World Journal «Psychotherapy» 2011, №1 (4), pp. 77—86
Nikolay Linde Prof., PhD (Psychology), Professor of Moscow Humanitarian University, member of Board of Psychology and Acmeology, Moscow State Humanitarian University, member of Professional Psychotherapeutic League, Moscow, Russia E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the article the author gives definition of anger and depressed anger; speaks about the role of anger in psychosomatic disorders. Several optional psychosomatic models are described, which explain the origin of anger and depressed anger; the author gives the idea of using different methods of correction of inadequate anger used in Emotion Image Therapy. Examples from the author’s private practice are suggested to illustrate psychological models and means of its correction described in the article.
Key words: anger, depressed anger, emotions, image, correction, psychological model.
Anger is emotion focused on impelling the person to resist the hostile forces or to attack anybody. Anger, being a destroying emotion has a goal of distraction or suppression the enemy, bending him/her to submission. There are cases when anger might be useful: it provides an individual with additional energy to overcome severe stress situations or it might be used for the self-defense purposes. But at the same time it might break down long-term friendly relationships, or cause unnecessary hostile environment between the colleagues. It might cause alienation against an angry person; it might get in somebody’s way to see in other people counterparts rather than enemies. If anger storms inside the person, it might cause health problems and decrease the scopes of thinking; it might lead to severe psychosomatic disorders. If anger is expressed, this might damage the other people’s personalities, cause humiliation, offence, payback and decreasing the effectiveness of productivity.
Anger might be explosive, i.e. targeted on the external objects, or implosive which is targeted on the person him/herself. Explosive anger is manifested in aggressive actions, accusations, offence, and communication on “high tunes” and in moral pressure. Implosive anger is vivid in self-criticizing, feeling of quilt, depression, making harm to oneself, self-isolation, etc. Types of anger might turn one into the other; there are situations when both types are combined, e.g., when the person feels soreness to the other person and to oneself simultaneously. The collision of two types of anger might end up with the hysterical attack.
Anger is rarely being the reason for people to look for psychological help, but in the process of discussion of other problems, anger as dominating emotion often becomes crucial issue. It also might determine the other symptoms. The person might be overwhelmed with anger, rage, hatred or soreness which could cause depression, communication problems, isolation, anxiety, multiple psychological symptoms, and even psychotic disorders. One of my young patients, being in the borderline state, mentioned that “I was really so much filled up with anger that I couldn’t control myself”.
Rage and hatred are chronic emotions often found with patients with severe diagnoses and the capacity of these feelings is very impressive. Anger is emotion targeted on demolition, that is why it might destroy something both in the outer world (via person’s actions), and in the inner world if locked in the patient or aimed at the patient himself. A lot of psychosomatic symptoms are the results of excessive anger: muscle tension, hypertension, ulcer, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, migraine, asthma, etc.
Not only people with psychological problems, but healthy people as well sometimes suffer of the excessive anger, they don’t know how to cope with it, they commit something they regret later, they spoil their moods, and sometimes even lives. Anger should not be confused with aggression: anger being emotion, while aggression is behavior (see [1, 3, and 11]. Aggressiveness being the major component of the anger, very often motivates a person to become aggressive that is why the research literature on aggression often simultaneously concerns anger issues.
Psychotherapists deal successfully with the problem of anger using diversity of methods, majority of which are already classical. Each psychological method contains many devices for correction of this emotional state. In psychoanalysis it definitely would be the client’s consciousness of the real reasons of anger, alongside with cathartic experience of the initial situation. In behaviorism the client will be taught the new methods of behavior , which will make anger unneeded emotional reaction. In the cognitive therapy [2, 8 and 9] the client will be suggested to notice the thoughts leading to the origin of the inadequate anger and to substitute it with positive thoughts. There are a lot of methods in which the client is suggested the way of response, e.g. when the client is recommended to beat a punch bag or a pillow; to scream or to swear at somebody; or to write (but not to send) a letter to the “offender”. Relaxation, as well as deep breathing and meditation are also used as methods of coping with anger when the client is explained how to get rid of muscle tension in case when he/she feels anger. In the religion oriented methods the client is suggested to forgive all real or imagery “offenders”.
1. Pattern of Family Inherited Anger
There are multiple cases when children are raised in the families where anger is the routine type of communication and the main allowed emotion. In the early childhood children are afraid of their parents’ angry emotional expressions, but gradually they adopt the standard. When adults, they believe that anger is natural and constitutive quality of their personality, and can hardly accept the idea that there might be some other types of reaction.
Example. “To Whack the Image”
A young man believes that there are no other ways of reaction on the problem rather than anger. He accepts that even during the Emotion Image Therapy session his only reaction is “to knock the image from hell to breakfast”. Even the demonstration of the alternative methods of problem solving does not work.
