Anger and Relationships

Alaine De Botton on anger:

Not sure if this really Seneca’s take on Anger. It interesting though. The essential take on anger is that it is the result of holding unrealistic expectations and that more pessimism will help calm you down.

Anger is a philosophical problem with a philosophical solution. Perhaps a bit like CBT?

My philosophical response is that it is not sufficient. Unrealistic expectations can equally lead to sadness and then it is usually framed as disappointment. However there is something to this philosophical take. Our thoughts not the other persons behaviour are at the root of anger.

A fuller take on this idea from Marshall Rosenberg:

In short: Anger is the way we get a signal that there is an unmet need. I think he uses the example of the “check engine light”.

I’m aware of another form of anger that is not really either of the above. Anger at injustice. this is from wikipedia: “Socialism is the flame of anger against injustice.” I think of this being tied in with our fight response, adrenalin rushing to survive against onslaught. This not just in the eye of the beholder as some might say. Inequality, sexism, racism, exploitation and oppression really do exist. There is a good fight. Anger at violation of human rights surely is a good thing.

There are a couple of traps here though. Take this site:

Question: “How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?”

Answer: We can know for sure that our anger or indignation is righteous when it is directed toward what angers God Himself. Righteous anger and indignation are justly expressed when we are confronted with sin. Good examples would be anger toward child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexual activity, abortion, and the like.

Makes sense if you think God is against gay rights and women’s right to choose. But it does not make sense in the real world. Investigation is the key to knowing waht is real.

~

Anger and Psychotherapy

I’ve heard this a lot in my profession:

“Anger is a socially suppressed emotion and people – especially women – need a safe place to get in touch with their anger. Expression of anger leads to discovering the emotions under the anger, being assertive and getting needs met. Anger is not the same as violence.”

The trouble with this is that it does not work like that if the person comes home and thinks it is a good idea to be angry with their partner. In some way anger can easily lead to violence verbal, emotional and physical. Marshall Rosenberg’s principle that other people are not the cause of our anger needs to be taken into the picture more fully than it often is.

It is easy for a therapist to side with the person in front of them. To see their side of the story. Much harder to concretise the “other” in the room with the other perspective.

~

Angry Couples

In psychotherapy with couples the question about the nature of anger is important. It is held by many couple therapists that people who choose to be together in an intimate relationship are in a “horizontal relationship”. The tenet is that as therapists we should not take sides, but be a catalyst to the healing potential in the relationship. From an Imago website:

Romantic love is the door to a committed relationship and/or marriage and is nature’s way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.

In my work with couples I can hold that trust that the couples are equally wounded and that the power struggle can be nasty and that they have equal responsibility to get out of it. Each partner can take full responsibility for the relationship.

Talk so the other will listen.
Listen so the other will talk.

Even when there seems to be abuse of power, it usually does not take long to get to the fear, hurt, powerlessness and vulnerability under the surface. All problems in the relationship are co-created. i.e. the way one partner talks leads to the way the other listens – learn to talk without blaming shaming and criticism. Learn to listen so the other will talk. Even social inequalities can be addressed with this principle. I’m amazed how far I can take that principle in my work with couples. I’m amazed because I don’t think society is an even playing field.

Male Privilege

Look at the list here “160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life”. This social inequality seeps deeply onto marriage and committed relationships.

Michael White years ago drew my attention to a Gregory Bateson idea: there are “restraints of feedback and restraints of redundancy” The feed back ones are created on the level playing field.

The other restraint is due to the social values that are the ruin of a relationship.

Therapist’s Values

William Doherty is very good at seeing and responding to the social forces that mess up relationships. His book Take Back Your Marriage, Second Edition: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart is excellent. All about the restraints of redundancy to use Bateson’s impossible jargon.

In the psychotherapy Networker he advocates:

The biggest problem in couples therapy, beyond the raw incompetence that sadly abounds, is the myth of therapist neutrality, which keeps us from talking about our values with one another and our clients. If you think you’re neutral, you can’t frame clinical decisions in moral terms, let alone make your values known to your clients. That’s partly why stepfamilies and fragile couples get such bad treatment from even good therapists. Stepfamily life is like a morality play with conflicting claims for justice, loyalty, and preferential treatment. You can’t work with remarried couples without a moral compass. Fragile couples are caught in a moral crucible, trying to discern whether their personal suffering is enough to cancel their lifetime commitment, and whether their dreams for a better life outweigh their children’s needs for a stable family. The therapist’s moral values are writ large on these clinical landscapes, but we can’t talk about them without violating the neutrality taboo. And for clients, there’s the scary fact that what therapists can’t talk about may be decisive in the process and outcome of their therapy.

I think this is tricky terrain. I think it best to focus on the co-creation of the relationship rather than the unequal society it is born from. That is a value I have because there is a lot a couple can do to address these issues in their relationship IF they can connect.

Still I am pleased to have the “permission” to have values, to weave them in in such a way that I am not seen as taking sides, because I am not.

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Psychological and Social

Psychodrama and sociodrama. Psychodramatic roles and social roles.  What is the difference?

Understandings I have about what is not the difference:  Psyche is “inner” and social is “outer”.

Psychodrama is about social and cultural atom.  Is there a psychological atom? I don’t think so.

I have a story that the might be a clue about when the psyche is at work. This happens often, and again recently I co-led a group.  We spent an hour or two warming up to the group (we had little idea who would be there).  We made a good connection.  One way was that we enjoyed discussion was about anger, how to work with it in a psychodrama? The other fun thing was sharing the tv programmes we liked.

The first words in the group were how to deal with anger.  And the first drama had quite a focus on Netflix.

