Group – anger

Back from my group. I spent the day in this obsessed state, researching air purifiers, as I was suffering quite a bit from nausea. Then rushed out and bought in haste. I now have two I have to return. I had no idea the air purifier selection was so complex. I think too, it’d help if I knew what I’m allergic to, so I can figure out how much I have to spend. The better ones are very f’ing pricey.

I drove to group just at dusk, so lovely today. The sky all blue grey with wisps of sun and bits of yellow leaves.

Group was tough. This time I was not in what  I call social coping mode.

The first two-thirds of it consisted of discussions by other members. I started to want to leave really really badly. But what I found was, it was hurt parts coming up, for some reason. And if I could just sit and let them say a few things (quietly, to me), and sit with feelings of sadness, hurt, self-destruction….that they always bring with them, then I could continue sitting, and not have to leave. I didn’t really participate in what was going on much, but I stayed.

It’s actually good if I can feel. A lot of the time, everything is walled off, and it breaks in on me under stress. Sitting there and allowing parts to be there without taking over is a really excellent thing for me.

The tough part came when I was actually participating.

It’s my friend anger again. It is so tough to deal with. I find I can express it. In fact I want to express it. Then the guilt following…man oh man. Very very guilty. Because everyone in the group is damaged, is suffering. I don’t want to add to the damage.

Anyhoo…

My ex-friend A. (I used to call him R., but since the A from last year has left the group, I’m going to switch to A. to distinguish him more from Ron) had an issue. He talked about it for a while, it obviously caused him pain. Everyone was sympathetic, everything was sweetness and light, except for the badness A was discussing.

I got more and more angry with A. And we’re supposed to express our reactions, not stifle them madly, as is very tempting to do. So I said it. I said I actually felt like punching him, he’s not so perfect.

Real mature. Oh well. Then I explained about the summer, how we’d begun a friendship, how he’d dropped me by not returning my call.

I explained I was pissed off, and hurt, and I’d expected him to do me the courtesy of returning my call, at least, even if he didn’t want to be friends anymore.

A’s response kind of pissed me off more. He said he’d been very busy….then after two weeks it seemed too late to call. He didn’t think it was a big deal. He responded at length, in this circular way he has. At one point he said maybe he should have called. Then he said that he’d decided this wasn’t a good relationship for him. (I thought he was too busy?) Then he said actually, the more he saw me, the more he liked me.

Well. I stayed mad. I told Ron I thought we were supposed to express how we felt, but I felt worse – freaked out, afraid, and still angry. Expressing it made me feel worse. Ron said the purpose isn’t to feel good right away, it’s to work things through in a way we might not in the outside world.

Three people responded. One was E., whose response I didn’t much care for to be honest, so I didn’t reply to it. The other two expressed some sympathy to me. Z responded at length, and it was very interesting. It was the first time in a year I’d heard her voice her actual, really complex and thought out, opinion. Wow.

A. got put on the floor for being a withdrawing kind of a person. And some other things.

He did look upset.

End of group.

I was furious the whole drive home, with background guilt. But at this moment, I’m glad I got into it with A.

I wonder sometimes what readers will make of what goes on in group therapy. It’s a little difficult to explain. It’s not real life. It’s not how I’d act in the world, in most cases. It’s not a support group. It’s not for getting support for our burdens, though that sometimes happens.

I am interested in it. I find it interesting what happens when people say what they really feel. Painful but interesting. And I’m finding I”m more able to sit with what I feel in more social situations without needing to repress it or express it or hopefully, in my case, switch to a kid part.

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16 comments
  1. Ruth said:

    My second counselor taught me a lot about sitting with my emotions. I agree with you. It is different and I am trying to pick the right word, perhaps strengthening. Not sure how to describe it. I am starting to use it with more emotions besides anger. I am actually fascinated by your description of a group of this kind. I read about groups being used with PTSD survivors in other places too. I think you are making some big steps in a healthy direction especially since you stayed there and shared some of the things you felt. I hope your weekend session goes well for you.

    • Ellen said:

      Strengthening is a good word for it. Tolerating. Because some of my emotions are stored in parts, it’s tempting to push them down. Well, maybe it’s tempting for everyone. Sitting with them is new for me.

      Thanks Ruth

  2. betweenseconds said:

    I really enjoy reading your blog. It does startle me though when I read that you actually tell people you feel like punching them in the face! Is it code for, “You really, really pissed me the eff off!?”

    • Ellen said:

      Welcome Seconds. I don’t believe I said that. I said I was sitting there listening to A and felt like punching him. That was what the feeling was like. I think some of the other things I said to him were probably more hurtful to be honest. I’m physically nonthreatening and just meant that remark to express anger, as you say, not, obviously, as any kind of a threat. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • betweenseconds said:

        I’m sorry, I guess I did totally misread that!

