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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

3/23 Interactive Board: He's Changing... I'm Not...

3/1 Interactive Board: D/s Lifestyle

1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

12/12 Interactive Board: What if He Could Have Changed?

10/23 Interactive Board: Quandary Revisited

8/24 Interactive Board: Quandary! What's Going On?

7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Abuser Wants Help

Abuser Wants Help

Hi Irene  : )

I have read your article on the verbal abuser. I did see some of me in the article but who am I to judge if I'm just like the article.  I could be so un-self aware that I don't know what I do and what I don't do. I don't believe this is true but it's an interesting scenario.

My name is Martin.  I'm male, 37, white, married 7 years, living together 9 years total.  We live in Seattle. My mom and dad divorced when I was a child.  He is an alcoholic and a physical and emotional abuser, says my mother, who I think is also a verbal abuser. Where do you think I learned it  : ) , I know it's not funny but I had to put that in there.  My dad suffered abuse no person should have ever suffered; makes me wonder what happened to his dad.

My mother's mother was an alcoholic also, I'm not sure if she was abusive verbally.   I don't think so. My mothers dad always has to be right but rarely showed anger and I don't think he ever said a mean word to anyone.  He doesn't always have to be right but he is VERY stubborn and doesn't usually admit to being wrong. Grandma, Grandpa and my mom did most of my raising.  I never SAW my dad hit my mom but I was in the house when it all happened.

I have never hit my wife or any girlfriend physically and I don't think I'm capable of that.  I do think I'm verbally abusive because I'm embarrassed and feel very bad about myself when I think about what I have said to my wife when the anger leaves.   Basically I call her names and it's usually prompted by anger of some sort.

I have been into personal development for several years now and have read several relationship books and watch a lot of relationship shows.  I have 2 books on anger which are "The Anger Workbook" and I don't remember the second book.  I have read several well-known authors on self-improvement.

I believe I have improved but I'm not where I want to be on this anger/verbal abuse. I don't want to feel the need to call my wife names when I'm mad or hurt.  I realize I will always get mad or hurt but I think I need to change my core values and/or beliefs to complete my change in how I display my anger.

Therapy sounds great but I feel there are a LOT of therapist who take advantage of clients and treat them for years depending on what type of therapy they use.  I want John Gray, Barbara De'Angles or Tony Robbins but we would have to fly to them and the only one who would be able to help me in one session is Tony Robbins, but that's my opinion.   I would imagine most therapist's think he's all show, but then that's their opinion.  Anyway, it's not too possible for me to meet with those people I think.   They are so busy and expensive I would imagine.

I believe my characteristics are:
1.  Being very good at proving my point and debating or arguing.
2.  Calling Names
3.  My family has abusers in it.
4.  I like to always be right but can admit that I'm wrong but it's hard.  I mostly seem to have trouble admitting I'm wrong when someone is forcing it down my throat and dancing around because they are right or to my mother.

I believe I do not:
1.  Create my own reality.
2.  That I am not self aware.  (I believe I have a problem and have had since before we got married)

"Appearances aside, the verbally abusive individual is broken internally. The identity they present to the world, and often to themselves, is a facade. Abusers tend to have little or no clue that they have a problem." I don't believe this about myself at all. I know who I am, where I am and that I have problems that need to be dealt with. I agree with your article enough about myself to write you this e-mail. I have a problem/challenge and even though I don't think I'm a level 10 verbal abuser it doesn't matter because any verbal abuse hurts my wife and I feel very bad about it. So, all verbal abuse could be considered a level 10 on your own individual basis I guess.

Well we could go on forever on this analyzing but the truth is I've never met a totally functional person or couple in life, or someone who doesn't have problems, I just meet people who ignore them and those who fix them. I was hoping you would know a GREAT therapist, preferably female but not necessary, near us.

I haven't read your article on the guy who heals his need to verbally abuse but I will do that now.

Many thanks and love to you Irene,

p.s.  I hope I wasn't to short and cold in this e-mail but I wanted to tell you a lot without taking up 5 hours of your time while your read my life story.


