“Doctor, I am anxious all the time! what should I do?”
“I am so depressed, I can barely drag myself out of bed, what is wrong with me?”
or, ” My partner is so unreasonable, why can’t he (or she) admit he’s wrong?”
These are typical statements made by my patients. People are always asking me, “how do I get rid of these terrible symptoms and live a happy life?” Most of my patients are either married, unhappily or living with a significant other.
They blame their negative feelings (anger fear, guilt) on their unhappy relationship. Actually, they are in a bad relationship because they are looking for a quick solution to their negative feelings. People tell me that their partner is either constantly picking on them (angry), or too needy and dependent(guilty).
Probing their family of origin uncovers a history of dysfunction, abuse or neglect. They are trying to do better in adult life, but it isn’t working. “Why do I keep picking angry men?’ ask the (guilty- depressed) women. Why do I always end up with difficult women ” ask the (angry- controlling) men? (Genders can be reversed)
Guilty feelings inculcated in the childhood causes people-pleasing behavior
The answer is so simple, we all grow up with an excess of irrational guilt. Perhaps our mothers blamed us for not listening to them. We think we have been bad boys or girls for not wanting to go to sleep on time. We should be ashamed of ourselves for not obeying a parental command.
This often gets unconsciously internalized as guilt and shame. We don’t even realize we have it. Sometimes it leads to a building a personality that tries to please people all the time(the guilty-“people pleasing” solution).
Pleasers think that the answer is that if I can get everyone to like me and approve of me, I will be alright. It never works.
Childhood rebelliousness causes aggressive behavior in adult life
Other people try to fight authority. This “solution” can lead to compulsive anger and rebelliousness. This idea never works either.
As Grouch Marx used to sing, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” These are the difficult people who always want what they want and keep pushing to get their way. They always have to be right!
When asked if they would rather be right or happy? They always say, “Both.” When you tell them they can’t have both…they insist they can! Eventually, they get married and begin to quarrel.
When “angries” marry “guilties”
The guilty one tries very hard to please the angry one. When she or he fails, they either try harder and gets depressed or they turn the guilt into anger.” The angry one says, It’s not my fault we are unhappy, It’s your fault!!!!” The guilty one counter attacks…and so it goes.
Solution to ongoing conflicts between “the angries” and “the guilties”
Is there a way out? Yes! The answer is to withdraw projected feelings. In simple English. As soon as we stop blaming, we can become aware of our thoughts feelings and beliefs.
We can see, for example, how our repressed guilt leads us to marry a blamer who then gives us the punishment we (unconsciously) think we deserve.
When we let go of guilt, we don’t need to be blamed anymore!
On the other hand, the angry person needs to look inside and see that they are also in denial. They are denying their own guilt. Instead, they are blaming others for everything. They can learn how to blameless and take responsibility more often.
If both marital partners “wake up” and take responsibility, a marriage can improve greatly!