        • Ellen said:

          It was a completely valid comment, please don’t apologize. Looking at what I’d written after you said that, I could see how it might be taken as threatening. I guess my tone of voice was not threatening, and I immediately joked after I said it that likely A would beat me in a fight….But it could be that that comment was taken as more aggressive than I meant, I really don’t know. As a small woman, I would find that comment disturbing directed at me. It’s food for thought. I’m very pleased you commented. Thanks.

  3. The more I read about the group and Ron’s seeming emphasis on “just expressing yourself” almost no matter what the expression is–the more I like it.

    It seems to me that so much of what many of us learn as little kids is to put on a facade for the world–and this facade can be very destructive and self-denying.

    To allow oneself to just be what we are is very freeing. However, I think there are layers and layers and layers to this…as I have gone deeper down, in looking at my “personality” and my quirks and issues, I’ve found less and less to be afraid of there. Much of it is just noise, to be honest. At least, this is how it seems to me at the moment. The noise certainly originates from various things in the past, but that doesn’t mean I have to always take it seriously.

    There are times to just express myself fully, and times I need to learn to sit with my pain. Identifying the appropriate times is very helpful. Learning what it means to truly express myself is helpful. Sometimes, expressing myself means to sit and breathe and watch how my body reacts to doing nothing, and to let all of that be okay also.

    Sometimes there’s not that much going on, and that can be sort of painful too.

    Anyway, I think group is a good start, but there are many other layers we can explore by ourselves, too!

    • Ellen said:

      Really good to hear what you think of group therapy, thanks Aaron. I do agree about the need to unlearn what we were taught at kids. I too was taught always to put up a brave front. What mattered was how you appeared, not how you felt or what was real. I think it’s harmful also.

      Thanks for sharing your process. There are lots of paths for self development for sure.

  4. I think group is going to be so helpful…. I am so happy you could sit with your feelings (as you know I really struggle with that)… and also wow!!! bringing up his disrespectful treatment of you over the summer…. way to go!! It will be interesting to read how group continues to go over the fall and winter sessions. I think you are off to a great start, and I hope that by expressing your feelings and thoughts as they arise you will feel less “run-over” (or emotionally exhausted, or whatever best describes it) in the days following. I will have to remember that R is now A …. ha ha….

    • Ellen said:

      Glad you think it was a good thing to do. I felt guilty at the same time I was doing it, but I think it is helpful to me just to let go of that relationship and put it in the past. I don’t need a fantasy in the back of my mind that maybe he secretly is still my friend, etc. And Ron was not particularly supportive to tell the truth.

      Thought I’d confuse the issue by calling him A now. He he.

      Thank you Catherine

  5. Harriet said:

    I always wondered what sitting with emotions meant, and I asked my new t. Unfortunately I now can’t remember what she said, I think it is one of those things I have to have told to me repeatedly. My old t wasn’t too into sitting with feelings, but new t is. It’s a totally different experience, after all I spend most of my days trying to avoid emotions, and I think many people do that too. As for your group, all I can say is wow. You have to have a pretty thick skin to take whatever it is that people want to say to you. It sounds like you have made a lot of progress in letting your parts sit with you and not having to leave the room. That is amazing.

    • Ellen said:

      It would simply be, for instance, if you feel sad, let yourself feel it until it is finished with you, so to speak. Our whole culture is against this idea. You’re supposed to go buy something if you feel bad for instance. Or you can act them out – drink, exercise, work – almost anything can be used. Good to hear your new T is into sitting with your feelings. I think it’s the only way to become real and to change.

      Actually I’m the only one who expresses negative emotion, in a year of group, except for a fight I got into with E, where she shared lots of negative emotion! And it’s not as if it’s that common to feel bad things about others in the group I think. We’re naturally usually quite sympathetic. Repression of what people feel is more the norm than a lot of negativity being expressed.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  6. hey harriet, have you read any books or articles by pema chodron? even before i started therapy i stumbled across her work and she is big into “sitting with emotions” … the first book i read by her was “the wisdom of no escape” — about how we are desperate to escape from what we label our “negative” emotions, and how this desire will only cause unhappiness. instead of sitting with jealousy, fear, disappointment, hurt, or anger we reach for something — alcohol, drugs, television, porn, self-harm, shopping, and more… as a way to escape. i think you may find value in her teachings, even if you are not a buddhist. c.

    • Harriet said:

      It’s so weird that you mention Pema Chodron because I just discovered her. I downloaded one of her books onto my boss’s kindle for him to read and I watched one of her videos. I am going to have to actually read that book, thank you for telling me.

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