In A Temptation Too Great…, Nikki Moure suggests that if you are falsely accused of theft, and as a result your job is threatened, these things should not make you angry or anxious. I disagree.
A common misconception about cognitive therapy (or CBT) is that it is simply about controlling your thoughts. Another common misconception is that emotions like anger and anxiety are “bad” and must always be controlled. Put these together, and you appear to have a system for controlling bad thoughts. Wrong!
The reality is that anger and anxiety have evolved in us because they are useful to our survival. There are situations where anger or anxiety are certainly appropriate. Someone who fails to feel angry or anxious when appropriate needs therapy just as much as someone who feels angry or anxious at inappropriate times.
So a good therapist helps you to evaluate the appropriateness of your thoughts and feelings. Some patients are unable to experience anger. Successful therapy releases it, and their anger drives them to move their lives forward. Other patients experience anger that does them harm. Successful therapy helps these patients to interpret situations in ways that make their lives better.
The same misconception can be seen in the recent BBC TV programme Losing It. Griff Rhys Jones seems to feel anger at appropriate times, but he suppresses his anger and instead play-acts a kind of impotent rage. As a result, the things that make him angry continue to happen, and he continues to rage in ways that do not change anything.
The difference between real anger and play-act rage was not picked up by any of the therapists he consulted (perhpas because he did not give them enough time to understand him well). A good therapist would help him to play-act less, and to make his anger work for him instead of against him.