Listen to Al as you read along
The Angry Dad
To his friends and co-workers, Andy was a nice guy. His knowledge of his work field impressed everyone. He always seemed to have a great deal of common sense answers to life questions and his family and friends looked to him for answers. Outside of his home, Andy was a calm, cool, steady man. Inside his home the story read differently. His wife and children had a different opinion of him. At home he was known as the angry dad and the abusive husband. His wife and kids walked around on eggshells never knowing when he was going to lose his temper and his grouchiness was legendary. Andy was filled with everyone else’s answers but his ability to apply what he knew was anemic.
Andy knew that he was not doing well with his family and he hated that his heart was still dominated by anger. Every time that he lost his temper, he could see his daughter withdraw and her spirit close up. Rather than trust him, his wife had gotten quieter and more distant. She had begun to keep things from him. Little things like the kid’s bad grades or when the kids had gotten in trouble at school. When he confronted her about it, she shrugged and said, I knew you would blow up and I can’t stand how you speak to the kids when you are angry. Andy walked away knowing that something had to change and he also knew that the change had to be in his own heart.
Andy is not a bad man but he is an angry man. He loves his family and does many sacrificial acts for their benefit. He makes their living, keeps them safe and has promised to stay and never leave. There is much to recommend about him but he is hurting his family with his anger. Why is trying hard not enough to change him? How many times had he vowed to himself that he wouldn’t lose his temper again? No matter how many times he has promised himself and his wife that he won’t get angry again, inevitably, under pressure, his real feelings come out.
When Andy came to the counseling office, he was very discouraged about his chances for change. I have tried very hard to get rid of my anger her said, but nothing has worked. I am afraid if I don’t find a way to change my behavior, that I will lose my family. My wife has threatened to leave several times when things got bad. If this scenario sounds all too familiar then let me suggest a few ideas that might help.
First, a professional counselor can help you discover the source of your anger and make lasting changes. The profession has made strides in the use of cognitive-behavioral methods to change mental habits. Seek a recommendation from someone who has had a good experience and ask for a name. Call, make an appointment and stick with the process until you get results.
Second, ask yourself some probing questions to find the source of your anger. Habitual anger is seldom really about the immediate issue presented by your wife and kids. The immediate issues remind you of older events and reasons for anger that you are projecting onto them. These are questions a counselor will ask so go ahead and think this through before you go.
When is the first time you remember getting angry?
What caused your anger in the event you remember?
What was the result of your outburst? Did it help resolve the situation? Did it make matters worse?
Did your father get angry in a similar way?
The goal is to identify what you are really angry about so that you can rethink your ideas about the issue.
Thirdly, educate yourself about inner dialogue and the power of what you say to yourself within your mind. Let me give you a primer to your study.
The brain thinks and processes thought in 2 primary ways. We verbalize within by saying things to our self and we visualize within by creating images that correspond to what we are thinking. Self-talk is not strange like we have heard, it is normal. We think by talking to our selves.
The important issue with inner verbalizing and visualizing is the content, what we say and see. When you become angry, inside your mind below the level of awareness, you are saying something to yourself and seeing some image that calls for anger as the appropriate response. It is very likely that you are remembering something from your past that hurt you and made you angry. The present situation somehow reminds you of that past event(s) and the anger rises up from within you before you can stop it and you don’t really know why. The anger is also exaggerated in you. It is more than the present situation calls for if it calls for any anger at all.
The inner sayings and seeings are what will lead you to understand where the anger is rooted. That is why it is vital to uncover what you are saying and seeing within. When you are able to put the old pieces together with the new, you can make progress in pulling them apart and defusing your anger now.
The fourth thing to do is to anticipate your anger so that you can intervene in it. Write down the times when you normally feel anger toward your family. Use an hourly calendar of a day and write in angry events that normally occur. When you find yourself approaching one of your daily events, before you get there, tell yourself that you are not going to allow the feelings that rise up to cause you to take action. If you feel the anger, you will not express it. Intervene in these angry events and stop the behavior that is hurting your loved ones.
Andy, these are steps you can take on your own and especially with a counselor’s help. By finding the source of your anger, identifying the actual inner thinking in words and images and intervening in your habitual behaviors, you can begin to make changes. The mind is made so that it is programmed with habitual behaviors that can be reprogrammed with different ideas and habitual behaviors. I am hoping that you try these things and have great success so that your family feels loved rather than criticized.
The final suggestion I would make is the one I use for myself and that is to include God in all of the equations of your life. I have found God to be the best friend I have and that He is willing to involve Himself in my life and help me change my bad behaviors. If you decide to seek God, the website has links to information about Him. My prayers are with you.
Parenting & Parental Anger