Masochistic Anger Part IV: Shirked Responsibility Gets Turned into Self Punishment

Shirking duties was guaranteed to get Ezra angry

With a heaving chest and throbbing temples, Ezra clenched his jaws in anger when he found that the vegetables at the restaurant were unprepared. It was bad enough that local farmers had not supplied the eggplant he ordered for his signature dish. To find that Danny, his deputy hadn’t trimmed the artichokes was unbelievable. Anger turned to rage as Ezra started to cut away at the artichokes imagining punishing Danny with each knife stroke.

Danny arrived ten minutes later and was greeted with a scathing attack, questioning his judgment, and his commitment to Ezra’s standards and goals for the restaurant.

Irresponsibility turned Ezra into an angry and unforgiving task master

“How could you do this? Don’t you know how important this new menu is? You knew we had to change the dish at the last minute and still you didn’t bother to get things ready! I don’t get how you could be so thoughtless and irresponsible? Not only did I have to think of an alternative, get the artichokes and change the menu, but now I have to do your job as well! Ezra’s face became a ball of fire as anger took over the reins.

Who would be next to be scalded by Ezra’s indiscriminate anger?

Flabbergasted at his boss’s angry outburst, Danny shrank back in shock. There was a hush in the kitchen as Ezra’s anger threw accusatory bullets of disapproval at them as his eyes darted from one to the other. Each one began a super fast mental scan to search for things he could find fault with, and be next in line for his wrath. It was becoming a familiar scene – Ezra expecting them to do their jobs as if they were him, and when they didn’t, his anger scalded them as if he’d dropped them in boiling water.

Ezra’s anger was born from being dismissed and ignored as a child

Ezra hadn’t always been this way. He had been a quiet and gentle person, never mentioning his disappointments. He had learned early in life that his mother wasn’t going to be around when he got home from school, and that she wasn’t concerned about how he was doing or feeling. A dismissing mother and an invisible father made Ezra feel unfairly orphaned and bitterly angry. The anger was stifled as he became self-sufficient out of necessity, and gave the impression that he needed no one.

Except when it came to work. That’s where Ezra felt safe enough to let out the steaming anger. The sight of those unprepared artichokes turned Danny into his bad parents, and Ezra became the furious punishing child.

Turning the anger on himself protected Ezra’s fragile relationships

Self-loathing filled Ezra’s existence for hours after his outbursts. He was embarrassed and ashamed at his loss of control. Not only was Ezra angry at the staff for not doing their jobs according to his expectations, but he got even more angry with himself for showing his anger. Fury and disappointment at the workers got turned into self-flagellation, punishing himself for  acting like a child having a tantrum.

Self-inflicted anger poured salt on Ezra’s wounds

Ezra’s self-inflicted anger was masochistic, pouring salt on the wound of having his expectations dashed, yet again. Alone and scared Ezra read books and researched the internet for strategies to manage his emotions. He got the facts about anger and memorized the most useful tactics that applied to his situations, but when he was faced with someone he relied on not doing their job and dumping it on him, he  blew up every time.

Horror, humiliation and hurt led Ezra to a place of healing

This incident with Danny was the most humiliating moment of Ezra’s life. Horror at his angry behavior turned up the volume on his self-disgust and hatred, making him scared to be with people. The pain of not having the parents he was entitled to and the shame of behaving so badly propelled Ezra to psychotherapy. As he overcame his shame and impatience he learned that he had never forgiven his parents for not being there for him. Anyone who didn’t do their job right or made a mistake got a beating meant for his parents. At least he could get an apology from them that would never come from his parents.

As he worked through these pieces of unfinished business that acted as incendiary devices, Ezra learned to tell the difference between parental abrogation of duty and let downs from others. The solid, reliable and consistent therapeutic relationship helped Ezra interact with people as they were, rather than as stand-ins for his unsupportive parents. Ezra is now compassionate with himself and others.

© Copyright 2010 by Jeanette Raymond. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Shannon

    October 29th, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Anger never heals a relationship, only serves to tear them apart.

  • Titiksha

    October 31st, 2010 at 12:30 AM

    anger is a difficult thing to control.

  • Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

    October 31st, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    Thanks for your comments Shannon and Titiksha.

    Anger is difficult to control only if we aren’t aware of it until it has taken over the reins. If we are able to be curious about our motives and feelings at the earliest stages then we can use anger profitably to be assertive and get control and power in healthy ways.

    Anger is only destructive is we ignore the reason why it is coming up over and over in the same situations, and we choose not to be informed about our fundamental motives.

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