When we understand our anger, we understand ourselves.

When something happens in the present that reminds us of feelings from the past, our emotions become exaggerated and we get angrier then the reality of the current situation requires. Our anger from the past compounds the feelings in the present and we explode.

Therapist: “Who are you angry at?”

Client: “I’m angry at Jenny.”

Therapist: “What did she do?”

Client: “She dumped her work on my desk and took the afternoon off. She’s been doing it for years.”

Therapist: “What angers you the most?”

Client: “She is an inconsiderate, selfish brat. She reminds me of my little sister.”

Therapist: “She is irresponsible and you have to cover for her.”

Client: “It’s always been that way, and I hate it.”

Therapist: “I can tell it makes you angry. What’s the worst part about it?”

Client: “It’s not fair. I have to do my work and hers too. I don’t get two paychecks.”

Therapist: “What’s the worst thing about things being unfair?”

Client: “That I get stuck in the end.”

Therapist: “You feel taken advantage of, like a victim. That makes you angry. I imagine you want to make her accountable. Who else are you angry at?”

Client: “Me, for being such a pushover and letting it happen.”

Therapist: “You get no appreciation for all you do. No matter how much you give, they always need more. It’s never good enough.”

Client: “Yes, that’s the story of my life.”

Therapist: “For some, good for nothing means worthless. She has robbed you of your self‑respect. You may even feel it is your fault. You have closed in on yourself, but you are not powerless. You have a choice. You can choose to assert yourself verbally by saying, “I’m confused, help me understand why you left without finishing your assignments?” You can also choose to write out your anger.”

Client: “How will that help?”

Therapist: “Is your way working? You don’t have anything to lose but your anger. By using this sort of focusing question, you can peel beyond the surface and get to the deeper concern. And by writing out your anger, you will be doing something on your own behalf. You will be in control. That’s how it helps.”

Client: “What if I don’t talk to her or don’t write anything?”

Therapist: “Then nothing will change. Nothing will get better. But it’s your choice. My life goes on whether you write an anger letter or not. It is entirely up to you.”

Client: “What can I do after I write Jenny an anger letter?”

Therapist: “You can write yourself an anger letter and see what happens when you get your anger out of your system.”

Client: “Will it work?”

Therapist: “There’s one way to find out. Its OK to have setbacks and disappointments. They are part of the ups and downs of everyday life. If we have a setback, we can learn from it. We can do something different the next time. It takes time to overcome pain and our journey will continue. This is not the destination. Since we cannot control the wind, all we can do is adjust our sails and head in the direction that makes us happy.”

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Author: Aaron Karmin