Depression Symptoms and the Role of Rage

Before I began taking on new clients for online counseling in November, it had been quite a while since I’d started therapy with someone new; for the most part, my practice had involved ongoing work with long-term clients who were no longer struggling with depression. A number of people have recently come to me with depression symptoms and I’ve been struck once again by how important it is to understand the role that anger and rage play in so many depressive conditions.

In an earlier post about different types of depression, I discussed severe cases that result from intensely destructive but unconscious rage; I believe unconscious anger plays a major role in less severe conditions, as well. You’ve probably heard depression described as “aggression turned inward”; accordingly to this view, depression symptoms are the result of unresolved and unexpressed anger that is turned inward upon the self instead of being directed outside, at other people. This might account for the apparently unjustified feelings of guilt that often accompany depression symptoms: while the depressed person has no real reason to feel guilty — that is, they haven’t actually done anything in the external world about which they might legitimately feel guilty — their (unconscious) enraged fantasies of wanting to hurt people around them nonetheless inspire feelings of guilt. As therapists, instead of treating the feelings of guilt as irrational and unjustified, we might instead wonder what the person has done (in unconscious fantasy) to justify those feelings.

I’ve also heard many clients with depression symptoms describe themselves as being “a good person”; one such client felt that this was the only thing she had going for her. When being “good” matters so deeply, it’s often because the person is afraid of unconscious “bad” feelings. They want to see themselves as kind, generous, compassionate, etc. because unconsciously, they feel just the opposite. Many years ago, one extremely depressed teenage client told me this story from her childhood: some of her schoolmates had found an injured bird on the playground and were torturing it; my client felt horrified at their cruelty and pleaded with them to stop. As she told me this story, she became tearful, insisting that she could never do such a horrible thing to a helpless creature. Although she didn’t actually say the words “I am a good person,” her story carried that message. She was the kind, compassionate girl who came to the rescue, attempting to save the injured bird from the cruelty of her evil classmates.

As the work progressed, we came to understand that this young woman was carrying a huge amount of unacknowledged rage. In addition to having depression symptoms, she was also a “cutter”; one day she had the following spontaneous fantasy while slicing open the skin of her arm with a razor blade: a mechanical hand with metallic fingers emerged from the opening she had made into her flesh; at that moment, these words came into her thoughts, as if someone were speaking them aloud: “It will take whatever it wants.” Over time, we came to understand the enormous sense of entitlement she felt, her angry desire to be taken care of, to be given whatever she wanted, and the urge to savage those people who didn’t comply with her wishes. The mechanical hand became a metaphor for the ruthless, unfeeling side of her. In the transference, she eventually came to direct this rage and sense of entitlement at me; over time, as she became more able to bear and contain the rage, her depression symptoms abated.

I started my own therapy during college, largely because I was so depressed; over time, my therapist introduced me to a very angry and destructive side of me, the very antithesis of how I viewed myself. Sometimes when I went to a session feeling deeply depressed, my therapist would put me in touch with my unconscious rage and the depression would immediately lift. With many of my own clients, I’ve had the same experience, again and again. Bringing unconscious rage or anger into awareness leads to a lifting of the depression symptoms. It’s not true for all types of depression, of course, but I find it to be an
enormously important tool for the treatment of depression.

Here’s an example of how it might come up early in treatment. One new client — a young woman who struggles with depression symptoms and thoughts of suicide — told me she felt guilty about something she had done. She’d been in conflict with someone else and had tried repeatedly and reasonably to resolve that conflict, all to no avail. She finally took her complaints to a higher authority, which led to the other party receiving a rather harsh punishment. She felt guilty, that she was in some sense responsible for what had happened, even though she rationally believed the other party had been in the wrong and brought it upon himself. On a hunch, I suggested to her that it wasn’t her actions that made
her feel guilty so much as the way she felt about the other person. She said yes, that she’d had repeated fantasies of strangling him, literally. This opened up a whole new field for discussion — the issue of her frightening anger, how to acknowledge and express it.

