Anger In Progress
I've always vowed to not be like my dad. My family feared his angry, abusive side. When my siblings and I were young, my dad would leave the house any time we cried, and would be gone for hours at a time. He'd come home drunk, not caring that my mom was left tending to screaming kids.
As we got older, I became the target of his rage against my mom's disagreement with his rules. I was physically abused almost daily until around age 15. I was the oldest child, and I was targeted any time he got mad. I was hit by his fists, paint mixers, wooden spoons, belts, extension cords... anything he could find.
The cycle continued until I finally fought back and won. I made it my life goal to be the opposite of what I saw in him.
I am now 25 years old, with a 3 year old son. I am told that I'm a great dad, and my family is proud that I am not raising him the way my dad "raised" us. Unfortunately, I seem to have picked up some habits from him in other areas of my life.
Even though I'm typically far more advanced than others on my team at work, I can't keep a job very long. I'm lucky to hold a position with a company for more than 6 months, and I'm jobless every 9 months on average. Relationships have gone sour repeatedly. Girlfriends in the past have snapped to the point of physically assaulting me, and everyone thought I was just picking "the crazy ones".
I'm now with an older woman, who is the most amazing person I've ever known. Everything about her is the exact opposite of those who I've dated in the past. Recent fights, though, have made her angrier and more upset than she has ever been before, and it is now that I realize that my worst fear has come true -- I am becoming my dad.
My anger gets out of control quite often, and I hurt the people in my life that I care most about. I bottle up my feelings until they explode, and I say mean things, I make stupid accusations, I don't listen, and I try to turn my own pain against them. I keep promising change, but I've not known how or where to focus my energy to bring about that change.
After taking the self assessment on your site, I appear to have extreme anger issues. I desperately want to identify and eliminate the source of this issue. The relationship that I am currently in is one that I don't want to lose, and I've come dangerously close several times.
I'm surprised she hasn't totally left me yet, but I'm grateful that she hasn't. I want to prove to her that I can be different, that I'm not my dad, and that I'm capable of loving her and treating her the way she deserves. Please help me tackle this problem. I'm desperate.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Steve. Thanks for submitting your story to this site. Others will read and benefit, so you're helping yourself and others as well. Here is what I recommend:
1) Make a list of the ways you are like your dad, both good and bad. Be specific, and totally honest with yourself. Make up your mind to keep what is good and to shed what is not. I'll help you do that further down the list.
2) Make a list of the ways you are different from your dad. This is who you really are. Celebrate and embrace these aspects.
3) Write a detailed (I know, it's a big job) account of all that you can remember about the abuse that he perpetrated on you. This is essential, and it will begin your healing process.
4) When you feel ready, have a conversation with your dad in your head. Picture him in front of you, as if he was sitting there looking at you. Tell him all that you appreciate about him--this is important. Then tell him what you don't appreciate, and what you wish had been different. Don't hold back in this, tell him exactly how you feel, and how his actions have affected you. And tell him that you are not him, and how you are different from him. You may need to do some anger release work at this point.
5) Then see the best and worst of him in front of you, as if he was two different people. Then give him your permission to be who he is, and tell him that you set him free. And set yourself free to be the person you were born to be.
Steve, this will only work for you if you're ready. You may need some anger counseling from a professional to complete the process.
If you want to, you may also want to read some of the books or listen to some of the CDs you will find in our products store. This book in particular will guide you through a lot of processes that will help you to heal your anger and let go of your father.
You are a good man, Steve. That's why you don't want to be like your dad. That's why your anger is unacceptable to you as it is. Inside, you know the kind of man you want to be. That is who you really are, and who you are becoming. It will be helpful if you write in detail about the kind of person you want to be, and expand on that regularly.
Also, start keeping a daily journal. When you feel angry, write from your anger--let it come out pure and unfiltered. This will help it to dissipate. Then write about what you are grateful for and what you appreciate about yourself and you wife and your life in general. This will help a lot.
My best to you in your journey, Steve.