Little Lady, Big Anger.
Hello, I am a twenty-one year old female college student from Ohio. I guess I will give a little background on myself to better explain my situation first. I grew up on a farm, with a good family life and home, well provided for, and I was basically a good kid and student. However, my father is bi-polar, manic depressive, and also alcoholic, but these issues didn't really come into play until I was in high school. Since then they have worsened, and my fathers mental state has seriously deteriorated at times. My parents are also now divorced. When I was in high school, my boyfriend had a drinking problem, and at times was physically very violent with me, as well as cheating on me on numerous occasions.
Currently, I have developed an anger issue that seems to only come out toward my boyfriend. This is the same boyfriend I had in high school, but we separated for two years during which time he went to rehab. He has been sober for around three years now, and is a completely different person from what he was then. He has apologized, and no longer does those things.
Recently, I get extremely angry at him if he does anything I find remotely wrong, to the point of screaming and threatening to leave him. I feel like my anger has a lot to do with past resentments I have towards him, as well as maybe some anger towards my dad that I take out on my boyfriend. I don't know how to get past these issues, and when I get angry I feel so completely consumed by anger and rage that I cant think straight, and want to hit someone.
I really love my boyfriend, and want a healthier life for myself. I feel like I have somehow lost myself, and I'm really frustrated that I seem to be morphing into the abnormality I used to be surrounded with. Please give me some advice. Thank you.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Ophelia. Thanks for writing your question on this site so that others may read and benefit. You obviously are a very good person who wants to be healthy, and I encourage you to focus on that. Your good heart is your best anger management resource.
It's great that your boyfriend got some help in rehab, and is no longer abusive to you. Be aware, however, that abuse can be very subtle at times, and let yourself see clearly--meaning, if there are things that he does that really bother you, it's okay to tell him when you're calm and feeling good--not when you're angry.
Now for your part. I think you're exactly right about what's going on with your anger. You have good reasons for your anger--you have been affected by your relationship with your father and your past relationship with your boyfriend, and that is completely understandable.
This is what I suggest:
1) Write in complete detail about every traumatic memory you have of your father, and any other past traumatic memories you have. This has been found to be very helpful, all by itself. Just by writing about these memories, you will sort some things out in your mind, and heal some of the emotional trauma.
2) Write about your past painful memories of your relationship with your boyfriend as well. Don't share this with him, this is just for you. If you find it makes you angry toward him when you do this, practice these anger management techniques until your anger subsides.
3) If, after doing the above writing exercises--and that may take a while--you still are having issues with your boyfriend, try these communication skills for conflict resolution with him, and that will definitely help.
4) Finally, start keeping a gratitude journal. Every day--or most days, spend a few minutes writing about (a) what you're grateful for about your past (b> what you appreciate about your present, and (c) what you are optimistic about in your future. This will help you shift your focus to what is good, right and working in your life.
There is so much more right than wrong with you Ophelia. Focus on that.
My best to you,