psychotherapy for anger at deep disappointments west los angeles

Why isn’t my brother here when I need him?

The award ceremony was well under way but there was still no sign of Larry. With a sinking heart Yvonne took her place in line to receive her diploma. The shouts and hugs of congratulations became a blur as her eyes kept scanning the huge hall for her elder brother.

Yvonne’s friends honored her achievement with flowers, gifts and affection. Yet she was the pooper at her own party. Larry had broken his promise. Choking back tears of acute disappointment she went through the motions of smiling as she thanked her thoughtful pals.

It’s too late

” You are amazing sis. I always knew you could do it.” Larry’s voice penetrated the jubilant atmosphere as he made ready to embrace his sister. Yvonne wanted to jump for joy and strangle Larry simultaneously. Pride made Yvonne choose rage. ” It’s too late now!” she responded as her “You missed everything!”

” Something came up. Sorry I had to miss the ceremony, but I’m here for the party,” Larry said making light of it.

“‘There’s always something! You knew how important this was to me. I only get to do this once in my life, and you couldn’t make the effort to be there for me!” Yvonne cut him dead.

psychotherapy for hot button triggers west los angeles

Yvonne’s hot button gets triggered big time

In that split second Yvonne was transported back to all those times when her mother made excuses for missing her school concerts and parent teacher conferences. Larry’s feeble alibi revived the same jabs she had experienced when her father dismissed her straight A report cards, and athletic trophies. As a child she had dealt with the hurt by trying even harder. Anger wasn’t an option. It could sever the tenuous ties with her parents for ever.

Yvonne’s hot button consists of layers of compressed anger and resentment created during a formative period in her life. It is old, cracked, dry and excellent tinder material. Fresh disappointments ignite the ball of raw emotion making the hot button explode. Larry’s failure to attend Yvonne’s graduation was a reincarnation of the past. He personified every past failure to acknowledge and recognize her legitimate achievements.

Yvonne’s fury fractures the relationship with Larry

No longer constrained by the fear of loss,years of fury and resentment came out full throttle. The intensity of her feeling turned into an unspoken demand. It went something like this.

“Brother, you must make up for all those times mom and dad disappointed me and tossed me aside. You have to be the good parent now.”

That put him in a straight jacket. He didn’t perform in the way that Yvonne insisted, and was labeled a failure. Yvonne’s demands were not met giving her a repeat experience of being failed. The relationship fractured under pressure.

Yvonne didn’t speak to Larry for several weeks. She needed to punish him. She wanted him to feel some of her pain. She dismissed him just like he had dismissed her by missing the ceremony. She felt the enormous power of retribution, like a bulldozer indiscriminately knocking down every source of frustration, disappointment and heartbreak in her psychic landscape.

Yvonne’s brilliant maneuver of self-sabotage

As the bulldozer ran out of gas Yvonne was deflated. She flogged herself with chants of worthlessness. Her achievements weren’t worth a damn if her brother couldn’t get his act together and turn up on time to her graduation. If he didn’t care about her, why should she care about herself?

The attempt to teach Larry a lesson backfired. Yvonne had inflicted the worst punishment on herself. Larry’s congratulation didn’t arrive at the right time, or in the right way. It wasn’t the perfect fit she demanded. She rejected his offerings and denied herself the accolade she craved. A brilliant maneuver of self-sabotage.

Unable to feel the love and generosity of her friends, made her doubly deprived. Furious that she was being robbed of her entitlements added to the stock pile of fuel feeding her hot button. The more she felt the betrayed by the one person who should be honoring her, the hotter the button sizzled. Reinforced by attention the hot button got stronger and more powerful, waiting to zap her next time it got triggered.

As she tires of torturing herself, Yvonne can get a handle on her hot button. She can mourn the loss of validation withheld by her parents. That allows her to separate the past from the present and deal with new disappointments more realistically. Yvonne can take charge of her hot button by valuing affirmations from friends and colleagues. She can also treasure Larry’s attempts to honor her even if they don’t come in exactly the right package. Layers of acknowledgment will replace the layers of resentment, making Yvonne one cool lady!