Afraid of Your Own Anger – Part 1

Sam: “I have an unusual problem. I’m not afraid of other people; I’m afraid of me. I’m afraid of what I might do. For instance, I let my ex-girlfriend criticize me for years because I was afraid of what I’d do if I ever opened up. ”

Therapist: “So you internalize your anger.”

Sam: “I thought I was controlling it.”

Therapist: “I’m sure you did. How is it a problem for you now?”

Sam: “Well, I rehired an old employee of mine, Tammy. I felt sorry for her; she just divorced her husband, so I took her under my wing.”

Therapist: “What happened?”

Sam: “I found out yesterday that she saw the other clerk, Betty, put some merchandise in her purse, and she didn’t tell me. Now I can’t fire Betty because I have no witness.”

Therapist: “Are you angrier at Tammy than you are at Betty?”

Sam: “Sure I am. I didn’t expect anything of Betty, but I am very disappointed that Tammy didn’t take my side after all I did for her.”

Therapist: “You feel that she betrayed your trust, and that she did not appreciate you.”

Sam: “That’s right.”

Therapist: “Who else are you angry at beside Tammy?”

Sam: “I’m angry at me for being so naive. I must be stupid.”

Therapist: “This isn’t the first time you have been betrayed, is it?”

Sam: “No. I’m too nice and that’s how they play me.”

Therapist: “You feel ‘good for nothing,’ don’t’ you. And you blame yourself for being so gullible. And you worry that if do not learn from experience it will happen again?”

Sam: “You’re right. I never learn, Why don’t I?”

Therapist: “Because your feelings are not a matter of intelligence. They are a matter of emotions that you bring from your past, which prevent you from seeing the present clearly.”

Sam: “I don’t get it.”

Therapist: “One reason that you pull your punches is that you cannot blame the offender. You feel you should have known better. Perhaps you assume it’s your fault for being so easy going. However, do you think there could there be another reason that you suppress your emotions?”

Sam: “There must be. I was afraid to yell at Tammy. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She’s suffered so much already.”

Therapist: “So you want to avoid displeasing. You cannot bring yourself to add to anyone’s suffering. As if it is your responsibility to prevent others from suffering the consequences of their own choices.”

Sam: “What’s wrong with that?”

Therapist: “It prevents you from solving your own problems, and it forces you to focus on them, when you have got your hands full with you. Your living your life on their terms of what a good person does. You are not living; you are merely reacting to their provocations. You cannot take the initiative. You are too busy controlling yourself to avoid rocking the boat.”

Sam: “Instead of confronting Tammy. I spoke to another coworker and told her how I was ticked off, and that Tammy had better watch her step.”

Therapist: “Did that give you any relief from your pent-up anger?”

Sam: “No. I just got angry at myself for being such a coward.”

Therapist: “Sounds like you have a problem expressing anger. What does this remind you of?”

Sam: “My ex-girlfriend. I took her crap for nine years, the constant criticizing and complaining, the nagging and the insults. One day, I couldn’t control it any longer. I went off and started screaming. I was shaking I was so upset. I had to end it. Then she begged me not to leave, but I moved out and never spoke to her again. I was afraid of what I might do next time.”

Therapist: “It’s interesting that she only seemed to desire you after you shouted. It may be that she perceived herself as a victim of men, and that love means conflict.”

Sam: “Her father used to beat her pretty good before he walked out.”

Therapist: “She may have been provoking you to express your love in the same way, and to abandon her as her father had done.”

Sam: “Well, it worked.”

Therapist: “No wonder she wanted you back. You were finally acting like a familiar role model of what a loving man should be.”

Sam: “She liked being yelled at?”

Therapist: “Not at all. It was her definition of love, and she hated it, but it was the only one she knew. She was stuck with it.”

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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