Although clients at first may resist interpretations about unconscious anger because it challenges their view of themselves as “a good person,” in the end, they find it a relief. Rage may be painful to acknowledge, but splitting it off and denying its presence demands a huge expenditure of psychic energy; many defense mechanisms ultimately weaken the self and sap our power. As I discussed in my post about the film Black Swan, the recovery of the split-off and disowned shadow self can be enormously empowering. Not only does it lead to the lifting of depression symptoms, but it helps people access the aggressive side of themselves — a side they need in order to function and make their way through the world, to defend themselves when necessary, and to go after what they want from life. We may be afraid of our shadow selves, but owning our rage can be a very good thing.

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Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.
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51 Responses to Depression Symptoms and the Role of Rage

  1. Mimi says:

    Hello Dr!
    I can own my rage. I can appreciate I have anger. My problem is knowing how to get it out and deal with it rather than stuffing it, letting it fester. Can you give tips on how to get it out and resolve it once and for all??
    Thanks,
    Mimi

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Hi Mimi. No, I have no tips on how to resolve it “once and for all”. I don’t think that’s possible. Speaking from my own personal experience, it’s more a question of first learning how to bear it, and then not doing anything to fuel it further. I have a tendency to go on long mental rants that justify my rage, as if I have a legitimate reason to feel that way, which just stokes the flames. That’s where I find mindfulness techniques very useful.

    • Catherine says:

      Thankyou again for your invaluable insights. I have found that acknowledging those “bad” (ie:uncharitable,unchristian,unfair or negative) thoughts, helps me discover what I really feel and want to happen. Nothing beats writing it all down, vomit on a page and then sitting back and reading it, at a later stage. In another moment you are able to be more objective and wisely control your thoughts, and subsequent actions. What I hope for is that this “real” perspective will enable me to discover my boundaries and how I choose to treat and be treated by others.

    • Harry Gatley says:

      This is a precise understanding of what I knwo to be true in me. I grew up with a lot of rage over what I saw was incredibly unfair. My Father was a sadist and my Mother a masochist. Their “Punch and Judy” shows along with the sexaul abuse made us five kids really deeply filled with rage. We have high I.Q.’s and hence are now professionals and now in our 60’s. I have had three marriages but no kids. My siblings all had kids. I chose a career path of grave danger living and working covertly rsiking my life all of the time. My rage was turned inward especially after many of my closest associares had been murdered in the line of duty. In the end I was one of a group of 17 and only two of us are still alive. Seven of my friends were beheaded in Algeria in 1996. Now in my dotage I am still fighting with a pattern of rage that reoccurs about once every 3 months. I was arrested in Iraq in 2002 while there with the UN I was trying to cross a srestricted acces bridge one night during Ramadhan. I kept trying to have other kill me all my life. I was an informant against drug dealers and the mob since 1974 and have arranged for dozens of arrests. My third wife is Afghan. It has been difficult as we conflict a lot. She is very dominating and contrlling as she was a member of the Afghan ruling class and is used to having slaves. So I fit the pattern of putting myself into situations of great danger and high pressure and frquently try to throw it all off demanding an “independant life”. I believe I have decided I am happiest when I am the most miserable and fighting each day for survival.

      Is there ANY hope I will one day (before I die) that I will be able to be relaxed and peaceful? Yes I have rage I also have been cheated out of my IP and millions of dollars in my career. I adopted a Jesus Loves You/ Love Your Enemies (i.e. SUCKER) attitude long ago. I think I am a hopeless case!

      • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

        It does sound pretty grim. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but have you considered getting some serious therapy?

  2. Peggy Payne says:

    Very interesting perspective on guilt.

  3. Penny says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I think my current therapy works so well because I’m ‘allowed’ to be all kinds of person. The counsellor before this one (fresh out of training) would insist that I was a ‘quality’ person – so I pretty much stagnated in depression unable to own all the facets of me that didn’t fit with her ideas.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      A lot of new therapists aren’t prepared for or don’t have enough experience yet with depression. I think they also feel that have to “validate” and encourage their clients, which is their idea of being “supportive”. My therapist used to say to me, early on when I accused him of not being ‘supportive’ — “It depends on what you think I should be supporting.” In other words, does the therapist “support” defense and denial, or support the client in coming into contact with his or her actual feelings, even if it means rage.

