Aggressive Pattern

Interpersonal Behavior

Focuses attention on other people’s issues rather than the person’s own. 

Blames others for his problems or difficulties between them.

Criticizes others for being incompetent, wrong, guilty

Condescending, arrogant, argumentative

Ridicules others, biting humor

Moralistic

Becomes angry frequently, inappropriately, or excessively

Explosive, hostile, rageful, retaliating

Sometimes the anger is triggered by specific type of behavior in others—negative transference.

Vengeful, sadistic, hateful, violent

 

Motivation

Harbors resentment or rage about harm done to him as a child. Can be an attempt to protect oneself from this kind of harm in the present. 

If the rage is extreme, it can lead to a desire to harm others for revenge.

Anger can be used as a defense against feeling pain.

Anger can come from envy of others

In service of defensive pattern: Tries to avoid feeling shame because of a problem being seen as his fault. “It’s not my fault; it’s yours.”

In service of isolated pattern: Finds fault with others as an excuse for avoiding closeness. “I’m not interested in you any more.”

In service of defiant pattern: Judges others as a way of refusing to cooperate. “You don’t have the right to tell me what to do because you’re wrong.”

In service of angry pattern: Judgment is a way of expressing anger or possibly trying to hurt others. Often triggered by specific negative transference.

In service of controlling pattern: Judging others as a way of trying to control them. Judging them when they don’t do what he wants. “Do it my way because your way is wrong.” Moralistic

In service of prideful pattern: Judging others or demeaning them as a way of feeling superior to prop up one’s pride. “I’m better than you.”

In service of suspicious pattern: Judging others in the process of searching out their underlying hostility. Also as part of provoking it. “I see what’s going on with you underneath your nice front.”

In service of victim pattern: Judging others for not taking care of him or for making his life miserable. “It’s your fault that I’m unhappy, so rescue me.”

 

Core Issues/Origins

Aggressive reaction to any harm or deficiency issues

Anger is a natural response to harm or deprivation. It tends to become a pattern if the harm is severe, or the child has a lot of natural aggression, or if the harm came specifically in the form of anger or violence. Physical abuse especially tends to produce an angry pattern. 

Internalized or shaped anger or violence. Could come from a violent subculture.

Reaction to prohibition against speaking the truth of family problems. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong whether you like it or not.”

 

Conscious Statement

How dare you do that. You are bad (stupid, horrible, etc.) for doing that. 

 

Unconscious Thought

I am enraged at what was done to me a a child. [depends on what other patterns combined with]

 

Representations

Self: Aggrieved, angry

Other: Bad, harmful

 

Sees Others As

People who can cause pain

People who he must protect himself from

 

Healthy Capacities Blocked

Love, compassion, cooperation, considerateness, vulnerability, responsibility 

Constructive self-criticism, problem ownership, self-awareness

 

Gender and Culture

More common in men.

Common in oppressed groups that are in a liberation process

 

Activating Conditions

Any action or situation or person that is perceived as similar to the original situation of harm

Can react even if the activating behavior is directed toward others

People who are similar to the harmful parent—especially men, powerful people, angry people, intrusive people

 

Distinctions

The defiant client may be angry, but the real issue is protecting himself from domination.

Similarly with other patterns which anger can be in service of, see Combinations below

Perceptiveness is a healthy capacity where the person can see other people clearly, include their problems. This may include sometimes speaking judgments, but there is no underlying motivation coming from a core issue.

 

VARIATIONS

 

Avoiding Pain

Anger is primarily in service of avoiding vulnerability and pain

 

Sadistic

The anger is intended to hurt the other. Often related to a feeling of wanting revenge on someone for past harm.

Sometimes the anger becomes frozen and turns into hate, which can be cold and calculating.

 

Combinations of Aggressive Pattern with Other Patterns

Anger can be part of many other patterns, where it also serves the goal of the other pattern.

Defiant: It serves to protect the person against harm or control

Isolated: It serves to protect against closeness by keeping others at a distance.

Victim: It attempts to coerce caring

Suspicious: It attempts to provoke anger or to protect from the other person’s perceived hidden hostility

Brittle: Rage defends against underlying shame

Defensive: It defends against feeling blamed. “It’s your fault, not mine.”

Judgmental: Anger can be part of the judgment

Needy victim: judges people to try to convince them to take care of her because they are wrong for not loving her, it’s not her fault they don’t

See above under motivation for other combinations

 

 

PSYCHOTHERAPY

 

Related Technical Concepts

Negative transference

Common in borderline clients

Explosive personality disorder

Narcissistic rage

 

Transference

Client attacks the therapist, especially when negative transference is triggered or when the client begins to become vulnerable. 

