Anger overwhelmed Conrad when he couldn’t hang on to a relaxing day.
Conrad woke up angry and upset. Why did the good time have to end? He had relaxed, enjoyed being spontaneous and free with family and friends at the barbecue yesterday, but he was angry that it hadn’t lasted long enough. He wanted more of that feeling of utter abandonment and not caring what anyone thought. Conrad was angry that only eighteen hours later he had to settle for a fast fading memory.
Anger put the lid back on Conrad’s joy so he wouldn’t feel the loss.
A sense of loss invaded Conrad’s mood. He couldn’t allow himself to wallow in sadness, and anger borne of protest. He pulled himself together and set about getting on with the tasks of the day. As the hours flowed, Conrad felt ‘bunged up’ and irritable. He was curt in his interactions. He didn’t want to talk about or share his happy experience from yesterday. It was as if it had never happened. He put the brakes on the pleasant memories by multi-tasking and focusing on accomplishing the items on his agenda. Better to spend energy on things for which there was a tangible result than relive moments from his liberating experience of the day before. The latter only led to anger that he had been prematurely wrenched away from a rejuvenating source.
Anger helped Conrad keep his joyful but messy emotions under control.
Returning to the routines of regular life meant Conrad had to be ‘in control’ again. He had to watch for signs of excitement, joy, eager anticipation, the thrill of the unknown and the risk of letting people see him the way he really was. The earliest rumblings had to be quickly stamped on and killed. He put the shackles back on and wore a mask of robotic predictability. What was joy yesterday became ‘out of control messiness’ today. Relaxation, fun and being authentic turned into images of ‘disgusting sentimentality.’
Conrad had ‘bunged up’ his inclination to be authentic, feel his feelings without being self-conscious and be happy in his own skin. Putting a stopper on the bottle of joy and authenticity made him feel safe, contained and in control. He wasn’t allowed to enjoy life with others by being true to himself for more than a day at a time. It felt like he had exceeded his quota and now he had to be boxed in, ‘bunged up’ and not allowed out for a long time. He was afraid of allowing his feelings of joy to come out again for fear that he wouldn’t be able to modulate them.
Anger serves two important functions for Conrad.
Conrad’s experienced anger in two ways. First as a tool to stifle real and permanent feelings of enjoyment with life. The anger burned any strands of happiness that lingered beyond their allotted time. Secondly, after the massacre of joy, and no possibility of messy emotions, Conrad was safe enough to feel the anger of having to be his own executioner.
Why was Conrad such a self-punishing control freak?
As a young child Conrad felt all his feelings naturally, fully, deeply and in the moment. But the reaction he got from his parents made him despise and fear his own feelings. His mother couldn’t tolerate Conrad’s genuine sadness or pain. She was unable to understand or comfort Conrad. He effectively ‘lost’ his mother by expressing his feelings organically. Conrad’s show of feelings scared his father, who set out to terminate them. There was no empathy, understanding or comfort. Just fear and abandonment.
Conrad was forced to become the terminator extraordinaire of his feelings.
Conrad learned to control his feelings from the get go so his mother wouldn’t be ‘disgusted’ and disown him. Conrad discovered that ‘bunging’ up his emotions was the only way to ensure that his father stayed calm and available to take care of him. He became the terminator extraordinaire!
Anger was used as a masochistic weapon.
• Just imagine the anger Conrad piled up each time he had to chop off his feelings in order to make sure his parents would stay around!
• Just imagine the anger that built up when Conrad realized time and time again that his emotions were threatening to his parents, and as a result became a threat to his safety and well-being.
• Just imagine the anger that boiled over and spilled into his existence when he had to curtail his enjoyment of life so that he didn’t become ‘out of control and messy!’
• Just imagine the anger that Conrad got in touch with as an adult when he tasted some good times and found himself scurrying to put the shackles back on!
How Conrad can use his anger to regain his right to feel joyful.
Conrad’s anger at having to be ‘bunged up’ is healthy anger and opens up a pathway to break from the stranglehold he has imposed on himself most of his life.
• He has an opportunity to do a reality check and discover whether his natural feelings really are over the top, scary, and disgusting.
• Conrad can recall the connection he made with all the people at the barbecue who were all with him when he lived in the moment and didn’t hold back. That is one piece of reality that shows his feelings are acceptable and facilitate bonding experiences.
• He can also start to check in with himself and learn that he can modulate his emotions in a way that allows for joy over a longer term.
• Anger at being his own murderer can provide Conrad with the incentive to give himself credit for being able to manage feelings without having to be a control junkie.
Giving up anger as a weapon for psychological suicide by killing joy, and embracing anger as a fuel to develop self-trust and acceptance is Conrad’s best way forward.
© Copyright 2010 by Jeanette Raymond. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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