December 14, 1989

A Time for Anger

Anger is hurt!

David Viscott

The most effective remedy that I know of for depression is anger. It can be a dangerous remedy because, while depression can lead to suicide, anger can lead to murder. Yet, in most people, anger will counter depression very effectively.

Today was a super-depressing day. Our cat is sick, and I think that it's probably incurable. The dentist, who I thought I was through with for the year, told me that I had an abscessed tooth and it's a tooth that anchors a bridge. In the opposite jaw is a tooth where half of it broke away yesterday, necessitating a cap. My wife is leaving for three days and to top it off, she told me that she had to cover a meeting tonight. I thought that she should spend the evening with me because I really needed her company. She refused, I got angry and my depression disappeared. Of course, now I have to make peace with my wife, which may not be so easy. At least I no longer feel that life is futile and that I would be better off dead.

I listened to TV psychiatrist David Viscott attempt to resolve a marital problem between a policeman and his wife. He did it by pointing out to the man, that he was angry because he was hurt and if he told his wife that he was hurt, she could help him more than if he responded with anger. Viscott repeated, over and over, "anger is hurt!" He was right, of course. The two emotions are interwoven. In this case, the man's anger got in the way of the resolution of their problems.

Hurt and depression are also interwoven; particularly the combination of hurt and helplessness. When someone you love dies, it is very difficult to counter with anger; so the depression can be very profound. Some people get angry at something else; the government, the timber industry, the environmentalists, or the boss. It works!

One of the tricks in dealing with the depression of a soldier who has lost a limb is to make him angry. It sounds terribly cruel to tell someone who has lost a limb that he ought to consider himself lucky, because he only has one shoe to tie in the morning. You have to be prepared to duck a flying bedpan, but it does work. The depression is replaced by anger and an angry man wants to live, not die.

I remember visiting a friend a number of years ago. A young woman was there, in a state of extreme depression. A man she knew told her that if she stopped seeing him that he would kill himself. She stopped seeing him and he committed suicide. She was blaming herself. I told her what a mean SOB he was to do that to her; that if he had a shred of decency in him he wouldn't have made her suffer. My friend was shocked that I could be so heartless. He told me later that it had snapped her out of her deep depression and he now understood why I did it.

I just heard my wife come in the door. I sure hope that I can square things with her.

Maybe it's better to stay depresed.

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