  4. Dr bob dick says:

    good job, J. I’m also quite interested in usually overlooked role of social/cultural/expectation in “Symptom formation”. It’s truly Amazing, even in seemingly impossible areas like tast pleasure– a new book I’ve heard the author on NPRE & not yet gotten–something like ” Pleasure-the way it works”. b

  5. Gil says:

    Hi Joseph,

    I find it interesting, given the number of comments on all your other blog posts, that there has been none with this one. Maybe we are all afraid of our own rage. Or, maybe I am just speaking about myself. :-)

    Gil

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’ve been behind in approving the comments, but yes, it’s true — far fewer on this particular topic. I do think rage is an unpopular subject. Anger has become much more acceptable in our culture than it was 30 years ago, although usually when it’s discussed as a “useful” emotion — it tells us something about our world and relationships, our dissatisfaction, etc. While I think that’s true, anger isn’t always such a “gift”, to use the current terminology, and rage certainly isn’t either. People generally think rage is “bad” and “destructive” and should therefore be gotten rid of.

  6. SF says:

    I think it’s idiotic and dangerous to encourage anger to relieve depressive symptoms. Imagine if that client you described embraced all her anger and actually did strangle the person she wanted to. How is replacing 1 psychological problem with another healthy? Personally I go through bouts of both depression and anger, and I would much rather be depressed. Much better to let 1 person be depressed and kill themselves than have that person become intensely angry and kill others.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      This comment reflects a complete misunderstanding of the post.

      • SF says:

        I agreed with the post until I hit the last paragraph, where you stated about rage “Not only does it lead to the lifting of depression symptoms, but it helps people access the aggressive side of themselves” – it is clear that you are speaking of the benefits of rage, whereas I see no acknowledgement of the harm it can cause. Probably because you are in control of your rage, so maybe it’s hard for you to understand anger can be far more destructive than depression.

  7. Gil says:

    Dear SF,
    I certainly get a sense of your anger coming through in your two responses, which is okay.
    I do not have the same perspective you have about the danger of anger. It seems to me it is best to embrace and understand anger / rage / depression / etc., then to let them control one’s actions via unconscious reactions, which can lead to harming others or in the case of depression harming one’s self. At the same time, I understand the doing of this can be frightening.

  8. Brandy says:

    Thank you for this piece. It helped me to understand the underlying cause to some or even most of depression symptoms. On heavier days, I am not actually depressed about myself but about my feelings towards others in my life. I actually want to be “rescued” from my troubles and tend to feel guilty about this as I have always been the “dependable” one in my family. I fear being angry because I have so much bottled up from constantly telling myself that “I” can change things if I really want them to change, instead of asking or admitting that I need help from others (spouse) to take some of this pressure from me. I get upset that I should even have to ask, etc and end up in an internal rant that leaves me exhausted. I had to giggle after reading this, I am actually avoiding an argument with my spouse by arguing with myself. It truly defeats the purpose (as normally we actually don’t end up arguing) and resolves nothing. Thank you again for the article, it was very insightful and informative.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’m well familiar with that exhausting internal rant. I have worn myself out so many times that way, and it’s such a relief to be able to break out of it.

  9. Katherine says:

    Not to speak for SF, but his/her posts echo something that comes up all the time between my partner and I. He comes from a family with a history of alcoholism, and spent much of his childhood and adolescence being berated by an enraged father. (Even being in recovery didn’t remedy the situation, I’m sorry to say.) I come from a family where the expression of anger was taboo for parents and children alike, and expressing anger — appropriately or not — is almost physically impossible. I went into the therapy because I was overcome by feelings of rage, and hoped (like an earlier poster) to “get rid of it”, or “move past it.”

    Only in recent weeks have I come to understand that, two years later, that’s not a realistic goal. I am going to feel angry sometimes, despite my idealized self-image as a calm, civilized adult. I’ve begun to work on acknowledging those feelings, and looking for ways to express them that cannot do harm to myself or the people I love. It is hugely startling — as if I just noticed that if you crack these two rocks together, you get a flame.