I have always put this down to there being a sociometric matrix at work.  It does seem like Jung’s synchronicity and “objective psyche”? Even when we use the word psyche for that it a SOCIOmetric phenomenon I think.

~

Psychodramatic – and psychological have the greek word soul for soul at their root. The breath, the butterfly. That which has little material weight, like images, imagination, stories, fantasies and dreams. These things are deep in our being our history, archetypal… and some way collective, they come alive in art, language and theatre.

I keep coming back to psyche is social. Or to make more sense, the social is psychological. The social can be seen as the space between, as the image as the soul, or the heart.

~

A sociodrama has a sociodramatic question.

A psychodrama has a concern.

Both are questions about life, the psychodramatic question is more about individual dilemmas and healing. A protagonist can do the work and others can learn from that for themselves so a psychodrama usually has a protagonist. However the question can be tackled by the group, it is then a psychodrama is group centered.

A sociodramatic question is about the group, the world, about US. So Mostly a sociodrama does not have a protagonist. But maybe the question is best explored by a person who is living that social dilemma, then Walter have a protagonist centered sociodrama.

A useful distinction but not enough.

Both are drama, both bring to life something of the soul, perhaps the soul of the world, or soul in the world. Both can concretise the imaginal, possible futures hidden images.

Some moments in sociodramas I recall were exquisite moments theatre. Moving and uncovering the depth of life. Full of soul.

Maybe it is not useful to make any hard and fast distinctions about the socius and the psyche. Both are there as we seek to explore ourselves in the world.

In a group it would be helpful to move freely along the psychosocial continuum.

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Ubuntu – A person is a person through other people

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_(philosophy)#Definition

 

According to Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the core of ubuntu can best be summarised as follows:

“ ‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”.[9]

WOW

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Therapeutic Tele

I found a few pages in Psychodrama Vol I by J.L Moreno – I think this item was written well before 77 when the book came out – a Symposium in the 40s?

Moreno talks of the individual locus of physical ailments.  There is another locus for psychological work, the relationship.

Then he gets really radical.  The relationships in life are therapeutic.  The psychodramatist activates the healing potential of the relationships.

And then there is one more thing!

the medium of therapy [is separate] from the healer as well as the group therapeutic agents.

What is that “medium” – Moreno in other places calls it the sociometric matrix.

Here is how I sum up Moreno’s philosophy:  there is a network of social and cultural role patterns we are born into. Born out of perhaps, that is the matrix. Spontaneity is our ability to transcend that given.

Here is the selection in Google Drive.  It should be public – if not email me.

Thus the healing is in the relational paradigm.  (an imago book)

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First psychodrama was also marital therapy

In a section of his his book (2014) “Spontaneity Drama to Save a Marriage”, John Nolte tells the story of two actors Barbara and George who were also married. Moreno asked them to take on roles that were related to their real life, and noted the therapeutic effect.

It was in this way that Moreno first experimented with the techniques of spontaneous drama to treat emotional problems. Years before the notion of marital or family therapy became commonplace in mainstream mental health practice, Moreno had demonstrated the use of spontaneity techniques to restore equilibrium to the relationship of a husband and wife.

 

Nolte, J. (2014). The philosophy, theory and methods of J. L. Moreno: The man who tried to become god. United Kingdom: Routledge.

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Jacob Moreno’s Great Idea

Of course he had more than one. He is best known for psychodrama and psychodrama is only possible because it is built on many great ideas.  But what if there was only one idea?

Here is one of Moreno’s great ideas:  therapeutic tele.

OK, I imagine you are thinking that therapeutic tele refers to the client therapist relationship.

The importance of therapist/client connection has increasingly been well recognised. There has been research to confirm the obvious. See, for example, this quote from a classic study:

…the patients who had successful outcomes appeared more willing and able to have a meaningful relationship with the therapist. The patients who did not improve in therapy did not relate well to the therapist and kept the interaction superficial.

Assay and Lambert 1999

So was Moreno there first as always?

Not so fast, therapeutic tele is almost the exact opposite of the therapist/client relationship:

Moreno saw the power of relationships from a different angle. The therapists…

… cherished the notion that the psychiatrist alone is the healer, that all the therapeutic tele derives from him and nowhere else is so concentrated and effective. However, sociometric studies revealed to me that a great deal of the therapeutic tele is distributed over the community and that the question was only to make it effective and to guide it into the proper channels. … The chief psychiatrist had to be put out of action to be removed from the scene; he became an auxiliary ego at a distance. His function reduced itself to deciding who might be the best therapeutic agent to whom, and aid in the picking of these agents. … He had lost all the insignia of all-mightiness, of personal magnetism, and status of counsel. The face-to-face physician had become a physician at a distance. He adjusted his function to the dynamics of a tele world.

(Moreno 1977:242-243)

Key ideas:

  • “therapeutic tele is distributed over the community and that the question was only to make it effective and to guide it into the proper channels.”
  • The therapist becomes “an auxiliary ego at a distance”

Therapeutic tele is not evenly distributed.

To make it effective and guide it we need sociometry, to see the social and cultural atom.

By the measure of love, hate, influence, power, significance the most potent therapeutic tele is in the marriage or other loving committed relationship.

Therapeutic tele is a great idea, it changes everything.  That is why we have group therapy, and interpersonal relationship therapy.

That is why I do Psychodramatic Relationship Therapy Training

~~~

Assay, T. P., & Lambert, M. J. (1999). The Empirical Care for the Common factors in Therapy: Quantitative Findings. In M. A. Hubble, B. . Duncan, & S. D. Miller (Eds.), The Heart & Soul of Change: What Works in Therapy (pp. 23 –54). Washington DC

Moreno, J. L. (1977). Psychodrama Volume One (Fourth ed.) Beacon, New York: Beacon House.

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