Judges the therapist about not doing a good in the therapy, about particular mistakes with him, or about not being a good therapist

 

Countertransference toward Aggressive Client

Becoming frightened of client’s anger/judgment and tip-toeing to avoid making the client angry

Trying unconsciously to get back at the client 

Failing to see appropriate limits on the expression of the client’s anger

Squelching the client’s anger so that it goes underground and isn’t explored

Becoming defensive or angry in return. 

Dealing only with the content of the client’s judgment.

Refusing to consider any truth in the judgment. Throwing it all back on the client.

Buying the judgment. Feeling incompetent.

 

Countertransference of Aggressive Therapist

Becoming angry at client who triggers therapist’s issues

Looks down on client for her psychological problems. Pathologizes clients. Feels superior. (This is the traditional attitude in the field.)

Focuses exclusively on client’s problems and doesn’t appreciate her strengths, potentials, and healthy side.

 

Group Roles/Positions, Strengths of Some Angry Clients

Frightening member, scapegoat

Can help to initiate conflict phase of group

Norm setter

The one who is not afraid to call it like it is

 

TREATMENT

 

Understanding that is Needed by Client

That anger or judgment comes from his issues, not just the triggering situation

 

Access (core issue)

Engage client in exploration of underlying meaning and motivation for aggressive behavior.

Ask client to explore the vulnerable feeling beneath the anger

 

Experimenting, Healing Reponses, Inner Healing

These have mostly to do with the underlying core issue

 

Healing Response

Tolerating the anger/judgment (while possible setting limits on its expression) without retaliating, withdrawing, or becoming upset

 

Other Interventions

Protecting other group members from angry client

Setting limits on expression of anger

Requiring client to explore the anger, not just express it

Take judgment seriously if any part of it may be true, but don’t get caught focusing primarily on that. 

If necessary, get client to be specific about judgment. Then engage client in relational exploration, moving to what he is wanting, feeling, not wanting from you.

 

Potential Problems

Client frightens other group members and they tip-toe around him

Too much hostility/judgment makes group unsafe for members to become vulnerable 

  

Aggressive Pattern

 

Interpersonal Behavior

Focuses attention on other people’s issues rather than the person’s own. 

Blames others for his problems or difficulties between them.

Criticizes others for being incompetent, wrong, guilty

Condescending, arrogant, argumentative

Ridicules others, biting humor

Moralistic

Becomes angry frequently, inappropriately, or excessively

Explosive, hostile, rageful, retaliating

Sometimes the anger is triggered by specific type of behavior in others—negative transference.

Vengeful, sadistic, hateful, violent

 

Motivation

Harbors resentment or rage about harm done to him as a child. Can be an attempt to protect oneself from this kind of harm in the present. 

If the rage is extreme, it can lead to a desire to harm others for revenge.

Anger can be used as a defense against feeling pain.

Anger can come from envy of others

In service of defensive pattern: Tries to avoid feeling shame because of a problem being seen as his fault. “It’s not my fault; it’s yours.”

In service of isolated pattern: Finds fault with others as an excuse for avoiding closeness. “I’m not interested in you any more.”

In service of defiant pattern: Judges others as a way of refusing to cooperate. “You don’t have the right to tell me what to do because you’re wrong.”

In service of angry pattern: Judgment is a way of expressing anger or possibly trying to hurt others. Often triggered by specific negative transference.

In service of controlling pattern: Judging others as a way of trying to control them. Judging them when they don’t do what he wants. “Do it my way because your way is wrong.” Moralistic

In service of prideful pattern: Judging others or demeaning them as a way of feeling superior to prop up one’s pride. “I’m better than you.”

In service of suspicious pattern: Judging others in the process of searching out their underlying hostility. Also as part of provoking it. “I see what’s going on with you underneath your nice front.”

In service of victim pattern: Judging others for not taking care of him or for making his life miserable. “It’s your fault that I’m unhappy, so rescue me.”

 

Core Issues/Origins

Aggressive reaction to any harm or deficiency issues

Anger is a natural response to harm or deprivation. It tends to become a pattern if the harm is severe, or the child has a lot of natural aggression, or if the harm came specifically in the form of anger or violence. Physical abuse especially tends to produce an angry pattern. 

Internalized or shaped anger or violence. Could come from a violent subculture.