    But when we talk about this, my partner does tend to feel fear, because he only knows the anger of his alcoholic father. Going forward is scary for both of us, but we’re trying to check in with each other, and trust that history will not repeat itself, or if it does, believe that we can make use of tools his father didn’t have (meditation, therapy, etc.)

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It’s very scary but it’s great that you came to that realization. Does your partner have a therapist to help him with this issue as you come forward with your (legitimate) anger? That might help.

      • Katherine says:

        Yes, I’m happy to say my husband does have a therapist (as do I, but not the same person, obviously), and we’re both working on this stuff with our respective therapists.

        I am finding a lot of helpful insights here — thanks so much for the informative website!

  10. RC says:

    “the recovery of the split-off and disowned shadow self can be enormously empowering. Not only does it lead to the lifting of depression symptoms, but it helps people access the aggressive side of themselves…We may be afraid of our shadow selves, but owning our rage can be a very good thing. ”

    How might you handle a situation where that split-off part of a client is incredibly abusive and punishing to them. Someone might have a part of them that says horrible things about them (understanding of course that they are one in the same person doing the abusing).

    I guess what I’m asking is this: someone has an extremely angry, hurt, dismissed, ignored, split-off part themselves that desperately wants to be hear and felt (and rightfully so). But what about when that same part is also causing the depression or the anxiety or whatever by attacking and punishing the more conscious part of the self?

    Thanks again for this wonderful site. I’m learning a great deal.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s an excellent question. I do understand what you mean. The person still needs to “own” that part — and it can be very hard to get that person to acknowledge that, in some way, they “agree” with that split off destructive part. Once they do, they can think about it and have more choice over what they actually give control to. I realize that this isn’t a very satisfying response. The answer, from my experience, involves the expression of that destructive part within the transference between client and therapist and it takes a long time to work through.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for your insight. I understand your point I think; that by not accepting the troublesome parts of us we only make matters worse because we’re still disowning it. My therapist tells me that in some way, I’m getting some kind of unconscious pleasure or satisfaction from my disowned self, which of course is never something like like to hear. After all, how could I be getting pleasure from so much pain?

        Thanks again.

  11. sue says:

    I realised as I was reading this that as well as splitting off the rage and trying to bury it because I needed to be ‘good’, I had tended to enter relationships which in fact confirmed this – my ex husband for instance – loved pre-raphaelite paintings where women are either revered and virginal or completely the opposite. He had great difficulty dealing with the reality of women being a bit of everything! He wanted me to be pure and motherly and hated the ‘otherside’ of me, I’ve been caught up in freindships which do the same – its like a homing device – I just go where these things can be confirmed rather than challenged – living with it for so long makes it comfortable if painful – the challenge for me know is to acknowledge honestly what I am doing and develop relationships which challenge these beliefs.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You’re right, that’s the challenge. I think most of us tend to end up with people who confirm or support our own defensive maneuvers. When we grow and change the way we deal with ourselves — with our rage, for instance — it puts extreme pressure on the relationship and threatens the other person, who doesn’t want his own equilibrium upset.

  12. Jules says:

    How, exactly, does a therapist go about encouraging a person to access the rage? Is it done directly by provoking or shaming the client? By encouraging them to talk about their anger? Is it done aggressively, or gently? Does it happen via accident in the course of a long therapeutic relationship? Does it hurt? :)

    I also want to add in response to an above post that that anger (can be) a higher and potentially more healing/transforming energy (when used correctly) than shame or depression or apathy. It’s a stepping stone.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      For me, the anger usually comes up in the transference without my having to try to provoke it (a practice I disapprove of, BTW). If a client has anger issues and needs to express the anger, he or she will find a way to bring it into our relationship. This can be a very difficult experience for both client and therapist, but it’s where the growth occurs — finding out that anger can be expressed, tolerated and understood. I also agree with you, that accessing anger can be a very healing experience. I have a client now who leads a very inhibited, restricted life and feels unable to express herself or take decisive action in her life. In our work, she’s expressing a lot of rage at me, rage that frightens and distresses her, but I believe in the long run, once she’s able to bear those feelings and integrate them, she’ll be a much stronger and effective person for it.