Trying to find out the reason of such stereotype I decided to list all possible patterns of the origin of the anger. When he heard about the pattern of the family anger, the guy became very excited: “You just made a gift for me! They were always fighting in the village where I grew up. They permanently did it outdoors and indoors… For example, my uncle Lenya had a very handsome face, but it was always covered with blood…” When the young man realized that in his childhood he was rather tender and sensitive child, and was afraid of his siblings’ anger, he decided to separate himself from family tradition and to try using different patterns of feelings and of behavior. We spent a lot of time working on this problem, which led to significant changes in his personality.
In cases like this one, the psychologist might use the following correction strategy (see ):
1. Client is separated from the family anger, i.e. he accepts that initially he was not outraged, so he is able not to feel and to behave as his relatives in the village do.
2. The client should be recommended the safety substitution methods of expressing the anger: cutting the woods, knocking a punch bag or pillow, etc.
3. It is worthwhile to show the client that he is able to think productively even being in severe frustration and fury. To show this, the situation of anger is simulated and the client is suggested to think “You knock this punch bag as if it is your repulsive boss. And then please give me some ideas of how to stop this conflict!” This is important because the majority of people strongly believe that they are unable to think adequately and to manage one selves’ behavior being in anger.
4. The client is suggested to enjoy being angry rather than to ruin oneself with anger. The more the person is trying to combat with anger, the stronger the anger becomes (and eventually breaks out like uncontrolled avalanche). So, it’s worthwhile to learn how to transfer one’s anger into a game. E.g., “Look at yourself being in anger from sideways. Look how cool you are! You could move on the world! Enjoy the image! Be proud of yourself! Could you imagine doing something positive using your anger?”
Example: “How I’ll cope with live now?” The young man from the previous example was recommended to go to the woods to scream there and to stump stubs. I did that because while walking with him through the institute corridors, I noticed that his legs were much tensed, he moved like robot in the fantasy movie. I was surprised when he obeyed, and spent 2 hours in the woods, screaming and kicking something with his legs. When he was back, he looked very calm and sweet.
– Are you feeling better?
– Yes, Professor, I feel much better now, but I don’t know how to live now. I am more self-collected, more organized, but I don’t know what to cope with it now.
– What do you mean? Could you please explain?
– My dad tried to come across me, but I didn’t want to argue with him (which never occurred before). I was just sitting and quietly looking at him. Shortly he also stopped quarrelling. I don’t know how to live now! Recently I’ve seen two people fighting. Before your session I would definitely join them. But now I consider them being fools. But I don’t know how to live now!
The problem is that his behavioral pattern was adjusted to the angry state, and now he needed new “peaceful” patterns of behavior to live peaceful life. I explained this to him and advised of how to transfer to normal habits. We kept working with him for some time.
2. Pattern of Anger as a Device of Meeting the Goal Objective
There are cases when anger is a needed instrument, e.g. for achievement of some goals, but mostly we could manage without it. Although, there are a lot of people who strongly believe that if they didn’t scream, they would never get the desired. Some parents think that screaming is the only way to make a child to obey. The more they use repression as means of education against the child, the less effective all the other means become, the more often they have to be repressive. There are families in which it is possible to achieve something only by means of screaming and aggression; kids learn quickly and use it later in their own families (See ).
To justify this behavior, people usually say: “When I just ask somebody to do something, people never do it, although they promise. Normally, I wait for a week, then I start screaming – and everything is done immediately”. Such people strongly believe that screaming is the only way out of the situation. When psychologist makes attempts to show them that there is big variety of the alternative ways, they consider him/her as a naïve and romantic person. They deny any changes, although they are ready to change their attitude to anger and to get rid of it.
In reality, it is lack of self-confidence and ability to express one’s demands without aggression. Most probably, one of the parents of such person was an aggressor –type of personality and managed to control the others with the help of anger. A child had identified itself with such a sibling due to the mechanism of identification with aggressor, discovered by the psychoanalysts. Or the child might have an episode of fury, which helped him to protect himself. It encouraged him to believe that it was the only device to achieve the goal. Another reason might be the facts that the person was raised under the conditions (like orphanage) where anger and attack were the only ways to survive.
There are a lot of people in our society, who believe that aggression is the only type of suppression of any kind of rebellion, or at least that “an eye for an eye” situation might lead to success. It is extremely hard to make them to change their minds, even if they are aware that this strategy would ruin their lives. It is very rear that they appeal for psychological help, but if they do, the results are extremely positive. One of my students used to say: “Since the times when Professor Linde converted me into being a kind person…”
For those who would like to get acquainted with the devises of confident behavior instead of non-confident or aggressive, it is worthwhile to attend the behavioral workshop of confident behavior, or to suggest reading some literature [4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 13]. But, it is also possible to solve the problem by means of remodeling the critical situation and recommending the client alternative patterns of behavior. If those alternative forms of behavior are expressed to the image, the latter reacts with positive changes, being the most demonstrative argument of kindness versus anger.