Reaction to prohibition against speaking the truth of family problems. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong whether you like it or not.”

 

Conscious Statement

How dare you do that. You are bad (stupid, horrible, etc.) for doing that. 

 

Unconscious Thought

I am enraged at what was done to me a a child. [depends on what other patterns combined with]

 

Representations

Self: Aggrieved, angry

Other: Bad, harmful

 

Sees Others As

People who can cause pain

People who he must protect himself from

 

Healthy Capacities Blocked

Love, compassion, cooperation, considerateness, vulnerability, responsibility 

Constructive self-criticism, problem ownership, self-awareness

 

Gender and Culture

More common in men.

Common in oppressed groups that are in a liberation process

 

Activating Conditions

Any action or situation or person that is perceived as similar to the original situation of harm

Can react even if the activating behavior is directed toward others

People who are similar to the harmful parent—especially men, powerful people, angry people, intrusive people

 

Distinctions

The defiant client may be angry, but the real issue is protecting himself from domination.

Similarly with other patterns which anger can be in service of, see Combinations below

Perceptiveness is a healthy capacity where the person can see other people clearly, include their problems. This may include sometimes speaking judgments, but there is no underlying motivation coming from a core issue.

 

VARIATIONS

 

Avoiding Pain

Anger is primarily in service of avoiding vulnerability and pain

 

Sadistic

The anger is intended to hurt the other. Often related to a feeling of wanting revenge on someone for past harm.

Sometimes the anger becomes frozen and turns into hate, which can be cold and calculating.

 

Combinations of Aggressive Pattern with Other Patterns

Anger can be part of many other patterns, where it also serves the goal of the other pattern.

Defiant: It serves to protect the person against harm or control

Isolated: It serves to protect against closeness by keeping others at a distance.

Victim: It attempts to coerce caring

Suspicious: It attempts to provoke anger or to protect from the other person’s perceived hidden hostility

Brittle: Rage defends against underlying shame

Defensive: It defends against feeling blamed. “It’s your fault, not mine.”

Judgmental: Anger can be part of the judgment

Needy victim: judges people to try to convince them to take care of her because they are wrong for not loving her, it’s not her fault they don’t

See above under motivation for other combinations

 

 

PSYCHOTHERAPY

 

Related Technical Concepts

Negative transference

Common in borderline clients

Explosive personality disorder

Narcissistic rage

 

Transference

Client attacks the therapist, especially when negative transference is triggered or when the client begins to become vulnerable. 

Judges the therapist about not doing a good in the therapy, about particular mistakes with him, or about not being a good therapist

 

Countertransference toward Aggressive Client

Becoming frightened of client’s anger/judgment and tip-toeing to avoid making the client angry

Trying unconsciously to get back at the client 

Failing to see appropriate limits on the expression of the client’s anger

Squelching the client’s anger so that it goes underground and isn’t explored

Becoming defensive or angry in return. 

Dealing only with the content of the client’s judgment.

Refusing to consider any truth in the judgment. Throwing it all back on the client.

Buying the judgment. Feeling incompetent.

 

Countertransference of Aggressive Therapist

Becoming angry at client who triggers therapist’s issues

Looks down on client for her psychological problems. Pathologizes clients. Feels superior. (This is the traditional attitude in the field.)

Focuses exclusively on client’s problems and doesn’t appreciate her strengths, potentials, and healthy side.

 

Group Roles/Positions, Strengths of Some Angry Clients

Frightening member, scapegoat

Can help to initiate conflict phase of group

Norm setter

The one who is not afraid to call it like it is

 

TREATMENT

 

Understanding that is Needed by Client

That anger or judgment comes from his issues, not just the triggering situation

 

Access (core issue)

Engage client in exploration of underlying meaning and motivation for aggressive behavior.

Ask client to explore the vulnerable feeling beneath the anger

 

Experimenting, Healing Reponses, Inner Healing

These have mostly to do with the underlying core issue

 

Healing Response

Tolerating the anger/judgment (while possible setting limits on its expression) without retaliating, withdrawing, or becoming upset

 

Other Interventions

Protecting other group members from angry client

Setting limits on expression of anger

Requiring client to explore the anger, not just express it

Take judgment seriously if any part of it may be true, but don’t get caught focusing primarily on that. 

If necessary, get client to be specific about judgment. Then engage client in relational exploration, moving to what he is wanting, feeling, not wanting from you.

 

Potential Problems

Client frightens other group members and they tip-toe around him

Too much hostility/judgment makes group unsafe for members to become vulnerable