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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Maybe Fear is Hiding Behind that Anger

The company that owns the building where I rent my art therapy studio just charged me for two month’s rent at once.

Naturally, I was upset.

I reached out to the owner for an explanation and he replied, “I’m not sure what you’re asking. Our bookkeeper takes care of all the checks. I don’t know anything about what he does.”

"Feeling Angry" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

As a therapist, it’s easy to see where his response goes astray. First, he does not acknowledge that he has heard me. Such as, “Yes, I can imagine that is upsetting or impactful” or “I’m sorry to hear that” or “Thank you for letting me know.” Any form of reflection that the individual is heard.

Second, he does not take any personal responsibility or leadership, such as, “I’m not sure what happened, but I will look into it for you.”

I do not know the bookkeeper. I cannot speak with the bookkeeper to get this resolved.

I looked into it more with my bank and I found out what happened: the bookkeeper submitted two of my rent checks at once. For all past rent, the bookkeeper submitted that month’s rent check in the middle of the month (not the way I would do it, but that has been their business practice for the past two years). This month, they decided to submit the rent check for this month and next month at the same time.

There’s nothing I can do about it now. The lease does not state deadlines like this (I was told it was an intentionally loose and vague lease due to it being an artist collective).

I am angry because something unfair has occurred, no responsibility was taken, and there is nothing I can do about it… other than decide to discontinue renting there, which I don’t want to do. Things I deeply value and need, such as clear communication, responsibility, trust, consistency were not provided.

Dr. Richo, an author I love, explains that anger is present when something we value is in jeopardy. Not only are all of the aforementioned values in jeopardy, but also my money. Money is a resource to provide for the things we value, and paying double rent at once definitely jeopardizes that. Furthermore, the owner exhibited no respect or understanding for my situation, which are two other important values.

As I sat with this anger and started writing about it (my way of moving through an emotion), I received another text from the owner, stating, “While we’re talking, I was supposed to talk to you about raising the rent $50.”

It was certainly poor timing. This is typical communication and behavior for this owner. Whenever there is a problem, he makes it worse.

As long as there are no problems, I’m extremely happy to rent where I do. It’s an artist collective, I enjoy the space, I like the proximity to my home, I like my neighbors, etc.

The minute a problem arises though (such as when items were stolen out of the lobby), the owner’s words and actions only escalate and inflame the situation. The owner simply does not have the skills to provide calm leadership or resolutions.

When I remember this, it scares me. I am scared that something I deeply value (my art therapy studio and my business) will be compromised due to their poor communication and management.

I’m afraid problems will arise and my only recourse will be to leave… which would be very disruptive to my life and business.

I’m also afraid because the one tool I have (communicating with humans) does not work in this case.

It reminds me of growing up in a religious household. My opinions, thoughts, and emotions were not respected. There was only one way. I was powerless.

In this situation, I feel powerless again. Which is scary.

So what’s the solution?

I’d love to tell you the five steps I took to vanquish the fear and anger. However, the fear and anger I feel are appropriately present. I am having a normal reaction to a distressing event.

The key for me is to not let them consume me. I want to hold these emotions (distress tolerance), and make decisions that are best for me.

In this case, I acknowledge the anger about how this situation was handled and how it impacted me financially. I see why it brings up fear about my well being and safety in that rental space.

The understanding that I provide to myself, helps to regulate my nervous system. To see that I am valid. I can then make decisions about what is best for me at this time. Currently, the best decision is to remain at the studio. I have a solution for the current problem (submitting my rent checks later in the month), and I’m hoping that future problems will be rare enough that it is safe to continue renting there.

I suppose this is the final step. Having faith in myself that I will handle problems when they arise. I have a fear of not taking care of myself well enough in the present that it leads to problems in the future.

But this is where I have to trust that I have weighed my options for now and this is the best choice. That the fear and anger are there, not forgotten, and made this decision with me.


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