“Anger is progress.”

“Is it?”
“Yes. When someone comes to me and tells me they’re depressed, I think to myself – what are you angry about? I get excited when my clients get angry, because that generally means things are about to change.”
I recall an altercation I’d had the previous week.
“Well right now, I’m so angry with her. With how she spoke to me. How she treated me. But the worst thing was her telling me over and over. What I can’t do. What my limitations are. Like… how f**king dare she? She can’t tell me what I can’t do. I’m going to do it, just to spite her. I’m going to get that job and I’m going to be the f**king best at it.”
I paused and regained my composure. My counsellor waited for a moment to see if I’d add anything, before gently asking –

“Would you say that you’re more motivated by someone telling you ‘you can’t do it’, than someone telling you that you can?”

I thought for a minute. “That’s difficult. I mean, I love it when people are positive and supportive and encouraging. That’s really validating and I do draw some confidence from that.”
“But?”
“But it’s that ‘no you can’t’ that lights that fire. It’s the indignation that drives me. That makes me hellbent on success.”
“What if she’s really determined as well?”
“She can be as determined as the hell she likes,” I quipped with more confidence than I’ve ever heard myself speak with. “Because one way or another I’m going to get what I want, and I’m going to prove her wrong. It’s funny. If she thought verbally abusing me like that was going to put me off, put me down, stop me from trying. She clearly has no idea at all, does she? She’s just pushed me even closer to my goals.”

My counsellor commented here about the positives of anger, which aren’t often spoken about. We tend to see anger as a negative thing, but here it is – driving me to push the limits, achieve, succeed, get into a career I’ve wanted for years.

But at the same time, I’ve noticed, it’s making me reckless. This is hard to reconcile with my anxiety, and the behaviours seem very out of character both to myself and to others around me. People have accused me of being thoughtless… but on the contrary, I think very carefully, weigh up the risk, and decide I want to do whatever it is more than I care about the consequences.

My counsellor suggests that I’m just testing and pushing the limits. Now that I’ve connected to my anger, things are starting to change. I’m in a strange place, expressing feelings I don’t normally express. So I’ll go through a phase of trying things out, inevitably finding they don’t work, trying something else. I’m pretty sure I’m not on a path to self-destruction at least, I’m on track with my studies and with this job application.

I’m just a little bit lost and trying to find my place again, now that the miserable, neurotic foundations I’ve built my entire life around are beginning to shift.

It feels strange. Unnerving. Different.

But I guess she’s right.

It’s progress.

How do you know what’s genuine?

“You really connected with your anger just now. It seemed really authentic.”
“I don’t normally think of myself as an angry person.”
“What do you think of yourself as?”
“I’m more often sad. I think sadness is my racket emotion. I tend to turn anger into sadness, mostly subconsciously. I’m much more comfortable expressing sadness. I’m good at being sad.”
It seemed a weird thing to say, but she didn’t say so.

We got into a conversation about how I’m good at expressing an emotion I’m not actually feeling, particularly an emotion which I think the other person wants me to feel. If I think they’ll respond well to happiness, sadness, anger, vulnerability, strength, whatever – I try to show that.

Perhaps it’s easy for me because I dissociate so readily.

But then how am I meant to know what I’m actually feeling?

“I didn’t see any anger in you for the first few weeks,” my therapist notes. “Perhaps you feel more comfortable, that you can show that side?”
I just nodded and she continued.
“That’s good. This is a safe space where you can express any emotions without any judgement. None of them are wrong. They’re all okay.”
“That’s different to the real world. Certain emotions are less okay there. I’m not supposed to be angry. I’m supposed to hold it in.”

So I’m suppressing emotions. Notably anger that I didn’t know I was feeling. I vented and ranted for a while and then it disappeared suddenly. I felt my body change as the emotion disappeared. It felt real, powerful. Then… what am I feeling the rest of the time? If I actually let myself connect to what I really felt, would I even be able to control it?