Example: During one of the workshops a student asked for assistance and advice: she failed to establish friendly relationship with her daughter, mostly she failed to help her with homework. She was very pushing, screamed at the girl; she felt horrible, but couldn’t stop. I suggested that she asked for advice her female counterparts who participated in the workshop. This phase was expectably non-productive, although time consuming. Psychological dead-end was obvious, besides ladies realized all the uselessness of casual therapy.
I started with the proposal to reconstruct the scene of preparing homework with the daughter as it works in gestalt therapy. The lady was standing behind the imaginary chair with the daughter sitting on it. The girl couldn’t understand the task. I suggested that the lady spoke consequently in her own name and in the name of the daughter. She had either to stand or to sit on the chair. Conflict was evident, and the more pushy the mother was, the less the girl managed to understand the task, she was almost fainting. The mother was annoyed, overwhelmed with anger and felt extremely frustrated.
It looked like there was no way out of the situation. Mother failed to find alternative way of behavior. I decided to recommend her (although it was against the rules of gestalt therapy) just to ask her daughter what was that she didn’t understand, and to suggest that they will sort out the task together as partners. It clarified the problem immediately both in daughter’s and mother’s heads; they quickly fulfilled the task. Lots of mothers participating in the workshop were crying while watching the session as they also had similar problems.
But this is what happened later. Happy mother got back to her seat, but in several minutes she felt herself bad and almost lost her consciousness. She immediately got back to “hot chair” and said that as soon as she was back to her place, she saw her own mother standing in front of her with the leather belt in her hand. She felt being terribly humiliated. I suggested that she imagined this humiliation on the chair. It turned to be a little girl. I asked the client to raise the girl up, to give her positive energy and strength. She obeyed, and the little girl grew up and soon became same size as a client. The client adopted this grown up girl as a part of her personality. Then she was recommended to look at her mother again, the reaction being “I don’t care. Let her stand. I feel that she can’t make me any harm”.
The next day when she was back to the workshop, the client had thanked me for the result. That morning she woke up very cheerful, being in great mood; she remarked that her communication with the daughter improved tremendously.
Based on this example, it might be useful to trace the general trend. First, mother’s anger was the result of the concept that there was no other way to teach the daughter. She was sure that it was the only way to succeed, although it was obvious that it was wrong conclusion. Second, her anger got back to her personal child’s experience, when her own mother used anger as an educational device. Third, solving her inner problem was the key to solving the external one.
Here it should be mentioned that there are cases when instrumental aggression is authorized, such situations being very rare. The problem should be raised when the person is unable to see any other ways out of the situation and uses just this pattern of anger everywhere and always, pretty often in inadequate doses and with no benefit.
3. “Trigger” Anger Pattern
There are cases when anger is used as a motive for realization of behavior which is supposed to be admitted only in case when certain level of anger is accumulated. E.g., it is impossible to get divorced if you are not angry enough with the spouse. The person can attack somebody only being mad with the object, etc. Anger in this case is both an excuse and a trigger. A trigger should be “loaded” and then fired (see ).
Example: “Cut-off Head”
A student asked me to help her with interpretation of the dream she was seeing almost every night during the past two months. I agreed because it was obvious that the issue was very important for her.
It was repeated nightmare. She saw herself in a room she was eager to get away from, but there were some people, who didn’t let her go. She couldn’t leave the room and had to watch the decapitation of a man. She watched the bloody neck when his head was cut off… The nightmare repeated every night.
I told her that I couldn’t say for sure, but it looked like that she found herself in a very difficult situation. She would have been happy to solve the problem, but failed to do it. It was also clear that she was in a serious conflict with some man.
The client confirmed my supposal:
– You are absolutely right, Professor. I would like to divorce with my husband, but I can’t as I have a 14 months old baby. But the most important thing is that I can’t understand the reason why I want to divorce. I just started hating my husband shortly after the baby was born, and I failed to find the reason why do I hate him so desperately. We never had any kind of problems before; our sexual life was just wonderful… Of course, he has some imperfections: he is kind of patch man, but nothing serious.
– May be he had adultery, or he beat you or did something else…
– No, no! He is very nice with me, but I can do nothing with my emotions. Why do you think it happens?
– It’s hard to say… But it is very often that after the childbirth a mother recalls on the surface of the psyche the conflicts she watched in her parents’ family, because she is subconsciously seeing herself in the baby. Do you have a boy or a girl?
– A girl… My parents divorced when I was 1, 5 years old.
– Probably there is a program existing in your mind subconsciously, that when a baby is a 1, 5 you are supposed to get divorced… But I might be wrong…
– No, you right, because I had divorced with my first husband when my first child was 16 month old.
