Please note: There are no descriptions of abuse in this, but if you’re feeling sensitive please be careful when you’re reading it. I have some angry child voices that have reasons to be angry.
Whilst I’ve always been a fan of creative expression, I’m generally much more comfortable writing a song or drawing a picture than actually letting some of my anger out in a physical way. It wasn’t always this way, I used to get into fights when I was at primary school – protecting other kids from bullies. As a young adult I expressed all my anger through self-harm. This was such an effective strategy that I ceased to feel anger at all – I just felt the need to cut. Obviously, self harming soon became a problem in it’s own right. The point is that my experiences of physical expression have not been entirely positive and up until recently I tended to steer clear of them.
This was fine until, a few months back, some of my younger voices started to get angry at my cats. That these aspects could feel angry at such small bundles of fluff really worried me. I started to question myself. I worried that I might be a violent and horrible person underneath all my self-reflective song-writing. Embarrassed about the content of these voices, I said nothing about them to anyone. Then, one day, the voices broke through and spoke on my behalf. Joel, my husband, was understandably taken aback by a child’s voice wanting to hurt the kitty – but to his credit he didn’t freak out. The cats were in no danger at any time (I love them dearly and feel very protective of them) but I saw it as a giant flashing light to mean that there’s some anger inside me that needs to get out.
At first, I talked with my therapist about it in very adult terms. I’d learnt to be suspicious of anger, so it felt very natural to subject it to scrutiny and try and work out where it was coming from and what it meant. This is all well and good, but what we realised was that underneath it all there was still a little child who felt very angry and frightened and didn’t know what to do with those feelings. By being all ‘adult’ about it, I was unintentionally stopping that child from finding a way of dealing with their angry feelings.
So, armed with a newfound resolution to give my little voice a chance to express themselves, I followed my therapist’s sensible suggestion that I get a punch bag. Where she suggested an inflatable punch bag, we decided to go a step further and get a 4 foot heavy bag, wraps and boxing gloves. I really am not a person to do things by halves :-/ Instead of having ‘smash kitty smash’ voices, I now speak inside to that little one and take it out on the punch bag. It seems to work the best when I’m following a pattern, as this helps it feel safe for the rest of me (not just for the angry little ‘un).
A month later, and I rarely get bad kitty voices. Now I’m getting a little better at becoming physical, I’m more able to think about what it is that may have caused one of the little ones to feel so angry. The trigger, I believe, was needing to go to hospital and have quite an invasive procedure. The vulnerability felt by one of the little ones (who has been vulnerable before) simply switched over to the kittens/cats. They are so cute, but so helpless and fragile. Smashing kitty was a bit like smashing all of the bad things that have ever happened, and all of those horrible feelings of being scared and vulnerable.
The punch bag has multiple uses when you’re a voice-hearer. Not only does it express anger, it also helps remind my little ones (and, by extension, me) that I’m in an adult body and that I’m strong. Oh, and it also gives my husband plenty of giggles as he inwardly chants the ‘Eye of The Tiger’ when I’m putting on my wraps. You have to catch the rays of humour wherever you find them.
My cats are, thankfully, blissfully unaware of all of this. They are extremely loved and, in case you were worried, are very very happy. There’s a lot of awesomeness in being a cat, I think. In case you’re interested, here’s a picture of Ripley (our youngest):