During my training, our course tutor once observed that “sometimes anger is the appropriate response”. This came as something of a revelation to the group. For many people, anger is something that is dangerous and threatening. Anger is the emotion that drives many destructive actions and the consequences of unregulated anger can be severe. So what is anger and when is anger the appropriate response? Anger is an emotional response to violation. Everyone has an implicit, personal set of boundaries that we expect others not to cross. Boundaries common to most people include the expectation to be treated with respect, to be listened to and for others to respect our personal space. When someone violates one of our boundaries, anger is experienced. Anger that motivates assertive action to stop the violation is a healthy form of anger. For example, an employee being ill-treated by a colleague may use her anger at being disrespected to confront the colleague about his behaviour and if necessary, make a complaint to management to end the mistreatment.
Maladaptive anger is a form of anger that is chronic and not useful for enforcing boundaries. It stems from experiences where the individual was powerless to end a violation. Being unable to express anger and hold the other accountable, the anger stays unchanged in the individual and produces a heightened sensitivity to preventing this type of violation from occurring again. Situations that may be somewhat reminiscent of the earlier experience of violation can trigger the anger associated with that earlier violation. This can leads individuals to misperceive a situation and respond with anger when it’s not appropriate. For example, if an individual has the experience of friendliness followed by bullying, he may respond to experiences of friendliness in future with anger, believing friendliness to be a precursor to violation.Instrumental anger is another form of anger where individuals use anger as they have learned it produces an effect on others. Anger often induces fear in others. Instrumental anger is common in bullying, where the bully has learned that he can use anger to terrify the victim and get him to do what the bully wants.
Depression is often described by people who have been through it as the darkest, most harrowing experiences of their lives; like living in “a black hole” with no prospect of escape. Depression can occur in response to a range of painful life experiences such as bereavement and loss, trauma, bullying, loneliness, or difficult relationships with important people in our lives. In depression, these painful experiences and the emotional distress experienced in the aftermath are interpreted as stemming from one's own personal failings. Feeling not good enough, inadequate and to blame for everything is common. This harshly self-critical process can be all-consuming. One's abilities, past actions and personal characteristics are evaluated negatively and the capacity to take a more rounded perspective is diminished. This overly negative view of the self creates a deep feeling of worthlessness. People come to see themselves as helpless and weak, fundamentally flawed or even as a bad person. As a result, people withdraw from friends and family, and lose interest in the things one normally enjoys; all the while feeling this is a permanent and irreparable state.
Processing the experiences at the root of depression and understanding how these experiences affect how we feel about ourselves and others is essential in counselling for depression. As a very negative view of the self predominates in depression, reviving the capacity to feel compassion for the self and reach a place of self-acceptance is a key task in working with depression. With increased self-acceptance, the process of building confidence and self-worth can begin. If you feel you need some support in dealing with depression, feel free to contact me to discuss your needs.