– Now we can definitely say that you follow some pattern.
– But why do I hate him more and more every day?
– Because you just need an emotional excuse for already existing decision.
– Oh, God! What a weird person am I! What should I do? How can I improve the situation?
– I can’t answer this question now, as it is lack of time. Why not you show up for a séance and we’ll try to work on it.
She never showed back again and I didn’t know the remote results. Hope that she was smart enough not to ruin hers and her siblings’ lives just because of the scenarios adopted in the childhood. And I am really sorry that I didn’t have chance to ask her what her mother used to say about her father.
I also didn’t interpret the man’s decapitation as realization of her hatred to her father, who left her when she was 18 months old. If I did, it would have been clear that her hatred towards her husband was not only the factor excusing her own behavior, but also the transference on him the feelings she experienced to her father.
4. Pattern of Anger Origin as a Result of Conveyance
Anger, which the client felt in the past or the feeling to some objects in the present, might be conveyed on the absolutely innocent people. They might just resemble the initial persons, or the relationships with them might be similar, etc. Anger might spread on everybody who look the same, or on some of them, or on somebody acting in the similar mode, etc. E.g., if a person was humiliated by the representative of a certain nation, he might be angry with the entire nation. A woman who was offended by the father or the brother might be angry with all males in general or just with those who look presumptuous, etc.
Several years ago a client (female about 40 years old) showed up at one of my workshops. She asked for help and I suggested that she sat down vis-à-vis. She was very aggressive from the very beginning:
– (Aggressively) Why did you place me facing the window? For having opportunity to watch my mimics?! This is what they do in KGB!
– (I was startled). O, no, I never meant that. But if you want, we could switch chairs.
– No, let’s leave it as it is. (Heavy pause).
– Well, please tell me about your problem!?
– Me!? Could you just tell what the problem is? (Angrily) Well, tell me about your problem!!
– But it’s not me who asked for psychotherapeutic help, but you…
As I learned later, she was mad with all males, especially with her husband, initially the problem starting in her childhood. I got my portion of her anger just because I was male. Using the method of confrontation, I tried to show the client her own anger, but it caused annoyance only. She left very unpleased with the session and never showed back again. Probably, now being more experienced, I could have explained her something, but at that time I was just lost.
5. Pattern of Anger as a Compensation
Device of the Inferiority Complex
Aggression might be expressed as a result of the inferiority complex, when the person fails to find other ways to get the feeling of prestige. People believe anger or aggression being the only means to help them to improve the situation. E.g., poor people might hate rich people, and their anger feeds riots and revolutions; a woman, who believes that she is ugly, might be angry with everybody who is, as she believes, more beautiful than she, etc. Anger of a person with inferiority may be “addressed” to a wrong person, sometimes to an entire world, or to those who are putting obstacles on his/her way to become superior. E.g., a male with potency problems may be angry with all women and get offended with even slightest criticism from a female. Simultaneously, he might be desperately angry with himself, which might lead to sexual disorders.
Example: “Jealousy to Mother”. A young woman complained that she felt severe anger to her husband; she also hated the tutors at the medical school she studied.
She looked strange: was unkemptly dressed, with careless hair, with humping back and gray blank face. She was a hard person to establish a contact with, and looked like a person with very low cultural level.
She never showed up for the next séance, but it was her mother who unexpectedly came in. The contrast between the mother and the daughter was amazing. Mother looked in an absolutely different way than her daughter: was easy to talk-to person, with very good communication skills, well- dressed, good-looking, etc. It was hard to believe that yesterday’s shabby client was her daughter.
Her story made it obvious that her daughter from the very childhood felt that she was inferior to her mother. She was jealous to the mother having a lot of admirers. The girl never managed to flirt with boyfriends as she was always angry with them. The mother spent a lot of time trying to advice her daughter how to dress up, what haircut to wear, how to use make-up properly and how to take care of herself – with absolutely opposite result. “She puts on an ugly pullover and doesn’t want to comb the hair…” – complained the mother; she went on: “She was studying music for 6 years when I once noticed her playing Tchaikovsky for a while and then suddenly spat on the notes. I stopped the studies.”
It turned that inferiority complex with the sex appealing mother around raised the rebellion and malice in the daughter, which was directed mostly on males and tutors, who were unable to give satisfaction with her damaged sense of prestige.
6. Anger as the Device for Suppression
of the Unwanted Drive
Anger might be used as the device of the suppression of one’s own drive which might be considered to be dangerous or forbidden. E.g., males might be angry with nice looking females just because they like them; they use to blame them in a lot of different sins and to pounce in everything. Implosive anger might be used as a means of suppression of personal sexual incontinence or inappropriate feelings. It also may be used in cases when a person believes that he does not correspond with his own ambitions. In this case the sense of guilt might be interpreted as a form of implosive anger, and soreness and accusations might be considered as explosive anger.
