Therapy & Anger

th4AG1UDCTMy Dad was always a very angry man and his fierce strictness regularly bullied and petrified me. He was – and probably still is – a very controlling perfectionist and needed everything to go exactly the “right” way. In his eyes, learning curbs in children were a challenge of his demands for compliance.

Later in life, I used to wonder what was going through his mind as he towered over his little boy with an explosion of violent fury, or his sadistic threats of even worse to come. How could an adult watch the terror play out in a child’s eyes? Could they not see how the mistrust and hatred seeped through the parental bond like poison?

Even though I assumed every parent beat their children, I must have also sensed it was wrong and unjust because their behaviour would make me blood thirsty furious from a very early age. I feared and hated my father more than words could ever express. If someone had offered to kill him when I was a teenager, I am ashamed to admit that the need to protect myself might have spelled danger for him.

While this kind of upbringing can teach some children to become violent bulliesthF8FY8IK2 themselves, it had the opposite effect on me. I grew up learning to feel threatened by my personal opinions and terrified of my own anger, including everyone else’s anger.

Whenever I experience anger as an adult, it still feels like a life-sucking emotion, which is incredibly difficult to express and even harder to process. In the past, a major incident often propelled me into self-destruct mode, as if I am punishing myself for my own anger.

The intensity of this anger and the fear of facing it, remind me a lot of the trauma I felt when I first started therapy. I imagined having to go through each traumatic memory to find healing. However, I discovered that a great deal of that healing comes from merely observing and sitting with the emotion. In my short experience, it is as if some kind of spontaneous healing takes place within this process and I do trust something similar will happen to the anger.

thAQ8EK2XXMy individual therapy sessions with Paul are more comfortable of late and I wonder if this is the beginning of that all-important trust and connection between Client & Therapist. Apparently, as we begin to experience change in our relationship with the Therapist, so do relations with other people in our personal lives. Oddly enough, I have been feeling less hypersensitive and paranoid and seem to be much more open to interaction.

We had group therapy Friday morning and much to everyone’s surprise, the session was a vast improvement in comparison to previous weeks. A new group Therapist has joined Frankie, her name is Dr C, and she managed the group like a dream. Poor Frankie, she has been demonised on my blog, but I did feel a little sorry for her.

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33 thoughts on “Therapy & Anger

  1. Priceless Joy

    Cat, I saw so much of myself in your post today. I can relate to everything you said here. My dad wasn’t as bad as your dad but he was close. For my dad, kids were a necessary evil. (No more than a product of a good time). Kids should be seen and not heard kind of thing. I think it is wonderful that you are getting more comfortable talking to Paul. I also think it is wonderful that you have come so far in a short time.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I can’t believe just how far I’ve come, Joy, but I could never have done it so quickly without blogland and wonderful people like you. “Children should be seen….” was our parents mantra and we used to think it was normal, that all children were given this meaningless role.

      Thank you, Joy, for your continual support

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  2. Sharon Alison Butt

    Thanks for sharing this Cat. Like Precious, my experiences were not half as bad as yours, but I too, can identify with being the victim of paternal anger. My dad spent his life angry and it hindered my relationship with God because I always assumed he was constantly looking down on me with a frown.

    It’s so horrible to think that your dad’s anger was of the most evil kind, actually gloating in your fear. I learnt much later that my dad’s dad had been like your dad was, to him, and so he too was incapable of relating to children. But of course we all know that the thread has to stop somewhere. Most of us know that it’s totally unfair to mistreat a child just because you went through the same. You know that and have made the right choices to get help. If anything, it should make us more compassionate towards them, which I’m sure you are. But for some unknown reason, the Devil gets hold of some victims and turns them into parents even more evil than their own. Have you ever read “Too Small To Ignore” by Wes Stafford? It’s the best book I’ve read about children, God’s compassion for children. He is the founder of Compassion International which he set up after reflecting back on his own children including a prolonged period of abuse at the hand of rejected missionaries. I think you’ll like it.

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    1. Cat Post author

      When we hurt ourselves as children, mum would say, “that’s God punishing you,” so I grew up believing in God’s wrath, but I’m not so sure how much of that was related to a harsh father. I soon changed my beliefs in God as soon as I started to training with the church.

      You’re right, some people can parent as they were parented and that can be historically bad. I was so proud of my sister when she broke that thread of abuse with her two boys and never once hit them.

      I loved the video, very touching.

