Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Frustration Anger

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 5, 2014

Anger, frustration, rage, what is the difference? All speak to a profound sense of helplessness and confusion. Molly, thirty-three comes to mind. She just lost her job in the midst of her painful divorce and lengthy custody battle. She yells, seemingly unconsciously, about how her life is so bad and it will never get better. “Do you know that you are yelling?” I ask, because in her screaming she seems detached from her inner world. “I am not angry. I am frustrated,” Molly insists. “Is that an important distinction?” I ask, wondering why she is parsing out her ill feelings. “Maybe culturally speaking, it is not acceptable for a woman to be angry, but it is acceptable to be frustrated?” I suggest, as she thinks about her words. “I just never thought my life would be this way,” Molly says, with the tone suggesting the rage associated with  the injustice of the world. “What did you expect?” I ask, wondering why she thought her life would unfold smoothly. “I went to school to have a stable job and I married a man who I thought I could spend the rest of my life with.” she says, as if someone broke the contract which said that Molly was going to have all that she imagined. “It is hard for you to wrestle with your relationship going sour and your job going sour at the same time?” I say, suggesting that all of life involves risk, which, perhaps, Molly denied, up until the time that the pieces began to tumble. “Yes, I was in horrible denial,” she agrees readily, “but what am I supposed to do now?” She begins to scream again. “Maybe if you could reflect on how you got here, you could move forward in a thoughtful way,” I say, knowing that she is hoping I would give her a specific directive, but also knowing that she needs to calm down in order to think clearly. “It is hard when I am so worried about money,” she says. “Well, it will even be harder if you do not slowly consider how you want to navigate this next chapter in your life. The more control you have in making these decisions, the less angry or frustrated you will feel. Molly calmed down. She seemed to envision taking charge of her life, and in this fantasy, she could diminish her tension. Once again, the mind is a wonderful place to visit, even when the journey  begins with a horrible sense of constriction.

2 Responses to “Frustration Anger”

  1. Shelly said

    I wouldn’t describe Molly’s response as denial. I would agree with you as describing it as helplessness and “being stuck.” The fear and confusion one feels with losing one’s job and divorcing at the same time is a quagmire which leaves someone feeling hopeless. “What do I do now?” “Is it me?” “Is something wrong with me?” “How will I support my family?” “Am I undesirable?” Sometimes people deal with this frustration by screaming, some by crying, some by being reflective. How do you help Molly plan this next phase in her life?

    • The denial part is that her rage is not obvious to her, but it is obvious to me, in that she is screaming at me. My role in helping Molly is to see that the end to her marriage and the end to her job, gives her loss and grief, but at the same time, also an opportunity to make the life she wants to have, for the remaining amount of time that she has on this planet. She can map out her life, with some constraints, in ways in which she imagines, will make her happy. Again, grief is a large part of her experience, but so is the chance to design her next chapter. Thanks.

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