the no contact happened, I found myself extremely irritable and snapping at people for almost no reason at all.

    Liked by 2 people

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