The Fifth Reality: The Wrath Experience by Sue Jackson, LMFT

Sue Jackson reality 5

Of all the family scrimmage realities, the wrath experience is the most serious. The wrath experience in regards to the addictive family system is developed in stages. The stages correspond to the progression of the addiction. These stages include; anger, rage and wrath. One of the first indications that a change is beginning to happen within the addictive family is the constant angry responses to the addict or alcoholic by family members. Angry responses in the beginning are not immediately recognized due to the addict’s drinking or drug use. When the anger remains unresolved it intensifies and develops into rage. Eventually the rage progresses to the last stage, wrath.

A good example of these stages is in this simple vignette describing the experience of a young child whose mother is an alcoholic. In the early stage of mother’s drinking the child may begin to get angry each time she drinks. The child may express anger by sharing feelings and asking mother not to drink. Of course, mother doesn’t stop drinking. As her drinking progresses to the middle stage of her alcoholism, the child may start yelling at her, demanding that she stop drinking. The child, more than angry at this point, is unaware that their anger has progressed into rage.

As mother’s drinking increases, the child, in an attempt to stop her drinking, begins fighting with her. The child’s rage is expressed by pushing and hitting. Eventually the drinking progresses to the late stage and the child experiences wrath. The child is so distraught by the ongoing frustration over mother’s drinking, revenge is sought. Unfortunately, thoughts of suicide and/or homicide are considerations. Seeking vengeance is a sign of late-stage wrath. This vignette is all too real. Sometimes it is the addict and sometimes it is the non-drinking, non-using family member who acts out during the late stages of addiction and wrath. This is the reality of the addictive family.

Although the wrath experience may manifest at any stage of addiction, it usually reveals itself in the late stage and is evidenced by extreme negative and self-destructive behavior. This behavior can include suicidal and homicidal ideations or actions. Wrath has been described as anger that is vicious and fierce.

For the family, the embarrassing moments, lack of emotional connectedness, physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse, or debilitating experience of grave incongruence all contribute to the family scrimmage reality of wrath. The wrath experience is located below the abstruse (the second reality) and manifests in the deepest part of the pain of addiction. Wrath is accompanied by despair, panic, and agitation.

Pathos, the abstruse, and grave incongruence all contribute to the wrath experience. These realities fuel the irrational desire of family members to destroy the cause of their emotional pain, their resentments and the deterioration of the family.

The non-violent expression of wrath by family members may be displayed in passive aggressive behaviors, such as over-spending or expressing advanced rage using sharp, sarcastic comments. These expressions of wrath are justified by the family because the addict or alcoholic does not stop using or seek help and keeps the addictive family in a state of denial.

The reality of the wrath experience has been described by family members as a monster inside. The feelings of wrath are destructive and are the most anxiety-producing experience of all the realities. This is because there is complete disdain for the addict or alcoholic in the late stage of the addictive family. Frequently, family members feel disgust and loathing towards themselves. Wrath is deeply concealed and extremely difficult to understand. Wrath’s last expression, as stated before, can result in homicide or suicide, or both. If you can identify this as your experience, please get help. The family scrimmage is about taking an in-depth, sincere, compassionate look at the addictive family in an effort to evoke a desire for addictive families to seek help.

Wrath is the result of participating in the daily family scrimmage. When we are able to understand these realities, we can resolve and heal. There is always hope. Recovery is the ultimate reality!

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