Example: “Don’t You Dare Even
to Dream About It!”
A girl believed that nobody could fall in love with her, as she considered herself being ugly. She was told that when she was born her father said that “such an ugly and fat legged person could not be named with his favorite girls’ name…” She was named differently. Her father was rather indifferent to her; in her youth she fell in unshared love affair, and then in severe depression.
She was filled in with anger which as she believed belonged to the whole world. The image of her anger was a cluster of bees or a set of surgical instruments ready to cut her into pieces. To reveal the genuine sense of her imaginations I suggested that she thought about something sexual. She denied even the thought of sex. Then I recommended her to think about something “around” sex; meantime she was supposed to track what was happening to the bees.
The response was that bees became noisier and almost ready to attack her. I asked:
– What conclusion you could make out of it?
– (Stubbornly). I don’t know.
– But if you think about it…?
– ….I don’t know.
We got the same result with the set of surgical instruments. I asked her again about the conclusion she could make and got a stubborn silence back.
– But how can you explain that aggression towards you is elevated when the sexual issues are raised?
– (Forcing herself). It means that I use my aggression against myself in order to depress my sexuality.
– Here you are! Great! You were very brave to make the right conclusion. Let me shake your hand!
Her palm was wet as she was in stress under such circumstances. It was the very first step on the long way of her therapy. As far as I know she is happily married.
7. Anger as a Protest against Dangerous Parents’ Prescriptions
Sometimes parents give their children strong negative instructions (or directives), which are deadly dangerous. The most serious is “Don’t you live”. E.g., “As soon as you were born we fell into a flow of problems”, “It’s better once to cry over your coffin rather than to suffer with you around till the rest of the life”, “I’d rather kill you!”, “Tomorrow I am going to send you to the orphanage. I didn’t do it yesterday, but definitely will tomorrow. And then I will be living happily the rest of my days”, etc.
Instruction “don’t be yourself” is also considered to be very dangerous: “You are absolute idiot!”, “Jail is expecting you to stay in”, “You are a loser and never be success”, etc. Such instructions got frequently and with the adequate emotional support might lead a child to committing a suicide or getting schizophrenic.
In order not to accept those instructions, a child often decides to protest against with the help of anger.
Such kids’ anger might be focused on parents, on teachers, on the whole world or on themselves. As adults they keep being angry and it significantly influences their everyday life and relationship with people. This problem was already mentioned in the part devoted to depression (see earlier); rebellious behavior might be combined with the hidden suicidal decision leading to depression. The rebellions are eager to deny all the parents in the world, want to make the entire parents to repent of all their sins, but at the same time they would like to die young.
In such cases it’s very important to help the client to understand what the real source of his malice is. It is crucial to overwhelm the negative parents’ instructions and to implement new positive scenario of one’s own life. The rebellious person should be advised to stop neglecting his own life and to stop wishing his parents to penitence; instead he should become a parent to himself.
8. Anger as a Result of the Childhood Trauma
There are cases when the initial source of trauma might be hidden in the very remote flashback. It might go back to one’s birth. A child could have experienced very serious psychological trauma, and subconsciously believe that his mother was responsible for it. That is why he might feel anger or jealousy towards his mother (and very rarely to other people). This anger, according to conveyance and projection rules might influence the relationship with the other people.
Example: “A Stacked Child”
During one of the workshops a female, usually very active, was very reluctant to participate in the group’s activity. I asked her what had happened.
– Don’t pay attention, Professor. I am always like this a few days before my birthday. And exactly on birth day I usually need emergency medical help. My skin is covered with big red spots. It happens every year and neither doctors, no paranormalists are able to help.
I suggested that she sat in the middle of the circle and described her state.
– I feel like I am losing my consciousness. It’s hard to breathand I feel like my scalp bones are compressed.
It was obvious that it was typical picture of the lodgment of the fetus in the parturient canal.
– What do you want right away?
– Somebody to pull my head…
Everything became absolutely obvious, that was why we did exactly what she wanted. Several times one or the other member of the group pulled her head up, helping her to enter imaginary parturient canal. She followed the puller until she felt she was released and freed. Each time after such “pulling” she felt much better, but it was the 5th time only when an insight occurred. She followed the leader for about 5 meters before she eventually made a deep facilitating breath out, her hands relaxed, she closed her eyes and bended her head on the shoulder of the her counterpart.
We covered her with a blanket and patiently waited until she opened her eyes. When she did, we all looked at her with love and tenderness. Her eyes were shining with happiness and peace. Her headache and asphyxia had gone away. All members of the group expressed their kind feelings to her; they made the eye contact and touched her in order to show her that she was accepted in this world.
