Tag Archives: Anger Management

I’ve Hit a Wall. Help!

When I began this blog, I intended to focus on the psychological effects of the economic downturn, and to provide tools for the stress the roiling markets produced.  Who would have guessed just how often I’d get requests for advice on how to manage the therapeutic alliance!  How to get your therapist to like you.  How to get your therapist to love you.  How to leave your therapist.  How to make sure you don’t have to leave your therapist.  How to handle it when your therapist leaves you.

But one of the biggest surprises of all is just how often the search that brings someone to my blog is “How to mess with my therapist’s head.”  I admit I am stymied.  Why in the world would anyone want to do that?  Why spend your money and your time supposedly seeking treatment from a professional when what you really want to do is pull one over on him or her?  Assuming you’re in a bona fide psychotherapy, which you pay for with your hard-earned time, money and commitment to self-disclosure, isn’t it a waste to focus on subterfuge, misleading your therapist, playing games, even vengeance?

Help me out here:  what, exactly, is this all about?  And why are so many people interested in how to do the best job undermining the very therapist they pay to help them?  Any thoughts would be most appreciated.  There’s clearly something here for me to learn!

Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


Dr. P’s Pithy Adages & Epigrams

Bridges:  Tips For Knowing How to Cross Over – and When to Let ’em Burn*

A hypothesis:  What is “obvious” seldom is.   “It’s obvious that she thinks________ ” usually means “I assume – and am now convinced – that she thinks_______.” More often than not, my conviction of the obvious truth is not true at all.  In fact, the stronger my conviction that something you feel or think “obviously” means whatever I am certain it means, the more it’s likely to tell you about me, rather than you. What do you think?  Does this ring true to you?

Here’s the thing:   Inertia isn’t going to get you anywhere you want to go.

The assumption: Everyone thinks the way you do. Or, if they don’t, they should.  Nope.  They don’t.

Nodding your head in agreement as you look someone in the eye, all the while waiting your turn to speak, is not the same thing as listening.  No matter how politely you smile, how patiently you point yourself in his direction.

It’s funny how people rewrite history, isn’t it?  And it’s generally to suit not only what they wish had happened, but who they wish they had been.

Few things in life take more courage than facing the truth about oneself.

If you don’t get your point across the first time, you can say it again, louder. If that doesn’t work, louder still.  Then louder, again.                                                     Or you can try another approach that might actually work…

Who are you when no one is looking?

Before you blow off a problem, make sure it won’t come ‘round and whack you in the back of the head when you least expect or can afford to deal with it.

You might as well forget the first clause of any sentence the second clause of which begins “, but…” 

For the person listening to you, suggesting “it’s just a little ______” doesn’t minimize the attendant issue, it minimizes him.  Not good.

You don’t get to decide someone else’s “no big deal.”

Your partner knows that your “I understand” sometimes really means “I’ve had enough.”

Haste may make waste, but beware of lingering too long at the fair…

It doesn’t cost extra to be kind.  And patience isn’t a waste of time.

Sometimes the only thing you know is what doesn’t work.  It’s a good idea then to try just about anything else…

Anything real and alive is flawed in some way.  Perfect is Disneyland: beautiful surface, but there’s no there there.

There’s power that derives from position.  There’s the power that derives from influence.  There’s power that derives from instilling fear.  There’s power that derives from controlling resources.  There’s power that derives from force.  There’s power that derives from expertise.  There’s power that derives from personality.  There’s power that derives from coalitions.  There’s power that derives from respect.  There’s power that derives from moral authority…

When you push down the bad feelings, lots of the good ones get pushed down, too.

If you have to tell someone “it’s obvious,” it isn’t.

Resolve it, don’t dissolve it.

You can be right or you can be a working team…

~ Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

*~ Paro


Can’t Be Said Much Better Than This…

Life’s never easy.  We can decide what we want.  (Well,  some of us can;  for others, even knowing what we want is not so easy). 

There’s much we can choose, if we are fortunate.   And we are all, all of us, quite fortunate (even when, on those bad days, we don’t feel that way).  And though there’s no sure-fire path to getting it all, good psychotherapy can help find – and clear – the path to happiness.  Search, question, focus, discipline, know what matters, meditate, learn about and face oneself honestly in the company of a therapist who listens and “gets it”: safe landing, real contentment and true happiness are indeed possible.

Even if there’s no guarantee of getting/having even what we (think we) need.  Even if it’s finding and traveling the path to, not being and staying at some desired destination.

Sometimes therapy’s about listening – both the therapist, and the patient – to the felt need.   Permitting the feelings, the desires, the sense of urgency:  wanting what we want, when we want it.

And then accepting that it is however it is.  And if we share our most private wishes with someone who hears, gets it – and accepts us as we are – well, sometimes, maybe, that’s really as good as it gets.  And it’s quite good enough.

Is it any wonder people fall in love with their therapists?

Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash.  All rights reserved.

Anger Management, Part 2

The Deadly Sin of Anger - Jacques Callot

Raising your voice. Yelling. Screaming, even.  Threats. Put downs. Innuendo. Hurling insults. Bullying.

They may be effective shutting people up. They may put others in their place, all right. They may get you heard, maybe even listened to.