Dear Martin,

I think you are right; you seem to fit the anger bill, but you are not a "10" by any means. You are more self-aware than most and that is good. Apparently all that reading has served you well and/or for whatever reason, your denial is relatively thin.

You are cocky. Small point, and it is OK with me since my clients all call me "Irene," but you are the first person emailing me not to call me "Dr Irene" or "Dr." Cockyness and arrogance is something I would expect to find. Also, you certainly have more than enough history to qualify. Seems both parents taught you how to ignore your own and others' feelings (since your feelings didn't matter much to them, it seems).

I wish I knew someone in your area to refer you to; unfortunately I don't so you're on your own. I've really got to hand it to you in terms of how much you've accomplished on your own. Here are some tips and then my idea of where you need to go:

First, you need some basic anger management skills (self-control techniques) to help you with the name calling. This is the count-to-ten-before-you-speak stuff, refined. Basically, and forgive me if you already know this, anger has two components: physical and cognitive. First you've got to dissipate all the nasty little chemicals running around your brain that work you up. Exercise is the best way to do this. When angry, don't open your mouth, instead go run around the block a few times or run up and down the stairs. When you cool down, then deal with the cognitive aspects. You are not crazy; something is bothering you. Sometimes you expect the impossible; other times you have to learn to accept stuff you don't "like". Sometimes you simply have to identify what is upsetting you and then deal with it appropriately (i.e., assertively, not aggressively). Check out Ron Potter's Angry All the Time for easy reading (he tells you to ignore invitations to anger) and some of the cognitive theorists' work for more detailed info. Albert Ellis has some very good material. Remember, anger management is a skill. Like learning to drive or speak another language, you have to impose it on yourself at first. After a while, it becomes second nature.

You also need to continue your work on the internal stuff, as per your readings. Mom and dad almost certainly sent signals that you are somehow not worthy, un-OK, that your feelings didn't matter, etc. Out of their own brokenness, they messed up big time. You do matter and you are OK! You need to debunk all those myths of non-OKness, but only after you fully admit that you have them!

You were not taught that life is safe and that it works just fine all by itself. Instead, you were taught to impose your will in order to survive. So, in all likelihood, you are really good at getting your way, aka forcing the issue, aka controlling. This has to stop. It does not work in the long run. The only control  you truly have is over yourself. The paradox is that you become free enough to create your own reality only when you stop running the show and allow life to happen! You create your life because you have become more conscious of yourself in the process -- and are therefore able to choose what you will do and how you will do it, as opposed to behaving in a way that is out of control: automatic, willful, reactive, acting out.  You have the self-control to act vs. react. In giving up your self-imposed control over other while controlling yourself, you begin to realize that ... nothing awful happens! The world is not a dangerous place. The more you let go and relax, the more likely you are to hear your inner voice. Whether you like what it has to say or not, you slowly realize that you are the only one with the answers to your own questions. Now you begin to master self-direction.

Believe it or not, all of this is really easy to do once you know how to do it. The willfulness and control and ego-centeredness and anger is a whole lot harder. That's work!

Hope this was somewhat helpful. Good luck.



Guess who replied to my reply? Right-O! Since my informal policy is one reply per person, I thought I would post the email and my comments here. My impression of Martin is that he is an angry and manipulative charmer, who is sincerely trying to understand and get healthier. He has a way to go yet, but, he is succeeding. Despite how I may sound at times, I like this person!):

Dr. Irene  (Now I'm "Dr?" After I signed "Irene" ???)

Sorry about that, I didn't mean to offend you. (You didn't, a point I made clearly enough. Yet, you distort to take away a hurt that doesn't exist and give yourself an opportunity to be a gentleman - a form of manipulation. Charming, but manipulative.) On e-mail I usually call people by there first name as a form of love or closeness, more like a form of a verbal hug I guess. (Watch it buddy! Who gave you permission to verbally hug me? Presumptuous, don't ya think?) I thought it seemed appropriate considering how deep a person you seem to be from your articles on your web site. (Huh? What's my depth got to do with my boundaries? If you really thought about it, you would realize that deep people have tighter, not looser,  boundaries.) That's the funny thing about e-mail. I've learned, you can easily miss how a person means something or their emotion behind it. (You would miss it if it were staring you in the face, and I do not mean that as a put down.).  Verbal face to face communication is hard enough sometimes to understand exactly what the person means so e-mail is a step down from that I think. (Yes. But, it is even more difficult for you. When you distort, you miss the obvious. Read the Abuser article again.)

