Anger and Stress Management Tips for Satisfying Relationships by Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
It was eleven o’clock on a Tuesday morning, and Raul, a thirty-six-year-old property developer was struggling to keep his mind focused on the high powered meeting he had organized. He felt sluggish, his mind wandered and he could barely keep track of the agenda items he was supposed to bring to the table.
For the last six months he had felt lethargic and uninterested in things that he usually enjoyed. He stopped playing squash with his best mate, and he rarely went out on Friday nights with his interior designer wife Pat to their favorite restaurant as they used to do. His day-to-day routine felt awkward, as if he were undertaking something foreign. His autopilot stopped working and he had to force himself to think hard about the simplest of things over and over again.
Raul was depressed but he didn’t want to admit it.
It couldn’t be happening to him. After all he was the whiz kid who started his own company at age 18 and rocketed to becoming the biggest and most famous property developer in the State of Utah. From fancy upmarket shopping malls to exclusive residential gated communities his name was on all the signs. But just when he was about to expand to China and India, his body slowed him down. At first it was just the odd headache that stopped him from ‘Skyping’ all night with people on the other side of the world. Then he developed a pain in the back of his right shoulder that made him feel he was carrying an enormous weight. A week later he noticed that he was clenching his jaws and gritting his teeth – unable to relax his facial muscles. Then the pain all the way down his right leg throbbed and kept him awake night after night.
Medications didn’t help like they used to, and Pat’s home remedies and massages felt loving but did nothing to ease his symptoms. Slowly Raul’s various aches and pains turned into a sort of panic. When he got in the car every morning, he felt his heart race for at least 30 seconds and he often wondered whether he was having a heart attack. Yes, he knew that he should slow down and smell the roses, but that was crap! He needed to prove that he could do what his father talked of but never did. Raul wasn’t a dreamer, he was a doer! Yet no matter how much he achieved it wasn’t sufficient proof that he was not like his dad.
The stress of trying to be as different to his father as possible had been with Raul since he was fifteen – when he saw his dead beat dad take to the bottle after losing his job as an auto-mechanic – giving up on life, and his responsibility towards his family. Raul’s anger was murderous, but he channeled it into making something of himself as an entrepreneur and had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Yet the anger still rankled him. He had never expressed his fear of having to take care of his family after his father gave up, and he continued to be bitter about the way he was forced to grow up and support his drunkard father.
Years of bitter anger added to the stress of being robbed of his teenage years before his time. But Raul’s discomfort with expressing it made the stress a chronic condition, ultimately leading to depression at the pinnacle of his career.
This time it was serious. It had lasted much longer than his previous dips into down states which he had always been able to get himself out of. Now his whole life seemed like a nightmare that made him not want to do anything. The more he tried to force himself the less productive he was.
As reported in The Proceedings of The National Association of Science in May 2013, chronic stress makes depression last longer. It prevents regeneration of nerve cells in the brain that would normally counter the chemical imbalance linked with depression. So without the necessary neurotransmitters to change and rebalance his mood, Raul was suffering a longer spell of depression than usual. And this time it was seriously threatening his entire way of life.
Until one day he couldn’t express his words clearly to his colleagues and partners around the world. He snapped at his wife and couldn’t bear her to touch him or want to have sex with him. That’s when he made the call to me and decided to come into psychotherapy, something he had thought weak and stupid for most of his adult life.
As we worked on the raw hurt of his early life Raul’s physical pain eased considerably. At first he felt the pain less intensely and later it was less frequent – we could always trace a flare up to emotions that he had not dealt with, that were adding to his stress load. But most important of all, Raul was able to decide what kind of man he wanted to be irrespective of his parentage and the hell he had been put through. He no longer needed to be the high powered executive since there was no one he had to prove himself to any longer. Instead, Raul and Pat took on exclusive clients and built their dream homes – inside and out – just as Raul had done for himself.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
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Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.