Dear Life Matters,
My brother is very angry with our parents. We did have a rough childhood and by most standards my Mother’s form of discipline would be considered child abuse. My brother who is older than I am got it the worse.
On the other hand, we come from a culture that believes parents know best and whatever they do, they do it for our own good.
They have provided us with a very nice life style and we want for nothing. We have gotten great college educations.
I see both sides and I have accepted the bad, not approving of it, just letting it go. It is years now and I don’t want it to dominate my life.
But my brother goes into screaming rages anytime he has to talk to our parents or something comes up about them. He only has to think about them and he is off and running. He screams, turns red and honestly I am worried that he will give himself a stroke.
He has tried some counseling, which helped him in many ways, but he hasn’t gotten over this.
Dear Help Please,
Sounds like you might have a legitimate worry, unfortunately. It also sounds like there is a great deal of tension in your family. Fortunately for you, it appears as if you have moved on which from the sounds of it, is clearly in your best interest.
You say your brother was abused and this is not an easy thing to get over.
If it included a lot of shame and humiliation, it is even more troublesome.
Some times, we hang on to our anger as a defense. It gives us a more powerful feeling than the extreme vulnerability that is most likely underneath it.
Most anger is a cover up for hurt and fear. Your bother may just feel way too vulnerable inside to give up his anger. Most likely because it began as a child, his feelings are emotionally attached to a younger age which would only make him feel more scared. In other words, he may feel like a young child rather than a young man, when he taps into his vulnerability.
He may have visions of turning into a pool of bloody tears that would be endless if he gave up his anger. On the other hand, he may not even realize that this is a deeper issue and just unconsciously holds on to his anger as armor.
Having said that, there are people who feel so hurt and angry that they want to punish their parents.
As they see it, to “even the score” is the only way out for them.
These people sacrifice goals; happiness and they sabotage themselves, because after all, what is worse for the parent than feeling like your child is a failure and this clearly means something not so great about you.
We can punish our parents by being “screw-ups”, never quite getting it together. This does not always work in terms of hurting the parents but it is successful more often than not.
The real tragedy is that you have to hurt yourself and sacrifice yourself in many ways to be successful at it. It is indeed a very sad situation.
It may not be possible to understand and forgive your parents, and certainly is it unlikely that you will forget, but there is an in-between step of acceptance. Not accepting things as they were but accepting that the situation is what it is and was and there is no going back, so maybe it is just best to “let go and move on.”
Some people cannot or will not do this. They certainly have a low chance of doing it without help. But as you noted, your brother has had some help but is refusing to let it go!
The best of therapists cannot change the will of the patient. There are some exceptions but not that I can go into within the scope of this article.
Just to expound on an earlier point, some people are just too afraid of the possibility of re-experiencing the hurt and fear they went through and they have learned long ago that anger was their best defense.
In referring to these people, I often say, “Anger is like the glue that holds them together.”
They have their working defense but as you point out, it is not without serious consequences and a pretty unhappy life.
I hope your brother can soon, began to see and understand this.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage & family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or email your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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