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  3. therabbitholez

    My own mother was super critical, which is bullying , not that she would have ever seen it that way when directed towards me, she would see it in others though!.

    Bullying creates not only distrust but a fear in allowing your own thoughts develop, and your always thinking of the bully first, which determines what you will and won’t do.

    When your a child it’s hard to fight back against a parent unfortunately when you get to school then the workplace you may as well have a huge target on your back, because bullies can sense this about you, and you have no tools in which to fight back further isolating you.

    I’ve been bullied at school and in the work place, I did manage with my boss to win my case but it cost me a lot emotionally and in many ways accelerated my breakdown back in 2005, however I’d fight it again and often will stand up for others who have no voice.

    Parental bullying I think creates the most damage, because there is no escape and very few can help you, the silence and the secrecy is what feeds it and they(parent/s) know it.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Bullying at home can lead to mistrust and, you’re right, we somehow had a neon sign outdoors, which read “bully me.” Our home was also shrouded in secrecy, but I’m not even sure they were aware what they were creating. They are very narcissistic and just cannot see past their own perfection. Thank you for your feedback, it’s very supportive 😉

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  4. mckarlie

    Things were so different when I was a kid, I was subject to ‘seen not heard’ and would often get sent out of the room when adults were talking about adult things, information was power and they didn’t want me having any of it. I remember knowing that my abuse was wrong at the time, I knew the way he was touching me was unnatural, everything about it was unnatural, I just didn’t realize that it was not my fault. A person who lets their sickness perpetuate violence or sexual assault on another person is a person who should be dealt with, we all have our struggles and I know the men that hurt me had their own demons but that’s no excuse. Anyway I digress, I’m currently working on forgiveness, forgiving the two men that abused me in my formative years. I have had a great sense of freedom from letting go of anger over the physical abuse, I’m finding it harder to let go of the damage caused by the sexual abuse but I know I will get there, as will you if you just keep believing in yourself xo

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, we also grew up in the “children should be seen…” era. Abusers always encourage secrecy and like to keep us ignorant in the hope we won’t realise what they’re doing is wrong. I agree, the abusers usually have their own demons, but it is no excuse.

      Forgiveness is a very high mountain, but I wish you well for that journey. I have managed to work through the trauma in recent months, so have every confidence I’ll get through the anger.

      Thank you for your feedback, it helps immensely

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      1. mckarlie

        Yeah I have a slightly dramatic view on people who abuse children, the kind of damage it can cause and the way it can seep into every facet of our being is catastrophic.

        The anger is completely understandable, I only bothered doing anything about mine when it started to consume me. We each have our own path so I hope yours is clear and you find some peace xo

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  5. mincs1

    I grew up with a mother who could be heard across town. I do not yell. I did not want to be like her but somehow in the process I think I closed the door to recognizing my emotions and how to “sit with them”. I am just beginning to work through that process. Thank-you for your candid sharing – it helps!

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s so easy to cut off from our own emotions, but sitting with them is imperative to healing, IME, and thank YOU so much for reading and commenting, it helps me on my journey 😉

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  6. borderlinefunctional

    I’m glad to see that Frankie is getting some help to positively and harmoniously manage the group therapy. I don’t think you’ve demonized her – or that she’s a bad person! It’s clear that she wants to be/feel helpful and useful, but still has some things to learn. She may feel a bit put out and embarrassed my having someone join her in leading group, but hopefully she will utilise this occurrence to grow and improve! 🙂
    xx

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    1. Cat Post author

      I think so Aimee. The thing is, it is a relatively new service and maybe she just needs to learn some additional hands on. She’s not all bad and her need to talk is actually a need to care and impart knowledge. There should have always been two leaders, but one dropped out through other commitments, or something. Onwards and upwards, I say!

      Thank you, Aimee, appreciated 😉

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  7. cardamone5

    Everything you said here rings true for me from spontaneous healing (this is happening in my relationships with my husband and kids, but because how I think is changing, not anything they are doing-they weren’t the problem, I was) to angry/controlling dads. I had a very controlling father who I could never confront. They say depression is anger turned inward, and I believe that. I keep a tight lid on my emotions so it is only when inhibitions are down that they come out. When I used to drink in college, I would get really angry for no apparent reason. Similarly, I am astounded when my anxiety and depression flare up for no apparent reason, which shows that uncontrolled emotion expressions scare me, and are avoided. I am rambling, but I understood everything you said here.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Unless someone has experienced this “spontaneous healing,” it is very difficult to understand. If the Therapists had tried to explain this process prior to the start of the programme, I wouldn’t have understood. I have read that considerable healing comes mainly from observing/sitting with the emotions rather than having to trawl through every detail of the traumatic experience, so in many ways, it is similar to this ‘spontaneous healing’.

