© 1993 Michele Toomey, PhD
Information on purchasing My Rage as a tape
It started small. A little angry twinge that caught me unaware. A distant rumbling in the echoes of my chest. But I barely registered the feelings and certainly blocked out any sound. It wasn't a great problem. Not worth even a second thought.
Over time my eye caught more frequent glimpses of irate and hostile images, but I sped by in a wave of disbelief. I only glanced and then went on, for I was looking for relief. I had better things to look at and other rendezvous to keep. With deliberate inattention I erased my anger as it passed. I preferred to keep my temper out of sight and out of reach.
Slowly, however, the images came more often as grimaces and shouts, crowding me with fear and filling me with doubts. Everywhere I turned they seemed to rear their ugly head. These harbingers of silent anger grew louder as I aged. They bellowed and mouthed diatribes as they escalated into rage.
They forced me to grow more deaf and to act ignorant and dumb. If I were to sustain my false reverie I could not look and listen or else I would succumb.
"Keep away from me," I blurted. "You're ruining my life. I look for joy and happiness. Stop showing me such strife. I long for love and understanding, for beauty and for peace. You're threatening my world of hope in fantasy. Your messages must cease."
And stop they did, or so I thought. Until one day I tried to look around and I couldn't move my head. I hadn't really noticed, but one-half of me was dead.
I only saw one-sidedly and heard with just one ear. One arm was wizened and could not be raised. One leg dragged awkwardly in the rear. I found myself stunned, then startled and full of fear.
"What has happened to me?", I queried of myself. "I'm much too young for this. Disastrous disability is such an awful tragedy, and I'm too young for death."
Ironically, though, somehow I knew my age was not the point. One half of me had been devastated, but not from advancing age. The side of me that was dysfunctional and deformed expressed my stifled rage.
Once forced to look at what had become of me, I began to rant and rave. I raged and raged and then I cried. There was no consoling me. My rage was focussed on myself and how part of me had died.
There seemed only one thing for me to do. Eliminate the side that had betrayed me and cut off the useless limbs. Pay the price and take the hit, exacting punishment for this crime. The angry rage was at myself and the solution now was mine.
So, in a cool and detached manner, I began the gruesome task. Hacking at myself with vengeance and no fear, I mutilated half my body, half way between each ear. Stunned, I found myself immersed in a pool of thick red blood. Appalled at the gorey mess I had created, I closed my eye to hide. And when I finally looked again, the blood was gushing from my side.
I tried to scream in horror, but only gurgling noises flowed from under this red sea. No one could hear my muffled sounds and no one noticed me.
When I came to, I found myself floating face down without the need to breathe. Body parts were all about me. They were everywhere. Some were clothed and some were naked. Some tangled in locks of matted hair.
I felt such great revulsion. I couldn't stand the sight. I vomited for days and days. I vomited each night.
Everything was in slow motion. So exaggerated and surreal. Yet, there I was in the midst of it and trying not to feel. If this was truly happening, then what was I to do? Nothing was familiar to me and I had not the slightest clue.
In the loudness of the vision and the silence of the pool, I began to notice that my wretching had subsided, and my pulse felt very weak. Gradually I was falling into a numbed yet conscious sleep.
From an ever-so-distant place within me, I began to hear slight murmurs that were mingled with faint moans.
"We are mutilated women who cry silently in our sleep.
I didn't understand the message. I still refused to hear. First I hid in fantasy. Now I hid in fear. Everything about this scared me. I wanted just to flee.
We are the hidden and forgotten ones who suffer as we weep.
In the morass of this horror there's something even worse
A lonely desolation and estrangement. It's such a deadly curse."
"Stop bombarding me this instant," I demanded.
But there was no let up, no stopping these voices from the dead. They wouldn't stop. They didn't stop. It was a terrible nightmare. A horror movie in my head.
"Just get away from me."
"Shut off the tape! Cut up the screen!" I shouted as my anger began to mount. The relentlessness was unbearable. Crazy making in its drone. There were no loud cries or any shouts to match any of my own. Only endless murmurings and endless, endless groans.
But there was no let up and definitely no relief. The moaning and groaning kept up day and night. The body parts kept floating by and magnified the grief. Then I heard them saying as they passed:
"Stop it! Stop it!", I called out. "You're forcing me to break. You're killing me! You have no right. Stop it, for God's sake!"