A week passed away… I was impatiently waiting for the next session and was very happy to see that the client was glowing with joy. She said that her birthday was great with no incidents. She was feeling great, with almost no spots on her skin. But the most important was that her relationship with her mother improved tremendously. She said that before she just hated her mother, but now she thought that the mother was just a regular person, nothing special….
So, a child could just remember his/her birth trauma and hate the mother for this.
Later I encountered several similar cases. Once in the university corridor I bumped with my colleague who was obviously suffering with headache.
– Do you know anything about your mother’s delivery process?
– My mother told me it was horrible.
– What about your birthday?
– It’s the worst day in the whole year!
– How you doing with your mother?
– Very complicated relationships… And in general I feel like I am making my way through the woods while everybody is just getting everything easily…
– There is a theory saying that the way you were born determines all your future life. Do you want me to help you?
– No, thanks, I’ll manage myself…
We can’t say for sure that the birth trauma always presumes difficulties in relationship between a mother and a child, but it might be one of the reasons of it. That is why, until the real reason is not sorted out, any other methods would not be effective.
Example 2. “Under Nutrition!”
A student discussed with me her problem: she was permanently insulted by her mother. She believed that the mother was very pushing. I suggested that she imagined how the insult looked like. It was a small dark- skin baby with a big head. The student was so much surprised with the image that she nearly fainted.
This little brown baby was insulted, the offender being the student. I advised her to imagine what the child’s insult looked like. The answer was ridiculous: the insult looked like a wonderful milk-shining tower, which later transformed into the milk bottle. She recalled that she was pre-maturely born and her mother was in lack of maternal milk!
I advised the student to feed the baby with milk from the bottle, and while she was feeding the baby, it grew up, until it turned into the girl herself. The student was recommended to accept the baby as a part of her personality. Finally, the student got rid of her insult towards her mother, and her mood changed dramatically from depression to excitement, so that she was eager to dance.
It is obvious that in such cases it is worthwhile to work with the elimination of the original frustration. It might be real (like in exercise 1) or imaginary (like in exercise 2) action. In both cases the client sinks deep into the initial problem situation that is why the symbolic way-out solution wraps up all old gestalt states. It doesn’t exist anymore and doesn’t influence the person’s life.
9. Anger as Protection for the Weak Part of the Personality
As it was already mentioned earlier, anger is frequently used as a protection device. It works in cases when person fails to find a standard, calm and rational solution for the problem. We already said that in cases of extraordinary situations, anger might be the only device to overcome frustration and in such cases it is justified. Although, it should be clarified here, that almost all situations have alternative resolutions.
Anyways, when a person expresses unnecessary anger, there is always suspicion that he/she doesn’t obtain the habits of normal and adequate problem solving. It presumes that some part of the personality feels helplessness when facing the problems; this part is underdeveloped and produces anger for compensation of its insufficiency. F.Perls  wrote that fury is the reverse side of helplessness; he believed that all the murders happen because of helplessness.
All mentioned above presumes that if the initially weak part of personality will be developed sufficiently enough to be able to resolve the problems without using anger as a device of achievement the goal, then it will be no need in anger per se. The usual problem is that the person normally believes that there is no other way of solving the problem rather than anger. That is why one of the devices of eliminating anger is developing the habits of confident behavior  which might be achieved by using the methods of behavioral psychotherapy.
Another method which helps resolving the problem quickly and totally is developed in the Emotional Image Therapy . The client is suggested to imagine both the images of his angry part of personality and the image of the weak part, which is protected with the help of anger. Then the client is recommended to transfer all the energy (or stocks) of anger to the growth and development of the weak part of his personality. Usually the angry part looks like something big, black and spiny while the weak part being something small, light and tender.
As a result of such conversion of the energy, the weak part grows up and getting stronger, without losing its kindness, while the angry part vanishes or transforms into kind. It should be mentioned to the client that the energy is returned back to the weak part in the positive form. The former weak part becomes able to solve the problems which earlier seemed impossible.
There is no need for anger any more.
Example: “A Black Bomb.”
A young man was betrayed by his girlfriend. He loved her, the betrayal being very painful and very offensive as all their mutual friends knew about it.
He was filled with anger which was overwhelming him and ready to blow out and tear everything into pieces. He managed to forgive his girlfriend but gave a dusting to his competitor; he still couldn’t cope with his hatred which was focused “against everybody”: “Leave me alone!”
The hatred looked like heavy black kernel with tremendous active load. I suggested that he imagined the part of his personality which he was protecting with the help by this hatred. It was a small plant, very nice and tender, as if made of white chalk.
I recommended the boy to switch the negative energy of hatred into a positive one and to return it back to the plant for it to grow better. It took him a couple of minutes to do it. A small sprout turned into a big bush, and the energy of hatred totally vanished. I advised the boy to adopt the bush.
