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Is Anger Keeping Your Past on Life Support?

» Mental Health Library » Featured Articles

By: Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.FATE DEALS AN UNFAIR BLOW
In a split second Max fell off a ladder, shattered a lumbar disc, ruined his prospects for marriage, and derailed his career. He was livid. His angry energy was absorbed by interminable doctor's visits, surgeries, and fights with his insurance company. A law suit conveyed his fury at the negligence of his employer in complying with workplace safety codes.

THE RESERVOIR OF HATE WAITING TO EXPLODE
Max was bathed in support and sympathy from his family, fiancée and friends. They rallied around and helped him get through the first year of struggle for recovery. Together with his pain medications and physical therapy, the network of people caring for him acted as buffers against his volcanic fury. Cocooned in this chrysalis his outrage and resentment swelled into a festering reservoir of hate, waiting to explode.

THE HOT BUTTON TRIGGER- "GET ON WITH YOUR LIFE"
Frozen in a time warp, Max couldn't respond to his fiancée's encouraging comments. He wasn't ready to move on. Convinced that it was only a matter of time before she got tired of him, he goaded her about the genuineness of her commitment to him until it wore her down. His self-fulfilling prophecy came true. She left him. He turned down invitations and made excuses for not accepting visitors. It was too much for him to witness their normal lives, Eventually his friends stopped calling. Max became increasingly isolated.

THE HOT BUTTON EXPLODES ALL OVER HIS CARERS
Max ranted and raved at his incompetent doctors, his lawyer who didn't win bigger, his fiancée who abandoned him and his friends who forgot him. Indignation, outrage, and pure vengeance competed with his physical pain for his attention. The festering reservoir of hate now had concrete legitimate targets to aim at, in ever increasing numbers.

THE POWER OF BEING A VICTIM
Max felt powerful in his role as a victim. It gave him the right to blame all his carers for ever, and avoid facing the terror of starting his life over. If he couldn't be the colorful and vibrant butterfly he was destined for, there was no way he was going to emerge from his chrysalis. He would rather let his larva dry up and rot than change course and make himself into a new and equally striking butterfly.

KEEPING THE PAST ON LIFE SUPPORT
Max allowed his body to be treated, but his soul was absent. He didn't want to participate fully and become a traitor to his hopes and ambitions. The life he was once entitled to was being kept on life support, preventing the treatments from working. Pain relief was good from time to time, but transition to a new life was treachery. Anyone who dared suggested it was blasted away by the wrath of the wounded victim.

DEATH WATCH, OR MOURN AND START AFRESH?
 His physical pain and mobility issues became the symbols of the past he refused to let go, and a future in which he didn't want to participate. Max can continue this death watch and finish the job begun by his unfortunate fall, or he can begin the mourning process.
 
ENVY HEATS UP THE HOT BUTTON - EMPOWERMENT DEFUSES THE BOMB
Max can't accept the help of loved ones because he envies them. If he opts to relinquish the power that comes with being a victim, psychotherapy can empower him to have richer and deeper relationships that will mitigate his loss.

Christopher Reeves used his anger in the mourning process to set up stem cell research labs after a horse riding accident paralyzed his body. Al Gore mourned the loss of the presidency by using his anger and grief to become a Nobel prize winner. Both mourned, then made a meaningful new life that touched millions of people. Max, what treasures are waiting to be released in you?

About the Author...

Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a licensed psychologist practicing in Los Angeles. She specializes in anger management for satisfying relationships. Anger is one of the earliest stages of mourning. Getting stuck there can be stressful and cause a long lasting depression. She helps people identify the source of their anger so that they can avoid sabotaging their goals and development.

Click here to contact or learn more about Dr. Raymond

Last Update: 8/12/2010



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