  13. Beth says:

    I have been traumatized by my own actions when the unacknowledged enraged part of me slipped past my defenses and caused injury to another person. For many years I said to myself “how could I have done that? I’m not the type of person who could do that.” And yet I did that, so I am that person. But in all other ways in my life, that day remains an aberration. I constantly guard against it ever happening again. In some ways, it is like I have PTSD except that I am the perpetrator . And I am deeply ashamed of what I did. I am 100% guilty of doing the wrong thing on that one day. Since then, I have been depressed and I came very close to killing myself 2 months ago. How can I find a way to access the enraged part of me when I’m afraid of what will happen if I experience it again? I don’t want to be that out of control person ever again.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I was out of town last week and couldn’t respond earlier — sorry! It sounds to me as if your rage is still fairly split-off and isolated, until the point where it erupts. What you need to do is find a way so that the felt rage is not an “aberration”, as you put it, but something you’re confronting on a daily basis until you can manage it better. But I think you reject that part of you and want to get rid of it entirely.

      • Anonymous says:

        Getting out of town is often a good idea. Thanks for your reply.
        I have thought about being able to confront my negative feelings on a daily basis. I don’t know how to start. If I go back to the original incident which happened a long time ago, I remember feeling helpless, exhausted, and frustrated but not angry. I’m assuming that the violence came from anger…but I barely knew the person who suffered from my actions. I am appalled to think that anger at something or someone else resulted in the injury of this man simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
        If you are saying that the answer is to express ordinary anger
        whenever I feel it then that sounds like an excellent plan. I also exercise a lot now- this can’t hurt. I am still afraid however. I still think that something dark and menacing lurks inside of me and I don’t know why it is there.
        Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed information. I look forward to reading more.
        Beth

  14. Cynthia says:

    I hope you will wrote more some time about that idea of actually loving your patients and having them feel your love. As a patient, that makes me very uncomfortable and like the relationship is a sort of emotional prostitution or making love into a commodity that can be both bought and sold.

  15. Kimberly Thomas says:

    Ok so I am combing through this website or blog which I just discovered (I’ve blogged only a couple of times before, definately out of touch). And I am finding all of these great blogs and replies and discussions and feel like replying but it’s like MONTHS later which in blog time seems more like YEARS later so I am probably writing into some empty vacuum but hey I’m gonna try anyway and OWN it. And if no one sees it I will still value it and love it as just my own post to myself…..Anyway, I totally think of myself as this great good kind person and then suddenly find myself getting so angry and yes-rageful. Alot at myself but also others. (definately my therapist poor guy) and many times GOD. I yell at God all the time for putting me into this mess. It is weird and slightly funny looking at it from the outside but it is really painful to truly feel my own rage because yes, then everything else comes, guilt, more intense feelings of shame about who I am, realizations about my parents horrible rage and that I could be the same as them??? And then realizing I am using lots of energy suppressing this rage. I’m betting though, like someone mentioned earlier, that these “shadow” aspects of ourselves can be useful and one can learn lots from them. I suppose this is a huge part of good therapy, its always nice to have a guide and support at your side when we are looking at these hard parts of ourselves. It also takes lots of courage.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Even though this is an older post, people still makes comments from time to time, as with many of the other ones on my site. It does take a lot of courage, as you say, and yes, it’s nice to have someone supportive at your side. In my view, there are many advantages to owning your rage; being in denial about who we are, believing ourselves to be “nice” is actually enfeebling from my experience. Ever see “Black Swan”?

      • Kimberly Thomas says:

        No I haven’t, I am slightly afraid to. Thank you for your reply. I do feel Enfeebled sometimes. Nice word. I know you wrote something about “Black Swan”. I will find it, and maybe see the movie. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks again!

  16. Kimberly Thomas says:

    Oh yeah and all that suppressed rage must have a lot to do with my chronic depression which is what started this blog a millineum ago.