But they are only the booby prize, a weak facsimile of real, demonstrable strength.  Strength under pressure, strength with grace, strength of purpose, strength of character, strength to count on — that strength is quiet, focused.

The strong person needn’t react; the strong person considers, and acts only when and how it best suits her and her goals.

The strong person needn’t threaten; the strong person simply DOES.

The strong person needn’t announce;  the strong person simply DECIDES FOR HIMSELF when, if, how to take action.

The strong person needn’t justify or defend; the strong person simply ASSUMES the right to her own position and power.

The strong person needn’t harden into position or get stuck in “being right”; the strong person can afford to listen.  And to change his mind.  Even to admit to being wrong.

Because it is the coward who cannot face being wrong.  It is the coward who must be right, rather than get it right.

The truly strong welcome the opportunity to learn, to change, to grow stronger.  Not by digging in their heels and closing down to other views or others’ views.  The strong trust enough in their inner strength to be flexible, vulnerable and open to change.  And in so doing, their quiet strength triumphs.

Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Anger Management, Part 1

The Deadly Sin of Anger - Jacques Callot

People often act as if there are only two ways to handle anger:

They explode when they “will no longer put up with this!”  They yell, threaten, force, demand, even destroy to prove they are right, not afraid, can win.


They swallow it, believing it critical not to appear too angry, not to let others know their outrage.  They “rise above it,” they “let it go.”

But here’s the thing:

You can BE, LOOK, FEEL angry, too angry, outraged, too outraged… any feeling at all.

But you appear stronger when you BEHAVE in measured fashion.  When you can decide if and when to express what you are feeling, why you are feeling it, what you will/won’t do, what you expect of others.  That gives the impression you are strong enough to contain your (very strong) feelings, and put them to optimal use: showing self-control and control of the situation.

That the feelings don’t run the show, you do: a person who has strong feelings, a strong intellect, and the capacity to determine the course of action taken – by herself/himself and (by extension) by others.

Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Vindication? Or, “I must defend myself !”


From what? Defensive people seek to intimidate others, prove their supposed superiority, prove they have been wronged – all to deflect from their own shortcomings. They feel a need to defend themselves against others’ perceived slights (even if imagined).

There are those who are defensive solely in order to protect themselves from experiencing their own failures, and those who go further, to vindictive defensiveness.

Defensive people lob emotional hand grenades at others, who they (often erroneously) believe are attacking them. In fact, it is they who know themselves to fall short. It’s difficult to face one’s own shortcomings;
defensive people do not have the courage to do so, instead punishing others who they see as pointing to any of their weaknesses.

A defensive person who is capable of real emotion and relationships will be appalled by his behavior after his defensive outburst. He doesn’t intend to irrevocably harm his child, his spouse, his assistant. He acts instinctively to protect himself from perceived threat, and can see, after the fact, that the other person was never really attacking him at all. He seeks help with “anger management” or learning how to control his reaction to stress. With therapy, there is real hope for him. By facing his own perceived failures, and his automatic defensive behaviors that hurt those he cares about, he takes a crucial step toward self control. By his willingness to address the root of his defensive behavior, he takes a crucial step toward self awareness. By his courage, he can see the difference between real threat and his fear of failure. Through therapy he can accept himself – and others, and experience deeper connection with those he loves.

But for another sort of defensive person, a normal desire for love and intimacy is replaced by a drive toward a kind of protective vindictive triumph. Why? The arrogant, vindictive person cannot tolerate anyone who wields more power, knows more or achieves more. He feels a need to humiliate or defeat anyone he considers a rival. When hurt (which occurs any time he feels exposed or weak) he retaliates by hurting, even destroying, the supposed enemy. Cynical and ruthless in relationships, he prides himself on exploiting and outsmarting others. He trusts no one. He scorns real feelings: tenderness, dependency, emotional closeness, friendship. For him, relationships exist solely in order to enhance his own social and economic position, to “get others before they get him”. He is proud of being self-sufficient, needing no one. In fact, he is isolated by his own hostility and fear of real attachment to others.

For the vindictive person, any tenderness or compromise is experienced as vulnerability. Since he assumes others will exploit him as he would exploit others, he avoids rational discourse with those with whom he might disagree. Terror of being humiliated or played for a fool colors his behavior. His is a vision of life as war, a war in which he is bound by neither human emotion nor morality. I have yet to figure out how therapy can help him.

Recognize yourself or anyone you know here? Any suggestions welcomed by all who deal with defensive co-workers!

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

The Angry Heart?

breakingheart1Another reason to deal with the stress of anger? The head-heart connection.  Results of a study of people with heart problems suggest a strong link between intense anger and sudden death.  Research conducted by Dr. Rachel Lampert of Yale University and reported in the current issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology studied patients with preexisting heart disease as they recounted something that had made them angry.  The findings?  Anger caused electrical changes, arrhythmias, in the heart.  People who showed this EKG ‘anger spike’ were 10 times more likely to have their defibrillators fire a life saving shock in the next three years than similarly ill patients whose hearts didn’t react to anger.

Studies to determine whether anger-reducing techniques help high-risk patients avoid irregular heartbeats are underway.  And this study didn’t address heart-healthy patients.  But maybe working on letting go of anger’s not a bad idea for all of us?  C’mon back soon for anger management class, ok?

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash.  All rights reserved.