      Drinking alcohol would often make me obnoxious, which is one reason I stay well clear. You’re not rambling, what you share is very helpful, thank you.

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  8. Glynis Jolly

    I’ve never had to stay with a therapist long enough to establish any sort of bond because my GAD is from a chemical imbalance. Just diagnosis me, give me the pills, and I’m on my way. It took me a while to find a therapist who could diagnose me correctly though. I’ve often wondered what my relationship with the right therapist would have been like if my problems stemmed for environment and how it would have evolved. Cat, this post is wonderful. It has given me the chance to realize that my relationship with a therapist may be positive. I hope, with all my heart, that your journey with Paul is unveiling and rewarding to your inner peace.

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  9. mandy smith

    Sorry I’m so late getting to your post, Cat. Under the weather, but had to check in. This post really paints the picture of the damage that abuse by our parents does. The line, “How could an adult watch the terror play out in a child’s eyes?” really made me stop and ask, yes, how indeed! I spent my life making excuses for that kind of behavior from my father–a boot in the side when I complained about having to unlace and remove his work boots each nite, etc. I assured myself angry people must have had terrible lives and couldn’t help themselves. Well, wtf! I never raised a hand to my kids. I never sexually abused my kids. There is no excuse. Ever.
    I was inundated with religion, too, and had deep fear of what punishment God would think I deserved next. That’s a topic unto itself . . .
    I’m so glad therapy is finally making things come together for you, Cat. I have no personal success story with therapists, but I’ve known people who have therapists who’ve made all the difference, and you may be one of those!
    I also see a little compassion there for Frankie 🙂 I’m like that, too. It’s a good quality. Great post, Cat.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I thought this line, “How could an adult watch the terror play out in a child’s eyes?” might only resonate with a person who suffered abuse as a child. My sister was the same as you, and never lifted a finger to her boys and both are healthy and stable 20 & 21yr olds still living happily with Mum. My sister and I left home when I was 17, she was 18/19.

      Yes, I tend to stay clear of the religious topics 😉

      Therapy is amazing for me, although that hasn’t always been the case in previous years. I think now is just the right time.

      Aye, poor Frankie 😛 she did look rather bruised, but what a relief to experience a group that actually seems to work well.

      As always, thank you so much for your support, Mandy 😉

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  10. Susan Irene Fox

    This touched on memories for me, too; my dad was a rage-a-holic and a bully. Still uncomfortable will loud, angry people. Great strides, Cat. Even your writing has taken on a different tone: positive, more peaceful. Progress, progress and more progress.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, Susan, that is very sweet of you to say. It’s nice when people notice because I do feel in the midst of continual transition… progress, indeed…onwards and upwards 😉

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  11. Ellen

    My father also was an angry perfectionist and his relentless criticism made my life a misery. Though at least he wasn’t physically threatening. Good for you for not becoming a rage aholic yourself. I have to say, before I got into therapy, I could be quite critical myself. Not to the extent my father was, but still. It’s one of my regrets that I was this way. I think now, I turn that inwards to some extent. I relate to how hard it can be to get over this type of upbringing. I can get angry, and don’t handle it at all well.

    So glad to hear how positive your therapy experience is at the moment. And also glad you got a new group therapist who knows what she’s doing. It sounded like your group was in urgent need of that! I wouldn’t waste my time feeling sorry for some group T who doesn’t know her job – she’s inflicting damage. See – I’m still critical. 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, I also turn it inwards, Ellen, the rage and the self-criticism. It’s such a relief to get the group sorted and also to feel Paul and I getting along even better than before…. all fairly positive.

      Thanks, Ellen 😉

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  12. manyofus1980

    Anger is so hard for me to express too. I hate the feelings associated with it. My dad was very angry too when I was growing up. He is less so now though. When I get angry about the abuse I endured, I worry the anger wont stop and I’ll be engulfed. Eileen promises that wont happen, that feelings are just that, feelings, they come, and they go. XX

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    1. Cat Post author

      I’m always told in therapy it is important to sit and observe the feelings, that’s where healing takes place. Thanks Carol Anne

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