When doing it, the young man felt tremendous excitement and calmness simultaneously. He reconsidered his situation from the different angle, now being indulgent to his “enemy”, even feeling sorry for him. He realized how primitive and ill-natured the guy was. He still loved the girl and was not mad with her, but he was ready to contact with people; his internal conflict released, there was no danger of explosion any more.
Later he told me that his life was as if divided into two parts: before the séance and after it, the latter being a great impact to his future life.
10. Repressed and Suppressed Anger
Anger is the socially dangerous feeling criticized in the society, which is why the majority of people (except, probably, the saint ones who never feel anger at all) are used to repress their anger. But in the case described further, the person had totally depressed his anger, forbade oneself to express it completely, because he was afraid of the possible actions in case if anger will come out uncontrolled. Such people believe that it is volcano, tornado or wild animal sleeping inside of him; all mentioned should be under strict control, otherwise something horrible definitely happens. In earlier years he used to express anger, but later realized that it could be harmful.
Example 1: “Red Hair and Sunspots”
A young man complained that in his childhood he was teased because of his red hair and sunspots. He felt so much hatred that was ready to kill everybody who just glanced at him with a smile. When he realized that it was just dangerous to be so angry, he suppressed the anger inside of him. He grew up very strong, studied martial arts, and was a nice and polite person. But hanging around him, people always felt concealed danger which was in contradiction with his routine behavior.
Suppressed anger is normally concentrated in the solar plexus area, diaphragm becomes very rigid and numb, which lead to shortness of stomach breathing, problems with gall bladder, biliary ducts and pancreas.
This is how psychosomatic disorders in gastroenterology occur. Also suppressed anger might cause elevation of the blood pressure, provoke ulcer, muscle tension, etc.
Example 2: “Kind Alenushka”
At the workshop in one of the medical centers, a young, nice looking gastroenterologist complained that she herself was suffering of gastroenterological problems and often felt pain in solar plexus area.
She involved all the students (being mostly medical doctors) in the discussion of her case. Everybody came to the conclusion that it was psychosomatic disorder. When the students were suggested to have somebody’s problem discussed on “the hot chair”, she volunteered it being hers. Divorced 2 years ago, no children, no regrets about it, she was concentrated in her gastroenterological problems only. But the main problem was that in spite of the fact that that she had been divorced for 2 years, she had no interest in males. She was surprised and worried, as she thought that it was time already to start new relationships.
I suggested that on the chair in the middle of the circle was sitting a young woman, who had no interest in males. The client was asked to describe the woman’s actions:
-She is like Alenushka (the girl from the Russian fairy tale), sitting on the bank of the pond and crying.
– Let some Good Fellow (another personage of the fairy tales) approaches her. What happens to her?
– If he approaches too close to her, she sends him off and keeps crying.
– I think that it’s a wrong Good Fellow to cry for. It’s like a crying child: when somebody wrong tries to console him, he says: “you go away, I am crying not for you”. Could you please imagine the right Good Fellow?
– Easily. He was very nice to Alenushka in the past and did a lot to support her…
– Let Alenushka express everything she wants to this Good Fellow. You may not verbalize it.
– Okay. (The situation proves the fact that if a female is not interested in males, she psychologically considers herself to be married.)
For some time the client “is talking” to the partner, and then asks:
– Isn’t it enough?
– Did Alenushka tell him everything she wanted to?
– No, not everything…
– Then keep her talking…
– (In some time) May be that’s it?
– Did she tell everything she wanted?
– Keep her talking… (Long pause) So, what’s going on?
– Alenushka keeps expressing her feelings. She does it using a pitcher and an ax (the students in the group are in shock).
– Okay, let her keep doing it… (In some time). Did she tell everything she wanted to?
– Yes, now it’s over.
– So, what do we have now?
– There is a blood-stained body on the floor (everybody is in shock again).
– And what about Alenushka? Is she crying?
– No, she is not…
– What does she want now?
– To bury the body. (I am vigorously trying to find the proper way out of the situation, but keep following the flow).
– Okay, why not you do it. What does she want now?
– Maybe to go to the theater… (But the client does not look cheerful at all).
– Could you now adopt Alenushka as a part of your personality, as far as it’s you?
– No way! After everything she did!
– So, what shall we do? (A long pause).
– (With a deep feeling). Probably I should forgive…
– Can you?
– Yes, now I can. I did it…
– Can you adopt Alenushka now?
– Yes, I can. I feel much better now. It’s much less painful in the diaphragm. But I feel much better in my heart now. I’ll show up again soon. (Of course, she never did).
This example shows not only very close connection between the suppressed aggression and psychosomatic disorder, but also the fact that release of aggression leads to forgiveness and self adoption. There are a lot of cases that show us that sincere forgiveness could not be obtained if the anger is not released, expressed and “dismissed”.
