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Are You Angry? Could It Be Sadness? Could It Be Anxiety?

Therapist: “Besides angry, how else do you feel when people disrespect you?”

Client: “Sad.”
Therapist: “Where does that sadness come from?”
Client: “It’s always been there.”
Therapist: “What’s the worst part?”
Client: “Like I don’t count, like I’m not important.”
Therapist: “Like you were invisible? Some use anger to get the attention they want. Do you sometimes feel life is unfair to you, that you aren’t worth caring about, that you aren’t significant?”
Client: “Yes.”
Therapist: “When did you get over it?”
Client: “I guess I never did.”
Therapist: “Then you cannot have a very high opinion yourself. Could it be that you are angry at yourself for being so vulnerable, for letting people use you, for not standing up to them?”
Client: “That makes sense.”
Therapist: “Would you say you take betrayals personally?’
Client: “Wouldn’t you?”
Therapist: “I would. For many people, when they feel anger in the present, it brings them back unresolved feelings from the past. When someone makes you angry in the present, are you inclined to take it personally, as if it were a reflection on your worth as a person?”
Client: “Yes.”
Therapist: “What is it called when things in the present ignites unresolved emotions from the past?”
Client: “I call it losing my mind.”
Therapist: “That’s one way to put it. I call it anger. You are angry because this current painful experience has tapped into a pool of unresolved anger from the past. Some may say to themselves, ‘I am stupid for letting it happen, I should have seen it coming, I should have stood up for myself.’ This is called shoulding on yourself. It makes you feel guilty. This combination overloads your body, and you erupt like a volcano. This whole process is taking place below conscious awareness where you can’t process it, let alone manage it in a mature, appropriate way. When this happens, you don’t have the anger anymore, the anger has you.”
Client: ‘Yes. I feel like a should know better.”
Therapist: “It’s like an old wound that opens up and bleeds. Do you still feel like a victim waiting for another attack to happen?”
Client: “Story of my life.”
Therapist: “Did you feel out of control?”
Client: “Yes.”
Therapist: “How do you feel when you’re out of control?”
Client: “It’s scary.”
Therapist: “What is that scary feeling called?”
Client: “Scared.”
Therapist: “It’s called anxiety. Is anxiety painful?”
Client: “Yes.”
Therapist: “You are in pain most of the time. All this pain makes you angrier than you need to be. Do you take it personally when someone calls you a jerk, keeps you waiting twenty minutes, criticizes your performance on the job?”
Client: “Yes, of course. It makes me angry.”
Therapist: “How angry are you?”
Client: “Sometimes I get very angry!”
Therapist: “Do you think you might be angrier than you need to be?”
Client: “I never thought about it. I thought my anger was justified.”
Therapist: “Where does your anger come from?”
Client: “Nowhere.”
Therapist: “It seems like nowhere, but it’s been stored in your memory bank all these years. When something makes you angry in the present, it triggers this store of unresolved anger from the past. It makes you angrier than you need to be in the present. You are out of control, over the top. Your anger is in control now, not you. It overrides your adult judgment, and provokes you to say and do things you wouldn’t otherwise.”
Are You Angry? Could It Be Sadness? Could It Be Anxiety?

Aaron Karmin

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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2018). Are You Angry? Could It Be Sadness? Could It Be Anxiety?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 25, 2019, from


Last updated: 20 Aug 2018
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