I had this experience last week, the same week as my dental surgery, first or second day back at work. I tried to explain it to Ron, but he didn’t really understand the way I wanted him to. I think because he sees things from the perspective of one whole person, and my problem is, I have all these different parts.

My boss was being bossy as is her wont. There was no editing, so I was given a mysterious (to me) task of downloading and filing. You’d think this would be simple, but it’s this process of trying to determine which document to download which is not obvious at all.

I can’t remember the details, but she was getting up my nose. She’s told me to send my questions by email, so I don’t bother her with questions, I ask my co-worker. Somehow, we still interacted, and I ended up responding to her in this loud, shouting kind of a way. Anything she said to me, I’d kind of shout something back. And I was super defensive, defending myself when I’d really not been accused of anything.

After this happened, and I was alone at my desk, I realized I was in a complete state. I felt so small, and completely and utterly ashamed and humiliated. And so anxious.

From this state, I emailed Ron from my phone. I’m not much good with typing on my phone so it was short. I told him I’d been triggered and was super anxious, and that I’d thought it had to do with the dental stuff. I’d been feeling a lot of parts come up while I was trying to recover, various bits of things, feeling young and not able to manage adult life. This happens to me after the dentist, and this time it had lasted a few days.

After the humiliated feeling subsided, a few hours, I was left wondering what on earth had happened. I knew it felt really bad, but it didn’t seem that bad that I had to feel so humiliated and ashamed. Then I realized I must have been acting from a younger part. If I switch in public I end up feeling this humiliated feeling.

At lunch that day, I was walking, and trying to feel into what had happened. I knew it was not fine. It was not how I wanted to be at work. And I found this furious angry part, full of black boiling anger, ready to jump on people. I could feel that part, but also not become that part. It seemed really important. I figured if I could keep tabs on how that part of me is doing, I’d avoid these stupid scenarios where I turn into that hurt child who is defending herself with everything she’s got.

Ron’s take on this, in my session yesterday, was that whether I stay calm or whether I get angry, this is a job where I have boring tasks and an unpleasant boss. I wanted to figure out a way for this switching not to happen, but his point was that it’s natural to feel angry in this situation.

But I think there’s anger and then there’s anger. Maybe I needed to get angry in that situation so that this part didn’t feel she had to jump out and be angry? But anyway. If I need to be angry, it’s not effective to have this hurt child leap out and scream at people is it.

I can see that if you’re one person, and you’re in a situation where you’re being treated badly, it might be therapeutic to get in touch with anger and allow anger some expression.  That’s not what I did. I don’t want to plunge into trauma anger, because that’s inappropriate to the situation.

I wish Ron had understood this more. To me finding this very seething angry part seemed like a big deal, and I wanted to share that with him. That sense of – oh, this is what happened, that’s why I felt humiliated, that’s why this situation seemed so awful to me.

  1. I think Ron was right, you felt angry. I think you have been taught its not okay to feel it. For a child anger is a big feeling..there may have been some age regression too and some historical anger associated to the bosses demands and I understand you want to feel more adult and in control, but be careful not to negate real feelings..I really identify and you may be getting lessons now in how to understand and handle your angry feelings more effectively.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for telling me your opinion emerging.

      • I hope it was okay to do so. I should never think I know what is going on for you, it can be so hard to even know our own unconscious parts at times. I really identify with a lot of what you go through and appreciate being able to read about your process. All kind wishes Deborah

        • A thought that just occurred to me when I read this back about where you wrote that it wasn’t okay for your inner child to dump anger on others, that is probably true in some way. I have learned from the inner bonding and anger detour process that when I can connect to my inner child and find out what a certain reaction was to do with, what was associated to it from the past and can let me inner child, tell the adult part of me she is angry and why I can then figure out what to do about it in order not to dump it. I may need to tell the person something hurt me, or I may need to figure out that what the person is doing hurts me and I need to step away (with narcissists you cannot confront them on any behaviour they do not want to own and often they blame and shame you for feeling hurt. ) Those were just some further thoughts.

  2. Ellen, I know how terribly frustrating it is when someone doesn’t understand. Really I get that. I sometimes feel so frustrated in therapy when my T tries to normalize my feelings. I struggle with wanting to be normal. Like cognitively I know it should be normal to feel angry or to have “parts” or this feeling or that feeling. I totally get that everyone has different hats they must wear…worker, wife, mother, friend, fun loving, quiet, and even childish at times. I totally get that but then I want to scream that no one gets it and it’s just so complicated isn’t it. To know what you’re feeling/experiencing isn’t “normal” and to try to make it normal and explain it….
    That being said…
    I think anger is one of those really scary feelings. The anger inside ourselves but also the anger in others. My kids and hubby all get defensive when I point out something, yell–they feel attacked and immediately begin to defend themselves. Totally what people do as human beings. Really you have a difficult boss and she is difficult to get along with. Because of your past she triggers you. Simple as that. It makes you human. You are allowed to be angry or sad or frustrated or confused.
    I was trying to explain to my T that I was afraid to make someone angry. I can’t deal with anger. It’s almost as if it will push me over the edge. It’s predictable yet not. As long as I work hard enough at keeping the peace everything is fine. Until it’s not. It’s a fine line and I don’t know what will happen but it isn’t good.
    Really it’s okay. Everyone gets angry and while yours felt over the top maybe you just need practice in being more assertive. Anger is on a scale from minor frustration (1) to ready to kill someone (10). I don’t know, that probably makes no sense. I’m just saying that I get how complicated it all is.
    I love you.

    • Ellen said:

      Anger is definitely complicated. Thanks for sharing your process with me.

  3. Yes, I think it is important. It’s kind of a breakthrough, when you can get to the place of feeling the traumatic response and being able to feel it without being overwhelmed by it, and then also being able to get some idea of where it came from and place it within some kind of context. I think Ron comes from the perspective that you have all of these parts because you are suppressing anger or whatever feelings seem unacceptable to you, and if you accepted the anger, it wouldn’t come out in these other ways. I really do think he is simply wrong. It’s kind of the old-school therapy perspective, and it is just not accurate and not helpful. You have a good relationship with him in spite of this, and you are very much attached to him, so it’s hard to know what to do. It seems like you are able to proceed with your own work with or without a lot of guidance from him, so I guess that is to your credit. It seems like it would be nice to have someone who had more of a trauma background though. Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, that is how I was understanding it. The way he’s thinking is that if you’re afraid of anger, trying to suppress it, then not succeeding, and it comes out too strong, it’s a problem. I can see that this is a problem, but it’s not my particular problem. Sigh.

      I do have a good relationship with him – he teaches me how to be there for someone, even if you don’t understand everything. I know he cares. I have actually contacted two other T’s with trauma training, but they’re not accepting new clients. Maybe I’ll try again, but it’s not easy to find someone. At least Ron is a good therapist, just without some knowledge I’d like him to have. Thank you Ash.

  4. Rachel said:

    He doesn’t seem to understand, and it feels painful to not be understood by someone so important to you. And I can understand why you felt embarrassed over your responses – the other people around you don’t know the context, and also it doesn’t feel great to release so much emotion like that at work, when you feel you don’t have control over it.
    Sorry this is so hard Ellen.

    • Ellen said:

      It is painful. I actually have a very distinctive shame reaction to switches in public, and that was the feeling I had – that’s how I figured out it was a switch. I was actually proud of the work I’d done with this, and it hurt that Ron didn’t see it.

      Switching at work is a number one thing I want to avoid. Adult anger is OK, but not child trauma anger at work.

      Thanks Rachel

  5. e.Nice said:

    I think finding and recognizing that seething part is a big deal. Recognizing that there is a trigger here is a big deal too. The situation might warrant anger and can be a normal human thing, but this seems to be a different experience for you so even if it is a “normal” response, its going to be upsetting and difficult to deal with.

    • Ellen said:

      Exactly. Thanks for understanding, when this is not really your own situation at all.

      • e.Nice said:

        Yes our situations are different, but I feel a resonance or understanding and your sharing helps me see myself a little. Hurt and anger and feeling unseen and all that might arise from different environments and history, and maybe even feels or is experienced differently. Yet it’s also sorta the same. Not sure if that makes any sense. Guess I’m just trying to say thanks and I look up to you.

  6. Anger was terrifying for me in parts since one part held all the anger in my system of parts. However, when I integrated the emotion of anger still created the same “little girl needs to be punished” feeling. I was confused because I thought that my reaction to anger was because of parts. I was shocked to find out my reaction to anger was due to me being punished for being angry when someone hurt me or said mean things to me. I worked a long time with my counselor on understanding the emotions that trigger anger. I learned that hurt, fear or frustration proceed anger. The emotion that proceeds the feeling is the one that leads to me feeling either humiliated, terrified or overwhelmed. Investigating the emotions before anger gave me a different perspective of what anger is to me. It is really rough when parts act out at work. No explanation seems adequate. Hugs. You are not alone in feeling frustrated with counselors not understanding the complexity of working in parts.

    • Ellen said:

      Those insights about anger are really helpful, thanks. It’s true for me too – before anger comes a sense of smallness, of humiliation, of fear. If I could catch that, maybe I wouldn’t switch.

      • I found I still switched, however I had a clue to which one I would switch to. I hope this helps a little.

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