An Intersubjective Approach to Working with Dysfunctional Anger and Attachment Trauma: A Case Study

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Peter Buirski

Second Advisor

Hale Martin

Third Advisor

Jennifer Cornish


Intersubjective, Trauma, Dysfunctional anger


John Bowlby (1973) posited the idea that internal attachment working models inform an individual’s experience of anger. Bowlby stated that anger was a “functional protest” to others’ adverse attachment behavior. He also outlined the difference between functional anger and dysfunctional anger. A functional response to anger promotes attachment bonds while a dysfunctional response is often disruptive to the attachment structure. Dysfunctional responses may include overt aggression, internalization of anger, destructive behavior, tantrums, or any negative response that threatens the attachment bond. The purpose of this paper is to examine the etiology of dysfunctional anger within attachment relationships, and the impact of such an experience on one’s organizing principles in adulthood. Using an Intersubjective Systems Theory (IST) framework, this paper will present a case study that illustrates the transformation of one individual’s experience of anger. The case study will focus solely on internalized anger and will use this term interchangeably with dysfunctional anger.

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


27 pgs

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