Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for July 21st, 2011

Angry Patients

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 21, 2011


   Karen, sixty-two, sees me twice a week, like clockwork. Recently, I had to change one of her times, an action I resist, but I had no choice. “That’s OK, I will just come one time next week. It does not matter.” Karen says, with hostility that hits me in a way that is consistent with her quiet way of being angry. The following session she says “I don’t know what to talk about,” again, I am feeling a passive-aggressive feeling where she resigns from initiating a discussion, but she is mad that not more happens in psychotherapy.

      “I have been thinking about our last session,” I say, making her look surprised. “When I was sorry to have to change our schedule, you said it did not matter and that made me think that you were angry.” I said, expecting her to be taken aback by my comment, but instead she said “of course, I am angry. Wouldn’t you be?” “I am not sure what you mean,” I say, knowing that Karen’s style is to obscure what she is talking about by not telling me her entire thought. “My life is ruined. My husband walked out on me. My kids are doing their own things. I am old. I am fat. I am lonely. Of course, I am angry.” Karen says, with tears running down her face. The tone changed dramatically. Her sadness came through after her anger subsided. Instead of feeling devalued by Karen, I began to feel her pain. She was struggling and her anger was her defense.

   “I can see why you are angry,” I said. “It seems like your life is not what you expected it to be; not what you want it to be.It also seems like you don’t feel much hope that you can make it better.” I said, feeling like I was understanding her feeling state. I began to learn more about her childhood, as she told me how she felt her life was going to turn out when she was growing up. She wanted to share with me how she felt about her mom and dad. I felt like we surprisingly opened up a new chapter in our relationship. She did not seem angry. She was comfortable sharing her history. Anger is pretty interesting; there is always some deeply meaningful material behind it. Anger, to me, feels like a door. Sometimes they are hard to open, sometimes pretty easy, but either way, when you can get in, there are rooms to explore.

Posted in Anger, Psychotherapy | 5 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: