I got a parking ticket at work yesterday. Fortunately it is only an internal one and I am not facing an imminent fine-although if I get more than two of these tickets my parking rights can be suspended. What enraged me was the fact that the day before I had been told to park my car there! I was furious. I wanted to go to the front desk and stuff this ticket down someone’s throat. And that would have only been the start.As it was I took it off the car and drove home-still seething. Fortunately I got home without incident. nobody cut me up; queue jumped; startled me or did anything to trigger my simmering rage.
I then saw a patient that evening with whom I have been working for a long time. We spend a lot of time talking about his anger -which can be terrifying. He describes this anger as visceral taking over his whole body and mind. He is not a psychopathic ax murderer. He is an ordinary man doing an ordinary job in an ordinary way. Yet he holds inside him this volcanic rage if he feels threatened. (“Threatened” here being anything that leaves him feeling exploited an emotional threat or physical threat.)
I have another patient who also has difficulties with anger, but his response is to become very sarcastic and cutting when he thinks people aren’t following the rules. This gives rise to several problems for him. One is that only he understands the rules. The second problem is that his behaviour achieves the opposite of what he wants. His rule is that people should know in advance what he wants. If he has to tell them, this proves that they don’t love him.
R.D. Laing wrote in “Knots” this piece which sums up my patient’s thinking
I don’t feel good
therefore I am bad
therefore no one loves me.
I feel good
therefore I am good
therefore everyone loves me.
I am good.
You do not love me
therefore you are bad. So I do not love you.
I am good
You love me
therefore you are good. So I love you.
I am bad
You love me
therefore you are bad.
Thee rage I felt at my parking ticket did not overwhelm me-although I am aware of still being annoyed. Nor does my knowledge of my capacity for blind fury threaten my whole sense of self .Mostly because I have enough good things inside me to nourish me and sustain me. If I had been abused by my parents; if I had always failed at everything; if I was unable to get any work; if I felt discriminated against because of my race, colour or sexual orientation , I might see things differently. George Santayana observed that ” every intelligent man… holds a lunatic on a leash.” He obviously knew himself well.