"Get away and leave me out of this. Your pain and your abuse are nothing I want to know. I don't want to see or hear it. So get away and let me go."
"We once were young. We once were whole. We did not want to die. We once pretended just like you that we were doing fine. But now the brutal truth is everywhere and we can not pretend. And neither can you since you have joined us with your knife. The truth is finally out. Our lies are at an end."
My blood had joined their blood just as my floating limbs. I hated it. I hated them. And worse, I hated me. I would never give credence to anything they said. I refused to join them and would in no way agree.
I began to rage within but couldn't shout or cry it out.
"All my life I'd turned away from the harshness of our lives. And when you called it out to me I turned away to avoid the terror in your eyes. I wanted life to be all right and be one big natural high. And when I couldn't find it, I made it out of lies.
Now my lies and misdirected rage had served to do me in. I had become the victim of my own brutal act. I had brutally murdered me just as I should have done. I'd waged the war within myself and the lies and rage had won.
"So I lashed out as I built a wall blocking myself from view. No one could hurt me, so I thought, and I didn't care who hurt you. I was safe and looked innocent enough. My neat white blouse looked clean. My hands were shiny, too. No one could tell I'd dirtied them. All eyes were turned on you.
"In this mess a mirage appeared. Life was pristine and pure. I never had to claim my lies or never claim my rage. You never knew what I really thought and you were never sure whether you deserved the slap, the beating or the curse. I could deny everything, and what made it even worse, I justified what I had done, then hid in back of you."
What did it matter, I wondered. Who cares about my rage? Misplaced or hidden, it's been allowed to be part of what goes on. The carved out swatches of bloody paths are overgrown with grassy knolls. Even wildflowers beautify this landscape of horror buried and denied. It's worked for centuries and not been challenged by the likes of you and me. Why has it now erupted into this bloodbath in plain sight? It's nothing any of us wants to claim and no one wants to see.
What had been hidden is now exposed and what was desired is lost. Everything is inside out and upside down. There is no place for hidden costs.
Depressed and so despairing, I was being forced to look and really see. The rage I had diverted had indeed turned itself on me.
In total devastation I had lost all consciousness. It felt like I was dead. But when I did come around, a hand was stroking my face and then my head. It soothed my spirit and calmed my weary heart. I felt a little better, but still afraid, and did not dare to look.
But even as I closed my eye I heard a humming sound. It lulled away without any words, but somehow called me round. I squinted tentatively and cautiously to see the gentle hand that soothed my brow and served to comfort me.
I came to love the soothing hand caressing me this way. I came to love its tenderness, its constancy and care. For that I would come forward, and attend and be aware.
Strangely, when I came forward my hand came forth too, and touched my bleeding face. It then reached out and touched the hand that was soothing it. They joined in a brief embrace.
Now I hesitate to tell you what happened after that. It was the most outstanding thing, it's hard to say it straight. Hands emerged from everywhere and their fingers intertwined, joining together with each other's hands they formed an endless line.
Before I knew what was happening they moved and became a solid mass beneath. I was being held up by them with warmth and caring ease. They swayed and swayed and rocked with me, our blood became supportive seas.
As I glanced down I noticed they were hands of every size. Young and tiny little fingers wound round the gnarled and aging kind. They were all shades and colors, as well as every age. They were plump and scrawny fingers, they were strong and graceful, too. All powerful in their aura and none devoid of pain, they spoke of untold horror, of struggles to stay sane.
But nothing frightened me from looking and nothing turned me away. They were no longer sources of revulsion. Instead, I cried tears of sadness for their plight. For as they cushioned me this day, I dared to look and then take in the sight. I could now look lovingly at their ravaged souls and bodies, and care about what they had all been through. I had no need and no desire to misdirect my rage or hide them from my view.
It was such a moving moment as I rubbed my fingers over theirs. I studied each and every hand. I memorized the scars. Mangled and disfigured with blood everywhere, they only made me more eager to show them my love and care.
What that might mean I wasn't sure, but gradually I knew. It meant I had to draw a line that we'd let no one cross. A line of demarcation, to be monitored by each of us as one. We would not tolerate any transgression of it, we would stand for none.
At first I drew it cautiously and was slow to decide. Should it be here or should it be there? As one who'd never drawn a line, just turned the other way, I was unsure and tentative as I began the task. There was no one to tell me how or where to draw it. There was no one to ask.