I am confused on something you said, something my secretary has been trying to help me understand about life.  I believe "I" control my life.  (Nope. That's why it doesn't work.)  I don't believe in fate or luck unless you draw that stuff to you.  I don't believe I control other people (How you "saved" me from an imagined slight above is an example of how you attempt to control people.) but I do draw certain people into my life and vise versa.  This is still something I'm working on.  But if I didn't bust my butt to go out and make things happen, I wouldn't be where I am today.  (Now we're talking apples and oranges, but I am going to drop where I was coming from and follow your train of thought.) If I just ignore my verbal abuse and just let life happen nothing will get better. (Yes.) You don't get to the shore of the lake, when you're in the middle of it, by not swimming and just letting life happen.  I am trying to understand tuning into the positive flow of life and enjoying all it has to offer and then maybe I don't have to work as hard. (You won't. First you have to get honest though.) That is something I'm still working with, just part of my journey. (Yes.) The journey of life is really cool  : )  I am mad about having this problem/challenge but if I didn't have it I might not get to learn all the things I will learn from changing.  (OK...) Sure, it would be great if I were perfect, but who is? (Nobody I know.) My wife turned me onto your site and she also kept thinking about my mom when she reads the article.   My mom is a great reminder of how I don't want to be, at least the broken parts.   She has some good qualities but she's kind of a martyr I think. (Sounds like mom enabled your mis-behavior.)

I will get those books this weekend, and probably read them this weekend. It seems so hard sometimes.  (Yes.) My wife and I get into a fight and I tell myself I'm not going to call names and then it just comes out, like its automatic.  (That is exactly what it is: a bad habit that is so overlearned, it is automatic.) There seems to be no thinking when I'm angry when it comes to that. (No conscious thought.) I can reason great when I'm mad, but I have problems stopping things I shouldn't say. (This one is pretty easy to fix. You really can do it!) What really scares me is the seem so right.  So just because my wife is really being a bitch I shouldn't call her that because two rights don't make a wrong kind of thing.  (Why not just allow her to be whoever/whatever she is being?) Sometimes I don't think the names even hurt her, (Good girl! She knows this has nothing to do with her and everything to do with you!) but then I try to put myself in her shoes and I would feel bad if someone did that to me and then I feel like crying and feel really ashamed of myself. (OK, enough time in the pity pot. Kick yourself out of there and spend the energy controlling it vs. crying over it.) I don't want to think I'm a bad person, but I feel like it and I don't like that feeling. (It's a rotton feeling; You don't have to go there. I would like you not to go there.) Then I get really vulnerable and I feel insecure, scared and all that stuff. (And that is all very human and very OK. Just sit with these feelings a bit. Don't run from them. Nothing bad will happen.).

Wow, I went kind of deep there, but I think I got more in touch with something and am beginning to see something, but I don't' know what yet  : ) (All it is is your fear. But you are a grown man now and there is no longer any danger, like there was when you were a kid. It is time to stop the verbal abuse stuff. It is hurting both of you. If you are having a really horrible time with the anger management stuff, you may want to check with your internist or a psychiatrist. Sometimes medication can help if your outbursts are related to mood swings or an impulse control disorder. In my practice, I have a very high proportion of angry people with depressive or hypo-manic/depressive disorders. I can't "see" your emotional stuff over the web, so I am not making a recommendation as much as letting you know there is a resource to you may want to check out.)

Well, thanks for letting me write to you, and for responding. Do you charge for cyber counseling?  I find it hard to believe you answer all the 1000 a day e-mails for free, you wouldn't have any time to do anything else. Please let me know.  Oh, or do you do phone counseling?  Where are you located?  State and city is fine if you don't want to give your full address.  Maybe we can come to you sometime. (I always say, "flattery will get you everywhere!" )

Have a Great day  : )