I Feel Like I'm Drowning And I Don't Know What To Do
(Chas SC )
My wife died 2 years ago this May. We have a 17 year old and a 6 year old. The marriage wasn't that great. I didn't really want another child, but my daughter was born and things got worse. I don't think that I yell all the time or raise my voice but the girl I date now says I do and so do some of my family members.
Some would even say that my side of the family yells also. I want to know what I should do. My girlfriend tells me that she can't live this way. She says that she and her daughter won't move in with all the yelling. I truly don't think I do this but I do know that I feel like I'm drowning.
I hate my life right now. I don't want to be the mom and the dad to my kids. Please help me.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Richard, and thanks for asking for help on this site. It is tough being a single parent, no matter who you are. It is good that you are asking for counseling here--that shows that you are a good person, and that you don't want to hurt your children.
You say that you are not aware that you yell at your children, but others are telling you that you do. What that tells us is that your anger is very unconscious, and it just sort of takes over without you realizing it, and you are not even aware of what you're doing when it is in control of you. You don't have to live like that. I will help you.
One question I have is whether you have fully grieved the loss of your wife. It is possible that you have not. To be sure about this, take a look at this page on grieving, and see if you think you have completed the process. If not, then follow the steps recommended on that page. Anger is often a result of unresolved grief.
Here is some information to consider:
1) Unconscious anger like you are describing comes from the Reptilian brain--part of the Limbic system, where the fight-or-flight reflex resides.
2) Fight-or-flight reactions are literally light-speed in the brain, sending signals to your emotions, without informing your conscious mind, and that's why you don't remember what you've done sometimes.
3) For some reason (which you can find out), your primal, Reptilian, fight-or-flight reflex is being triggered in your parenting, causing you to react to your children as if they were the enemy. They're not your enemy, so you want this to change. That's good.
There is something in your personal history, some memory or story, that must be told. It could be grief over the loss of your wife and/or other traumatic experiences. That is where your unconscious anger is coming from. The untold story/unexplored memories are stored in your Reptilian brain, and situations with your children are triggering a reaction from that place.
Here is what I want you to do:
1) Review your personal history, going as far back as you can, and write about all of the frightening, painful or shaming experiences you have ever had.
2) This writing is just for you, Richard. But while you're writing, rest assured that no one will read it unless you absolutely want them to. You can shred or burn it when you're done if that feels right to you.
3) Begin writing daily from your anger. Let it flow out on the page (again, this is only for your eyes), and don't hold back. No matter how foul, vulgar or whatever--just let it out. This gives you an opportunity to look closely at this unconscious part of you, which helps to heal and give you conscious control.
4) Also write daily about what you are grateful for, what you appreciate, and what you are looking forward to in your future. Keep doing this after your anger is winding down--I suggest you do it for the rest of your life.
5) Write about what you appreciate about your children--all of the little and big things about them that you love, admire, like or appreciate. When you're ready, tell them about these things you like about them.
6) Here are some great programs for parenting that you might find helpful also.
Most important of all--do not give up on yourself. Ever. Stay with it, follow these recommendations, read the free information on this site, keep writing, and you will get there. Nothing will stop you from reaching your goals unless you decide to stop yourself. You have what it takes. You can do this. You are a good person.
My best to you, Richard,