I clenched the hands that were in mine and felt their painful cries. I looked at what I heard and knew it was no place for lies. The sacrilege of lying was such a heinous crime. It hid me from them and all of us from the violence done in the crossing of this line.
A line of intolerance must be drawn. With that we all agreed. So deliberately I drew it, following their lead. Then we would stand as sentinels, attentive to fairness and to justice, to integrity, and to truth. An alarm would sound at abuse occurring anywhere. Our outrage would in unison propel us from here to there. Together we would decry the wrong of these violating acts. Together we would stop them, stop them in their tracks.
As if on cue we lifted up our hands and reached up toward the sky. As they emerged we felt a surge and a force thrust us upward. Soon we were flying high. A million hands and millions more soaring toward the sun at will. Below, the earth was blocked from the light, and it got dark and still. But we just kept soaring upward for what seemed an eternity. Then I noticed something grand. No longer dismembered bodies anymore, we were now whole as we traveled hand in hand.
No longer hands without a body or limbs without a face. In wonder we locked arms and hugged in a vibrant, strong embrace. We were now a force unto ourselves. A force to reckon with. Truth had clarified our thinking and outrage had solidified our will.
Rage was not the answer. It had no boundary and no aim. It could so easily misfire or hide itself in lies. Instead of directing itself at the abuse and the abuser, it just exploded randomly into violence and into blame. We wanted no more of that.
We mused as we embraced, how corrupt it all had been. We blamed ourselves if we were raped. We blamed each other for our oppressive lot. We'd rage inside and then explode. We'd lie and then get caught.
We looked knowingly at each other and smiled a startled smile. Such frankness and such openness was something very new for us. We had important things to tell each other and vital strategies to discuss. We listened intently, and this is what we heard:
Rather than raging at ourselves
We nodded in agreement and then with one accord we turned ourselves around. Arm in arm and cheek to cheek we headed back and landed on the ground. Each of us a voice and a presence in every land. We formed a solid force behind our self-drawn line and spoke out our demands:
We must claim the oppression of our abuse.
Our rage is rooted in it
Our liberation is built on truth.
Instead of raging inward on ourselves
And ending up in blame
We must be outraged and draw the line
And not be filled with shame.
Take note all you who trespass
I bowed my head in gratitude. My energy was high. With outrage as our excalibur and integrity by our side, we were now our own protectors. We are strong when we are true.
On women of the world
We are a force to reckon with
Our rage has been unfurled.
By claiming our true feelings
Of outrage and of pain
We have truth within our hearts
And courage in our veins.
By joining with each other
We've discovered we are strong
So we will no longer tolerate
What you do to us that's wrong
If you insist on abusing us
Raping either our bodies or our souls
We'll turn our violated selves on you
And outraged, destroy your evil goals.
The color of our outrage
Is a brilliant red
Not of bleeding hearts and bodies
But of beating hearts, instead.
Beating with deep conviction
And beating with great pride
Red is the color of our souls
With outrage as our guide.
In sisterhood we boldly stand here
Ready to respond with strength
Taking action to stop violence
We will go to any length.
My sisters, I commit myself forever, to stand proudly here with you.
Rage is, by definition, "violent and uncontrolled anger." To have gotten to the point of rage, therefore, is to have already crossed a line, a personal line. As a result, rage usually leads to an out of control act of verbal or physical violence. In this tale, the woman's hidden rage does violence to herself. This is an all too common phenomenon for women because rage and outrage, as passionate and violent expressions of anger, are considered a man's emotions.
For a woman who is expected to be the epitome of gentleness and goodness, strength is to be expressed in endurance. She is to understand, to forgive and to turn the other cheek. If she feels rage, she is to hide it, both from herself and from others. Never is she justified in it.
So women have a dual task in transforming rage to outrage. First she must have rage and claim it, then she must move it to outrage. This is a very difficult and intimidating transition. It means daring to openly feel the rage at being violated and oppressed and then to become outraged. Daring to reach outrage means daring to take a position and to act. For women, this is a very frightening prospect. Without each other, it is a very life-threatening one.
As I wrote this tale, it emerged that tenderness from other violated women evoked the awakening that brought forth the transformation. Intimacy with vulnerability and caring allowed the fear to yield to the truth. Courage and conviction must include caring, just as caring must include courage and conviction. The integrity of rage leading to outrage rests on the reconciling of this paradoxical relationship between vulnerability and strength. Outrage is passionate anger at violence. It is not, itself, violent.