Bert’s therapy (#17): Guilty

 

Bad day at work.

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What happened?

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Boss yelled at me. 

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And how do you feel?

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Guilty.

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Why’d the boss yell?

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Having a bad day, I guess.  He’s like that.

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So why do you feel guilty?

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I don’t know. 

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That’s not guilt you’re feeling.   

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It’s not?

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No.  It’s anger.  Internalized anger often feels like guilt.

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It does?

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Sure.  Anger’s like poison.  If you don’t spit it out at the person who hurt you, it eats away at you and feels like guilt.

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I don’t know about that.  I’ve always been a pretty guilty person.

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4I see.  Tell me, what’s your boss like?

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He’s an asshole.

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How big an asshole?

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Big.

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Big?

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Enormous. 

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And how’s it feel, working for an enormous asshole?

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I hate it.  I hate him.  I hate my job.

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th12

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Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate. 

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therapist (13)

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bert (14)

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How you feeling now?

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Better.  Much better.  Not guilty at all. 

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th

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Does that always work?

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When the guilt comes from internalized anger, pretty much.

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bert (17)

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By the way, how’s your marriage going?

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bert (18)

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* * *

Want more?

So we are always trying to get to the impasse, and find the point where you believe you have no choice of survival because you don’t find the means within yourself.  When we find the place where the person is stuck, we come to the surprising discovery that this impasse is mostly merely a matter of fantasy.  It doesn’t exist in reality.  A person only believes he has not his resources at his disposal.  He only prevents himself from using his resources by conjuring up a lot of catastrophic expectations….  “People won’t like me.”  “I might do something foolish.”  “If I would do this, I wouldn’t be loved any more, I would die,” and so on.  We have all these catastrophic fantasies by which we prevent ourselves from living, from being.  We are continually projecting threatening fantasies onto the world, and these fantasies prevent us from taking the reasonable risks which are part and parcel of growing and living.

Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim.

 

therapist (18)

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5 responses to “Bert’s therapy (#17): Guilty

  • Susan P.

    Thanks, Steve. This is timely. I am been feeling guilty all day because I was so mad at this man who showed up at our peace group’s gathering just to try to disrupt it. I can’t believe how angry I was, and I did express my anger (to him), but I guess not enough because I am still feeling so damned guilty. Guilty at not being a good “peacemaker” because I overreacted to his presence. I should know better by now. This guy has been around before. I can’t control him (but I sure tried to yesterday – told him he should stand somewhere else, like across the street from us). It helped to read your entry today. But I have a problem with the “Anger’s like poison. If you don’t spit it out at the person who hurt you, it eats away at you and feels like guilt.” Maybe because I did spit some out (and wanted to do more) but what good does that do, and how does that reflect on a bunch of people who are standing in public with a commitment to seek peace and nonviolence. There has to another solution. But what??? The anger I had yesterday was so RAW.

    • fritzfreud

      Several thoughts:
      (1) Guilt has other sources besides internalized anger — violating one’s own values, for example, is one. Sounds like your guilt (“at not being a good ‘peacemaker'”) is partly related to that.
      (2) Peace is an ideal. Thus peacemakers are idealists. And idealism is wonderful, but also a breeding ground for perfectionism and self-judgment. Perls writes, “If you are cursed with perfectionism, you are absolutely sunk. This ideal is a yardstick which always gives you the opportunity to browbeat yourself, to berate yourself and others. Since this ideal is an impossibility, you can never live up to it.”
      (3) “What good does that do?” you ask. Ultimately I think peace (like happiness) is an inside job. It starts at home, in our own hearts. If forgiving your own anger and expressing it leaves you more peaceful inside, won’t that make you a better peacemaker?

  • Candycan

    why would anger be felt as guilt, of all things?

    • fritzfreud

      Think of anger as the emotional fuel that drives rejection, aggression or attack. When we turn anger inward we feel guilty because we are, in effect, rejecting, aggressing against, and attacking our selves.

  • WG

    Love love love love love 🙂
    Multicoloured Bert, struggling with the crazyness of internalised anger.
    Genius!
    Keep up the good work. Plus, you made me laugh at the end. Which I assure you is an achievement 😉

    xx

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