  17. m. jennings says:

    I just came across your web site and believe this is what my husband is going through. He needs help and I can’t get anyone to listen to me, they all think he’s on drugs and he’s not. We recently returned from vacation and while on it, he started becoming agitated over little things, to the point that he would lash out at me verbally. He would get his blood pressure up to the point he would start cold sweats, and then he would not sleep well. He started getting up earlier and earlier and saying he just could not sleep. He would get angry about people on cell phones, because they cause wrecks, or people that smoke because they throw their butts down anywhere. The day we returned home, we had people with us who were on vacation with us, the house sitter was there as well. He immediately called his brother to tell him to come over, and he did. Suddenly my husband went into a rage that he called an intervention for his brother about his drug use. Next thing we knew he was trying to get someone to hit him, picking out personal things and angrily trying to enrage the other person. Needless to say, everybody left and I was alone with his rage. He has never reached out and hurt me or attempted to, but he wants me to leave him, and I wont because I love him. He called his parents at 1:30 in the morning and told them he needed to go to the hospital for help. They came to pick him up and took him to their house where he ranted about things people had done to him years ago that hurt him emotionally, including his parents and siblings. He hates his job but stays because he has worked there 28 years and looks forward to his long vacations, but his job is depressing him, and his supervisor is hateful towards him. In the week that we have been back he has gone to a biker bar and called them out then fought the police when they arrived to remove him, but he hasn’t drank since 95 and was not drinking that night. I was asleep when he left to do this, and got a call at 1:30am from his mother that he was in the ER, and had wrecked his bike and I needed to get up there. He wasn’t injured but he was still extremely angry. The next day he went to his doctors office and had some blood work done, his brother took him. When he returned home he turned on his brother and started to get angry with him again, then jumped on his other bike and roared off without his glasses to his lawyers office. I chased him up there in the car and he ended up getting thrown out of the lawyers office. His parents and I took him to a mental hospital where he signed in but refused any drugs for treatment due to past problems with addiction. He checked himself out on Thursday and they told me it was because he refused to take drugs for treatment after they told us they could help him without them. Friday morning while my son was here, I had an anxiety attack and fainted at home. He called the ambulance and my son followed in his car but my husband insisted on riding his bike. Upon arriving at the hospital, he immediately went off on the security officer and the police were called and he was taken to jail for assault because he resisted arrest. Later after being released from the hospital, I got him out of jail. He was still angry, and by that afternoon he was back in jail with another assault charge for resisting arrest. He is still there and I am afraid to get him out because he’s going to do it again. He is not on drugs and has no history of aggressive behavior, and no prior police record, although he now has 3 assault charges in 1 weeks time. Everyone thinks I am lying to them about him being on drugs because he’s acting like he is whacked out on speed, and nobody will help me. Even the cops are angry with me and saying I’m covering for him. They think I should be fearful of him, and I’m not. I am in fear for him. I can not find anyone to listen to me, until I started to read about this, and I understand what you are saying, but I don’t know what to do or where to turn to get him help. Can you help me find some help for him? I love him so much and I am afraid if I can’t help him soon I will lose him to this rage and he will go over the edge and not return. Please……

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      He obviously needs professional help. You can’t do this alone. He probably needs to be hospitalized for a time, to protect himself and other people, but I understand why he doesn’t want medication. These days, it’s very difficult to find a medical environment that doesn’t immediately resort to drugs. From your description, I can’t identify what is happening, and why this started. Was there some precipitating event? Has there always been a low-level anger around the place? How long has he been depressed?

    • Jon Obermark says:

      He probably does need professional help. But it is hard to get someone to seek help, especially once they feel betrayed by the system.

      If he is out of an AA direction, you might point him back at his program. He might most readily be convinced to get help by others who see themselves as addicts of anger. Although they seldom have their own meetings, they often show up in open AA meetings, because alcoholics often realize that their addiction can just move to a different substance or behavior.

      If he is the kind of person who would never go to, or would never go back to a meeting, there are variants of the program that take a broader, less religious view, and are still effective. SMART and HAMS have worked for folks near me.

      The program would also have some access to know therapists who share their value of avoiding all drugs, but are still effective.

