Sometimes You Should Not Hide Your True Feelings

Now we’ve met Adam. He and his wife, Esther, are visiting their good friends, Nellie and Tim. Nellie conferred with me about matters of concern for her friends. We learned that Adam has been moody, irritable and angry with occasional cussing. Adam and Esther are recently retired from their respective jobs. They have no children. Historically, they’ve visited for a week to escape the oppressive heat of the south, where they reside. This year, they decided to celebrate with a full summer holiday with Nellie and Tim. Short trips were planned with home base at Nellie and Tim’s home — best laid plans. When Adam demonstrated his temperament at an evening with his wife and friends, Nellie’s attempt to intervene was met with an impasse. Generally a calming soul, Nellie was clearly challenged and frustrated. Fortunately, Tim whisked Adam from the scene, did some boating and generally reduced the tension. Tim convinced Adam to see someone professionally, for his own sake.

Nellie met with me and briefed me, reiterating about the incident, her concerns for Esther, the recipient of Adam’s outbursts and the hope that he’d seek help.

An appointment was made and I met with Adam a day later. Adam and I initially talked about his vacation, the activities and the differences this holiday unfolded. He referenced the retirement and his response to that milestone. He’d worked for 30 years, made some friends and so noted his compliance on the job. However, he wanted “to leave the place behind.” He added a reference to solid-based financial retirement plans. Both he and Esther were free to travel with their dog. I asked how he felt about his friends Nellie and Tim suggesting he seek some counseling. He glazed over the incident where he got angry with Esther, Nellie intervening and Tim finally getting him out of the scene for relief.

I asked him if he felt forced to see me. I asked, furthermore, about his moodiness, which was uncharacteristic. He admitted to experiencing anger a lot. “I kept it hidden for a long time. I yell at Esther a lot.” Adam expressed interest in at least one more session. I invited Adam to focus to be more mindful of what percolated. I wanted him to focus on what has him really upset. Was his anger towards Esther true to fact or displaced?

Adam arrived on time for his appointment. How are you, Adam? He looked at me, sat up in his chair and stated, “This is too much stuff, Marshall. Pardon my language. I thought about what you asked me to explore. I told you that I’ve hidden away my feelings. I’ve worked a job for 30 years that set well for me. Well, not entirely. I guess I’ve been dishonest with my feelings about work.” Adam took a deep breath. “Marshall, I loved my job for the first few years. I learned the job well. I was competent and respected by my peers for my professionalism. Then a supervisory position came open. I was ready, Marshall. I was a perfect fit. I talked it over with Esther, who encouraged me to apply. I did. I was so jazzed. Some colleagues even encouraged me. I applied, got an interview and hit it squarely. I shook the interviewee’s hand and left feeling great. Two days later, I was informed I wasn’t chosen for the job. An outsider was chosen. I was pissed. I thought I’d been betrayed. It took time for me to keep my stuff together. I wanted to blow up. Esther was supportive. I continued in my job with a smile on my face. I couldn’t talk or act on my feelings. I have to look at something real sensitive, Marshall. The person chosen was a woman. I’ve had to look deep into myself in order to maintain calm. I continued to work hard.”

So, Adam, you kept that hidden for so long. Did you keep Esther apprised at the long-term adverse effect? Think about how much energy it took to hide and not express your experience. That may have been a good time to see a therapist, Adam.

“You’re right, Marshall. I know I need to help myself. I took out my stuff on Esther. She didn’t deserve it. I never conveyed with my new supervisor how I feel about her. Well, maybe I need to continue now if you’ll see me. Wow, great retirement and vacation, huh, Marshall?”

Well, Adam, you’re giving yourself a great retirement gift. Let’s get Esther involved too.

“Yeah, she’s supportive.”

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.