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Anger From Dad?

by Jackie

I've always been an angry person. My childhood was a living hell I woudn't wish on my worse enemy. My dad always seemed to be angry, and I think I took after him. Because now as an adult I see myself reacting to things similar to how he reacted to some things.

I've tried different things to control my anger. My friends say I have a "snap" anger; fine one minute then screaming the next. Nothing has worked. Working out to calm down and focus, deep breathing meditation, keeping a journal.

As a child I was worse. I would throw things at the teachers, scream and start fights. I went to 6 different elementary schools and 5 different high schools, because of "behavioral problems."

Now I'm married with 2 step kids and I don't want them to grow up thinking I'm the "evil Step-mom," and I don't want them to learn my temper rages. I've never struck a child or yelled at one and never will. But knowing I see red when they do dumb kid things like leave the milk out, I need to find a way to control that anger. But i don't know what to do. Growing up in an extremely violent house didn't teach me a dang thing about controlling my temper. Please help.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Jackie, and thanks for asking for help here. It sounds like you've been down a long, difficult road.

I really get that you want help, but it's also clear that you wonder if you will ever get the help you are looking for--as evidenced by your statement, "Nothing has worked." It's you that works, and it's you that you need. It's the goodness and well being inside you that makes you want to be a good Step-mom. It's your good heart that is so tired of all of the anger. And you apparently know exactly where it came from. That's good.

The good news here is that I can help you. I feel confident that you are ready to make some profound changes, and I will try to guide you through some steps to heal yourself emotionally.

We will go through three processes:

1. Emotionally releasing your parents and the baggage you picked up

2. Writing about your past trauma, journaling from your anger, and positive journaling (I think you'll find this to be more focused journaling than you've done before).

3. Guided imagery for emotional healing of specific traumatic episodes in your past

Releasing Parents

Okay, let's get started--here's what I want you to do:

a) Write down all of the ways in which you are like your dad. Look at that list and ask yourself if there's any of those qualities or behaviors you want to keep (he may not have been all bad). In other words, choose what you like and don't like from the list, and put those in separate lists.

b) Then write down all of the ways you are different from your dad. These are the things that make you unique as an individual. Look at this list, and choose what you like from it, and add that to your positive list of qualities (if any).

c) Take a look at your positive list, and add to it if anything else comes to mind.

Now repeat that entire process with your mom, and combine the two lists of the things you like and choose for yourself.

Next, picture both of your parents in front of you. Thank them both for all of the good things they've done for you, leaving nothing out. Then tell them both about the things you didn't like. Tell them how much the anger has hurt you and affected your life.

Tell your dad that you're giving the anger back to him, that you didn't ask for it and that you don't want it any more. Picture and imagine the rage and anger leaving your body and mind, as if it were a vapor or smoke, and going back to him. It won't hurt him, and it will help you. Tell him that he was just flat wrong for venting his anger on you. Be strong with this, using a strong voice and saying it out loud while picturing him in front of you.

Say everything you need to say about your childhood--good and bad, and write it down in the form of letters to your parents (that you won't send). Picture their faces while you're writing. Then tell them, "I don't belong to you, and I don't live in your house physically, emotionally or spiritually. I am no longer under your influence or authority in any way, shape or form. I am taking charge of my life, and from now on I decide who and how I am."

I do not suggest you say these things face to face with your parents (if they're still living). This is just for you.

You may have to do these types of exercises several times, until you feel a deep emotional release, in which your body breathes a sigh of relief and release.

Your ultimate goal is to look at them and say, "I can see you as you truly are, your best and worst." Picture their best and worst selves, as if there was two of them sitting side by side, and say, "I accept you. I no longer need you to change. I release you. I set you free to be exactly who you are. And I set myself free to be who I choose to be."

Writing Exercises

Practice all of the exercises you will find on this page, starting with "Trauma Writing." This will help you to identify the ways in which you have been hurt, then the next step is "anger journaling" which will help you release your anger, and finally you'll do the positive journaling, which will help you to focus your attention away from the things that trigger your anger onto things that generate positive emotion.

Imagery Exercises

Use these imagery processes for emotional healing, working with each of the traumatic events in your life that you identified in the above writing exercise. These are powerful techniques, and if you use them repeatedly, you will get better at them, and they will bring you a lot of relief and comfort. They will allow you to heal the emotional wounds that underly and fuel your anger.

You can do this, Jackie. Don't let anything stop you from reaching your goals.

Believe in yourself. You are a good person, and if you use these tools, you can bring that good person to the surface and create a safe, loving home for your step children.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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