What do you scream when you are angry
Getting angry about an adult tantrum
When Rebecca came for treatment, she complained that she kept losing friends and friends because she's a fortune teller and people didn't appreciate telling the truth. It turns out that what she calls "being honest" and "telling the truth" is actually an adult tantrum.
How do you know if you are expressing yourself? Anger in an appropriate manner or with a fit of tantrum? Let's see what happened when Rebecca was mad at her friend Betsy for being late for dinner.
# 1: do you scream and scream when you are angry?
When Betsy arrived, Rebecca started yelling at her before taking her seat. "What's wrong with you!"
She could have said, "I'm really upset. I've been sitting here alone for half an hour and I didn't know whether you would come or not." That would have expressed her anger and explained why she was angry without raising her voice.
# 2: do you curse when you're angry?
Rebecca yelled, "I'm fucking sorry."
She could have said, "I'm really upset that you're so late."
# 3: Bring up old injuries and use scattershot attacks from years ago instead of sticking to the problem at hand?
Rebecca said, "You always do this, you're always late. I can't stand it, you were late for my dinner party last year and even my college graduation."
She could have said, "This isn't the first time you've done this. It's a pattern."
# 4: Are you making broad accusations like "You are a bad person!" or "Nobody likes you!"
Rebecca yelled, "None of your friends can take it! Nobody wants to go out with you!"
She could have said, "I know you don't want to piss me off, but if you're late all the time, I feel like I don't matter to you. You don't think about how you act myself will make me feel. "
# 5: Do you make high stakes threats?
Rebecca said, "I'll never go on a lunch or dinner date with you again. I can't stand being disregarded over and over again."
She could have said, "I hate to meet you."
# 6: Do you let the other person answer or ask for an answer?
Rebecca finally stopped yelling at Betsy and demanded an explanation: "Why do you do this all the time? What's wrong with you?"
When Betsy didn't answer, Rebecca attacked her. "Well what's wrong with you?"
She could have asked, "Can you understand why I get so upset when you're late?"
While Rebecca was perfectly entitled to be mad at Betsy for being late, she was not entitled to have a tantrum and attack her. This is an important distinction that many people with tantrums fail to understand. Rebecca merged with good reason to be angry when she was entitled to abuse someone who had hurt her. When we discussed this in our sessions, Rebecca kept repeating that she had the right to be angry, to keep Betsy waiting. It took her a while before she thought I would agree with her that having to wait in a restaurant was annoying. It was only when she accepted that her anger was justified that she was able to separate the two elements: legitimate anger and an abusive tantrum.
P.S. Betsy got up and left the table and that was the end of their friendship. If Rebecca had been able to express her anger more adequately, they might have ended their dinner and continued their friendship.
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