  18. kathleen Gorman says:

    Many of us were rasised in spritiual traditions which seemed to blatantly or implicitly shame/make bad even FEELING anger .

    Because of spirtual teachings which taught that anger was “unloving”—–I perceived myself as being a “bad” person for feelng/expressing it. Consequently, if I felt anger I was a felt even increased shame ……which caused me to turn the anger inward on myself far more than would a child who had not grown up without these spiritual beliefs.

    I currently hold to universal spiritual beliefs re: love, kindness, etc.,…..and want to balance these principles within my daily life——“where the rubber meets the road.”

    Have you addressed this topic yet? The shame/sin of even feeling, let alone expressing anger can be a huge roadblock to personal awareness/growth in or out of psychotherapy.

    I have noticed that a number of “spiritual” people (though not all!) have the abovementioned
    issues, too, to a greater or lesser degree…….but choose to deny or minimize the seeming incongruity between spiritual teachings about anger/shadow issues and their emotional reality——which actually causes further suffering for the individual and those around him/her.
    I would greatly appreciate it if you could address the avovementioned bind that people on the spiritual path so often find themselves in and the whole topic of “spiritual bypass” in
    general.

    Thank you so much for your deep thinking, insights and honesty!

    Kathleen

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Kathleen, it’s an issue I’ve addressed in work with particular clients but not in a post. The spiritual reinforcement of splitting, and the consequent shame that comes with “failure” is familiar to me. Let me see if I have anything further to write on this issue.

  19. KP says:

    I just read this. I think this takes a giant step forward in addressing anger and depression as well as anger in and of itself. I remember my dad being told (probably by a counselor but i was not privy to all that as a kid – actually i think it was by his physician) to express his anger rather than holding it in – for his health and blood pressure. We went through a period where he yelled alot, lol… Taking this a step further is such a good thing. The point is not to just recognize and react rather than repress. It is to understand it, and yes, to ‘act’. Act ‘on it’ not act ‘out’. thanks.

  20. Jon Obermark says:

    I agree that as a tactic this works. But I think that this take on depression is too widespread, and it keeps a lot of men from seeking help. Because rage is a symptom of depression for a lot of us.

    I know that my own depression is often about being understood and accepted. It often takes the form of rage at critical or doctrinaire people who misunderstand others in front of me and won’t extend them empathy. In the past I have run on that rage as a source of energy for weeks at a time.

    I see lots of suffering guys pull anger out of its box and wave it around and have their fear and hopelessness go away. It is like a drug. And it has a massive backend of guilt, which just complicates their depression. (And guys in our culture like their drugs, and use them despite their backends way, way too much.)

    If adrenalin really is that much of a drug, then it can, of course, be used therapeutically to address depression, like other drugs. But that doesn’t make the anger causal.

    And that framing is very bad for a lot of men. If depression is anger turned inward, what does it mean when the anger is turned outward and still tortures you? To most people, it somehow means you are just an a-hole, and suffering torture you deserve.

  21. I really enjoyed this article. This article really help me a lot. Once upon time i have depressed mentally and physically i dont know how to rectify this kind of depression. Now i have normally cure why because you giving nice tips for me. thank u very mucg.

  22. Ryan says:

    What a great article. I have been running from my “Mr Hyde” for many, many years. And now I see my child starting to struggle w a major temper and it’s heart-breaking. I have been in therapy on and off for years bc of depression and anxiety but never specifically over the rage issue. I’m going to start by talking w my therapist about this but would also welcome any other comments or suggestions on getting started and how best to let the anger out appropriately, particularly in front of my child. We practice deep breathing together when he is struggling, and that helps for sure, and sometimes we both start laughing (this happens when I am mad too) but I hope I am not inadvertently teaching him to avoid the monster and suppress his anger rather than working through it.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Hi Ryan — and apologies for taking so long to reply. I don’t have any specific advice to offer. It sounds like what you’re doing is excellent. In my work (and in my own therapy), I find that bringing the anger directly into the therapist-client relationship is extremely helpful for learning how to manage it — that is, within the context of a relationship where your therapist presumably won’t lose his mind and retaliate against you for being enraged.

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