Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer


Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 28, 2010

   Marla,,, told Monte ” you get so angry that I just can’t deal with you.” Monte paused. Anger is a complicated feeling, yet so often, it is an outgrowth of feeling misunderstood, deprived of attention. Marla, although a psychotherapist, feels this anger to be assaulting and unacceptable. Monte, in direct contrast, feels justified in feeling upset that he cannot trust someone he thought he could. This clash results in Marla’s contradiction; at first she insists they are “breaking-up,”  and then she says “let’s meet face to face to discuss this.” The ambivalence dominates their relationship because if Marla could stand back and look at Monte as a separate person who has hopes and expectations which were unfulfilled, then Marla could be helpful.  Marla’s low self-image makes it impossible for her to analyze her feelings. She has to react to her emotions, not think about them.

     Heinz Kohut pioneered the concept that anger is an aggression which is self-defense against the destruction of one’s sense of self. In other words, anger is a way that one maintains his dignity when he feels he was mistreated. This is a healthy anger which maintains one sense of power in their world. When one views anger as a way of protecting the “self” then one can be understanding and less reactive. Anger is a signal which should prompt curiosity and understanding, similar to a child who screams after a fall, a parent wonders what happens;  he does not get mad at the child for screaming.

   Marla is blaming Monte for reacting to his disappointment. Monte understands this, but at the same time, he feels cornered that if he cannot make peace with Marla, he must find a new professional outlet; a new teaching opportunity. Monte could make this whole episode blow over by colluding with Marla’s revised history If Monte does not show his anger towards Marla, their relationship could be repaired. The farce, the make-believe relationship would help Monte stay involved professionally, but personally, he would feel like a fraud. The irony; the psychoanalytic field which theoretically promotes authenticity,  in Monte’s case is promoting pandering to people in power. Not surprising, Monte thinks, an organization is an organization. Power struggles often dominate the direction. Monte accepts that. He is still angry at Marla.

6 Responses to “Anger”

  1. Suzi said

    Oh poor Monte. I feel for him but I also understand Marla. Its strange how there has to be ‘fault’ or ‘blame’ but for some reason there does. It’s a bit of an impasse isn’t it? The fantasy of ‘what is happening’ is so different in both their heads.

    The self is a very guarded thing isn’t it? I heard that ‘self’ is what we imagine others see us as; what we ‘think’ others think us to be. That’s more mental made up stuff too. There’s just so much of that in us – I don’t understand why.

    Relations and the people/targets are/can be pretty tricky things… especially if they’re important to us.

    So for Monte the choices are; either pretend or be real.

    I can understand though… I think fear is a fairly common thing that confuses and both Monte and Marla seem to be in that place.


    Trust is a pretty big (actually more like Humongously important) thing in our lives isn’t it? But its something that can be so easily betrayed – and the actual act; the betrayal itself, can, and often is, painted as something else completely… hence the blame game I guess.

    Aww… its a bit yucky isn’t it?

    • Shirah said

      Hi Suzi,
      Thank you for your comments. How do you understand Marla? Do you feel for her because it is hard to be at the other end of Monte’s anger? Yes, it is an impasse. Monte believes that since he is in a junior position, that it is not a level playing field, and hence he cannot fix it.

      The definition of “self” is variable. Kohut defined “self” as an agent of change-the conductor, if you will.

      Marla seems fearful that her “self” will be destroyed by Monte’s anger. Monte is fearful that his relationship with Marla will never mend, given Marla’s tendency towards self-deception.

      Trust is indeed the point. The trust that someone we care about will “show up” when we need them. The other person gets selfish and then this feels like a betrayal, even though in Marla’s case it is less an act against Monte, and more an act to preserve Marla. Since Marla has no conscious intent to hurt Monte, she is confused as to why Monte is portraying her as untrustworthy. Marla can only see things from her point of view which is that Marla wishes Monte well, but many times, often times, she cannot “show up” for him, because of her own personal flaws. Marla seems to know she has major personality flaws and hence Monte’s anger makes Marla feel terrible about herself. She cannot take it.

      Thank you again for your comments. It is fun to “talk” to you. SV

      • Shelly said


        You wrote, “Since Marla has no conscious intent to hurt Monte, she is confused as to why Monte is portraying her as untrustworthy.” Doesn’t she? She has no soncscious intent to hurt Monte? Isn’t she trying to protect her professional image by denying Monte’s claims? What if others in the psychoanalytic community heard what Monte thought of Marla? Wouldn’t they start thinking less of her?

        I’m not convinced that Marla’s actions are unintentional. I think she is controlling the situation in its entirety.

        • Shel,
          Well, this is a gray area. Marla is self-serving and in so doing is hurting Monte terribly. This is slightly different than if she wanted to hurt Monte directly. Yes, she is trying to protect her personal and her professional self image. Yes, Monte’s reputation is damaged, to the extent that people are aware of the interchange. Again, Marla is controlling the situation. I agree. I just think it is a fine line between malicious intent and self-preservation. Either way, Monte suffers, and Marla is unconcerned. I see a spectrum of hurtful behavior and Marla is on that spectrum, but she could be a lot worse.

  2. Suzi said

    Marla? Gosh – not because Monte is angry, surely his anger is a given… they are in relationship; it’s business and not personal… they’re not married or anything. If they were married then yes… I would feel greatly for Monte.

    Well, I don’t really know how Monte or Marla are feeling (I’m not either of them) and I’m not terribly certain of which self-deceptions are at the fore. Both Monte and Marla seem to assume that the other are capable of self-deceptions. This sounds like a weaning process of some kind. But I’m not terribly sure if the weaning process is more difficult for one or both parties. They each have enjoyed the dividends (payoffs?) from their relationship.

    The breaking off – it seems that Marla is looking the other way so as not to feel the need of something she feels it’s time to let go of, and Monte is just wanting some of the dividends that he feels he deserves from all the work he’s that’s gone into getting this thing happening in the first place. Or is that just the mother in me talking? Hmm…

    I looked up talking… I can’t imagine feeling a need to be angry at/with you. I am enjoy this story very much… thank you.

    • Business and personal blur, as it usually does. The emotions cannot be sifted out of the professional aspects. I don’t think Marla assumes that Monte has self-deceptions. I don’t think Marla thinks about Monte that much, but rather Marla is acting in her own self-interest (as we all do), but for Marla this means that she is not protective of Monte and that hurts Monte very much. There could be a weaning process or a cut-off process. The story is unfolding (in my head).

      As before, thank you for your thoughtful comments. SV

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