Depression: Do You Suppress Your Anger?
Andy wanted his daughter, Cheri, to be perfectly beautiful. He rewarded her when she looked sweet and cheerful, he punished her when she expressed disappointment and worry. He shaped her according to his selfish specifications. He thought he was a terrific father.
His wife, Mara, was a passive, pleasing wife. She had no respect for her own judgment and deferred to others opinions. Both of Mara’s parents were hooked on external appearances and focused of how others see them.
Cheri spent her days wondering, “If I’m so pretty, why am I so unhappy?” She was depressed and could not understand why.
Depression can be a consequence of mismanaged anger. While Cheri succeeded in suppressing her anger, she set herself up for a lifetime of problems. She believed that she could put her negative emotions in the shadows, leaving the positive emotions free to dance in the sunlight. But it doesn’t work that way.
Our emotional life is a package deal. For better or worse, when you alter one part, you change the while machine. When Cheri pushed her anger down below the surface of her conscious awareness, her joy and energy went down with it.
In counseling, Cheri reconnected with her legitimate emotions, starting with her anger. That was the cork that was bottling up all the rest. Cheri had trouble believing that she was angry at her kind, generous parents. She would say, “But they did so much for me. They only wanted what was best for me.”
Therapist: “Your parents meant well, they just didn’t accept you .”
Cheri: “I don’t understand.”
Therapist: “They did not accept you as you were, a real, live human being. As an individual worthy of love and support regardless of your choices and imperfections. Instead, they treated you like a product to be packaged and marketed. They did not care what you wanted, only what they wanted.”
Cheri: “They did what they thought was best.”
Therapist: “You’re right, they thought it was the best for you, but they were mistaken. They denied you the opportunity to figure out for yourself what is best and makes you happy. They told you what ‘should’ make you happy and like all obedient children you listened. You love them and trusted them to give you the appropriate guidance to create enduring happiness. However, their self-serving guidance was counter productive. It did not make you happy and successful. It made you empty and depressed. You were never free to find out who you really were.”
Cheri: “I never could talk to them. They were never interested in what I had to say.”
Therapist: “They neglected you. Did this neglect make you feel invisible?”
Cheri: “Yes, that’s how I felt. They really couldn’t see me, or hear me. I might as well not exist.”
Therapist: “I would resent it if I were you.”
Cheri: “I do, I totally resent them and feel angry.”
Therapist: “Did they appreciate your submission to their demands? Did they ever love you for just being yourself?”
Cheri: “It really wasn’t love, was it? It always came with strings. It was bribery. I never gotten to know them as people. I feel so angry at myself for being so stupid and trying to get them to love me unconditionally.”
Therapist: “You aren’t stupid for trusting your parent’s to show you love.”
Cheri: “What can I do about it now?”
Therapist: “All your life you have lived to please others by smiling and making them happy. It was a role that you played very well. It just wasn’t as rewarding as you were told it would be. From what you have said, it may be that your emphasis on your external appearance is your way of over compensating for your underlying fear that you are still invisible, that no one can see you. You are trying to be hyper visible. For homework, I want you to do something different for the first time in your life.”
Cheri: “What is that?”
Therapist: “I want you to do what pleases you.”
Cheri: “I can’t think of anything.”
Therapist: “That’s my point. You are not used to thinking about what makes you happy. We spend lots of time trying to make others happy or preventing their unhappiness. This requires one to: chose to stop doing what is unnecessary and do something constructive by living on your own terms in the present. This may involve stopping what we ‘should’ do and making a choice on our own behalf.”
Cheri: “So what would please me?”
Therapist: “Does it please you to carry that load of anger around in your system where it is turning into depression?”
Therapist: “Would it please you to get rid of it?”
Therapist: “I want you to write your parents an anger letter for deceiving you into believing that external appearances are more important than your own feelings. After you have peeled away your anger, I want you to write a second anger letter.”
Cheri: “To whom?”
Therapist: “To yourself, for ‘letting’ them take advantage of your love and trust by turning you into a Barbie doll with no identity of her own.”
Cheri: “Will that help?”
Tags: Anger Management, Archive