I shall let you in to a little secret. One of my favourite types of client is an angry client. For those that know me, I am very un-confrontational and abhor aggression, so it appears strange (to me at least) that within the therapy room I am very comfortable and at ease with angry clients.
I should point out that in the bigger world there are two types of angry people:
The first type is like you and me, life leads to frustrations, perceived and real injustices, career paths that they compare to ‘successful’ people as being failures, past-looking events that have never been dealt with, trust issues, family feuds etc etc. These events can lead to a boiling point where anger is expressed in forms of verbal or physical expression. The physical side is never aimed at others, rather it’s to objects or self, however the verbal outbursts can feel more personal to others and is really designed to push people away. This behaviour makes people close to them uncomfortable and perhaps fearful. These are my clients and they can be helped.
The second type of angry person is the sociopath. These individuals use anger as an art form in what appears to be unpredictable ways but in reality are targeted theatrics to gaslight, to cower, to control and ultimately dominate. These people would never come to me as their narcissism would never ever allow them to admit that they have the problem, and if it wasn’t for the ‘idiots’ around them, they wouldn’t get angry in the first place. These people cannot be helped and are toxic to everyone they touch, they are predatory and will ultimately break you, or at the very least subdue you into a shadow of who you are. Their victims are my clients and that’s for another article.
So why do I love working with anger? Well, angry people burn bridges, they push people away, they make life for themselves very difficult. It is a rather theatrical form of self-harm, not so different from over-eating, smoking or any other life-style choice that causes self-harm. For angry people, the behaviour works for them, they perversely feel comfortable knowing that others accuse them of being angry because it keeps people away or at least at arms length. They act like a grumpy cat, all claws and hissing. They then convince themselves that they aren’t a nice person and this isolation fuels this belief, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When angry people stop being angry, friendship recover, family feuds start healing, they start seeing joy around them, things become pleasurable and they start living their life. That’s why I love working with my anger clients because the changes are like night and day. Within the first session (for those that already know, it’s the brain stuff on how and why our brain does what it does), I always get the client to move from closed behaviour (arms crossed, face stern, challenging me to change their lives) to smiling, relaxed body language and laughing. I also see a spring in their step as they walk back to their car, they walk taller.
Oh, and for the record, anger is never mentioned again in the therapy room. It is a behavioural symptom of other stuff that gets dealt with. Why focus on the ‘problem’ of reducing the anger when we can focus on living a happy and joyful life without the anger in first place. I have the best job in the world.