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I am almost to tears even before I have begun. I have been with my boyfriend for four years, and he has always been very aggressive, very explosive and hard to understand. We often talk about why he has so much anger, and he always comes back to this need for justice and "making the world pay."
He says these things with so much malice and intent I feel he's about to kill someone. He had a bad childhood. There was no physical abuse, but his parents emotionally hurt him with neglect and disrespect.
He is still living with his immature and cruel mother (he is a senior in high school), and he talks everyday of leaving. I know we are both young but when he has an attack of rage he is so overcome with anger, anxiety, depression and malicious intent, I really worry about his mental well-being.
I feel like what I am saying doesn't even begin to describe how angry he gets, and how out of control he is. I worry he will kill himself sometimes. He never talks about it specifically but he describes being so empty and hate filled he has no hope at all. I want more than anything to help and bring him some peace, and I have urged him so much to seek help, but everything I say seems to makes him escalate until he's shouting so hard in my face it's as if he's about to throw up--he makes himself so sick. I really really need help.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello, and thanks for writing your story on this site. You communicated very well about how bad your boyfriend's anger is. I think you really got your point across, and it is clear that he's in serious trouble with his anger. The question is, what can you do about it?
As you apparently know, the main work is on him. You cannot solve his problem for him, he has to do that. And he either will or he won't.
You have to take care of yourself first. You can't do anything for him if you let him take you down with him.
If you let him hurt you, he will be worse off, not better. You didn't say that you're afraid of him, or that he was hurting you, but you did say that he vents his anger in your face--which definitely puts you at risk.
Put yourself in his shoes. Imagine how it feels to him, when he sees how miserable he is, how much he can't stand his home life, and how huge his anger and suffering are.
Then, imagine how he feels about you. You're probably one of the best things--if not the best thing in his life. And he sees how upset you are, how he's scaring you, how his anger stresses you out. The point I'm making here is the same one I made above--you're not doing him any good by letting him hurt you.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's look at some ways you can help him:
Bear in mind that the healthiest thing for you might be to stay away from him, as long as he is showing these violent and threatening tendencies. His statement about, "making the world pay" is very alarming. These are the kinds of statements made by people who end up actually committing serious acts of violence to one or more people.
If you insist upon staying with him, you might try some of these techniques.
Try reflective listening when he's upset, which is simply repeating what you've heard your boyfriend saying so that he will know he's being heard. Also, express empathy for his position, attitudes and feelings. Read about these communication skills to learn step-by-step guidelines.
When you do this, you're not supporting his anger or his ideas, you're just supporting him. Ideally, he will calm down when you do this.
Apart from those types of communication skills, I suggest you love him, believe in him and if you pray, pray for him.
And most important of all, keep yourself safe.
Feel free to write again if you need more help or support.
My very best to you,
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