When working with suppressed anger, one should follow the following scheme:
1. To help the client in safe releasing and expressing his anger;
2. To teach the client to appreciate and respect his anger, but not to suppress it;
3. To help the client to release his anger, deny it as useless;
4. To help the client to aim the energy of anger being the positive energy, on the development of the lacked internality of the person;
5. To forgive oneself and the others;
6. To adopt oneself.
The problem of repressed anger looks a little different. The person as if doesn’t allow the anger to exist inside of him, he doesn’t contain it, the anger is being “evaporated”, which allows the person to easily bear being offended, humiliated, etc. He might justify his submission as some internality which gives him the feeling of superiority over aggressor. This is how some wives living with husbands that beat or harass them, act.
They don’t realize that they become victims, and unconsciously crime associates with their husbands, as they never stand against them and never claim for help. Often they consider themselves angels and justify themselves using Christian laws. Many women being raped forgive “him”, but they never forgive themselves for what had been done to them. They repress their anger and do not want to perceive it; they are reluctant to express it even in the imaginary actions and words. Repressed anger is experienced as a feeling of emptiness, powerlessness, and fear. In order not to let the anger in the body, the person usually blocks his diaphragm breathing rather than the stomach one.
Returning back the feeling of anger into the real world might be dangerous for the client; he might be overwhelmed by it, mostly if it is against the client’s believes. But if not being returned back, the feeling of anger cannot be transformed; it’s a very sensitive moment which should be treated carefully. The suppressed anger comes out itself if imagined situation is modified properly, while the repressed anger is something absolutely impossible for the person to experience neither in his inner world nor in everyday life.
There are multiple methods which may be successfully used in such cases; this is what emotion-image therapy recommend:
1. Assistance in recognizing of one’s repressed anger and the reasons of repression.
2. Returning the anger back, as one of the resources of the personality; adoption of one’s right to be angry.
3. Discussion of the possible means of self-defense (if needed);
4. Returning the harm to the client’s offender.
The method of imaginary vengeance and expressing of anger also might be used, but the clients with repressed anger are usually strongly against it.
Example: “A Dwarf in Red Hat”
After one of the meditative practices, the majority of the students of the workshop being in the very positive mood, one of the students complained that she was not feeling very well. Her heart rate was elevated, she felt problems with breathing and she was “freaking”.
The image of her state was paradoxically peaceful: a dwarf with a beard wearing a red hat. But, according to her feelings she insisted that the dwarf was very unfriendly; he wanted to harass her.
He was positive that the girl would never triumph.
Being acquainted with the vocabulary of images, I easily recognized the background of her experience and asked her whether she was raped. A lot of students were very much surprised with the question, but my experience told me that the dwarf in the hat definitely was a phallus’s symbol, and with all his malignity, desire to humiliate and taking into consideration the student’s general state, there was just one single option to have.
She confirmed that when she was 12, she was caught by a group of drunken jerks and was made to have oral sex. She never told anybody about it, but was always captured by gloomy experiences. The main feeling she felt was humiliation.
I suggested that she imagined herself strong enough to do anything she would like to the offenders. She strongly denied it, as she believed that she didn’t want to make any harm to anybody. Then I told her that the harm is staying with her anyhow, as the main goal of the rapist is to crow over the victim, to humiliate it.
That is why I recommended her to stop keeping this harm inside of her, as she was not responsible for the origin of this anger.
This anger belonged to the rapists and if she kept containing it in herself, she helped their plan come true, i.e. she became their associate. I asked her to mentally return them all the harm they made to her. Not more, but not less. To do this she was supposed to find the location of harm in her body and to politely return it back to them.
She agreed with such proposal and in some minutes of concentration she managed to fill the task and confirmed that she returned them everything back. With that all her psychosomatic symptoms released: no elevated heart rate, no tremor of hands, her breathing became regular, etc. She said that she felt like it was a plate in her chest.
Earlier the plate was broken but now it was just a little flawed. I supposed that not all the harm was returned back and she had to keep working on it. She concentrated again and soon said that this time had returned everything, and the plate became totally unbroken with blue flowers in the middle and as a rim. I interpreted the plate being her soul. Raping breaks the soul into pieces and returning this harm to its author rehabilitates it.
The girl spent a lot of her energy working on this problem. Even after she joined the rest of the students in the group, therapeutic process inside of her was going on. By the end of the session she said that the plate became golden, shining and smiling. She added that she felt as if her body was all moisturized with some ointment with a very nice mint odor. She said everything was splendid.
Later she confirmed that the problem has been sorted out and she felt much better. She stopped looking under the bed before she went to sleep looking for somebody hiding there, and she also stopped feeling fear to her husband.
Summarizing everything I would like to mention that it is impossible to discuss all issues of this problem in one article, although we managed to determine theoretical models explaining the origin of anger as well as several new devices helping to resolve this emotional problem.
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