Q. I am prone to saying things in anger that I regret. My friends all know this about me and make comments about my “tantrums.” It’s not something I’ve ever really liked about myself but it’s also not something I have ever thought about changing either. Lately, I have been thinking that I want to be better about this, that it doesn’t just have to be who I am, that it is something I can work on. But I feel odd finding a therapist about this. Is this a legit thing that people would seek therapy for? What do I even call this? — I Get Angry
Of course, some might say that my definition of what is a “legit” reason for therapy is pretty much anything besides having spinach in your teeth. But this one is clear-cut. You have a behavior pattern that is hurting others and that you want to change.
Therapy can help you understand what started it, what’s keeping it going and, most important, what kind of steps you can take to choose a new path in those moments and get out of its hold. A cognitive-behavioral therapist who specializes in anger would be ideal, and they can help you identify all the subtle triggers that make you boil over — from physical sensations to hidden emotional vulnerabilities — and learn how to keep them from getting the best of you.
Divorced … and regretting it
Q. I thought I welcomed our divorce because we were fighting so much. Now, four years later, I still miss him every day and wonder if we should have given it a better shot. He is living with someone else and we barely have contact. We were married for nine years and I feel like he was my main chance at love. Should I just accept that I made a mistake? — Lots of Regrets
Accepting that the divorce happened and that he is committed to someone else — yes, you need eventually to do that. But that is not synonymous with viewing the divorce as a mistake. That latter mindset will keep you in regret mode, mired in what you could have done differently, preventing you from growing and learning and changing.
Here’s the thing: Whether it was a mistake or not does not have to be a done deal. You can choose to not have it be a mistake, by doing what it takes to build a new life for yourself. Yes, divorce is painful, and you may ache for years more, but don’t let it keep you from living. Missing him is one thing, but letting that stop you from seeking out new passions — of the animate and inanimate kind — turns into self-sabotage. Having regrets is part of everyone’s life story. The ideal way to act on them is to use them as insights in moving forward, not traps that keep you wishing for a time machine. Create your own do-over not with him, but with the blank slate of the future.
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