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The Angry People In My Life

The Angry People In My Life

September 11, 2000 

Hi! Hi Kyle.

This is not a question, but rather some observations about three angry people in my life and childhood abuse.  It seems to be well established that some children are more aggressive than others and that this may be genetic.  Yes. Another way of looking at this is that some children are naturally more sensitive than others.  Yes. It appears to me that sensitivity and aggression can hardly be separated.  In looking at childhood abuse one has to bear in mind both the behaviour which the child is subjected to and the sensitivity of the child. I don't know the research in that area, but overall, it sounds plausible.

The first angry person in my life was my twin brother (I say was because I have not seen him for many years).  We do not come from an abusive home environment.  However, my father, who left school at the age of 15 (his father died and he had to go out to work), and was probably of average intelligence, had problems adjusting to two teenagers who were much more able.  From the time when my brother and I were about 14 or 15, things deteriorated at home.  My father began to drink and directed his anger at my brother.  He had the common mixture of pride on the one hand (though it was of course only others who heard him speak this way about us) and jealousy on the other.  Correction: Change start of paragraph to "The first angry person in my life was my father..." Your dad's anger did not start when you and your brother entered your teens; the anger may have exacerbated then, but, tough life + drinking + pride/jealousy spells "angry type" to me. 

However, my mother did not defend my father, but rather she and the four of us (I have three brothers in all) in effect made common cause against my father.  One day she had had enough and asked my father to leave.  Which he did.  When the mother sides with the children it is (usually) the case, I believe, that the children do not generally suffer emotionally - they at least get emotional support and are much less likely to feel guilt than when they side with the father against the mother. Really? Also, what makes you think you did not suffer at the hands of your father? A self-absorbed man would at least be guilty of emotional neglect, a form of abuse.  

Also, the 'abuse' of my brother did not start until he was about 14 or 15 - too late really to have any real impact.  I can virtually promise you his abuse started much earlier than 14 or 15. You just don't recognize it. A product of an abusive home, abuse is "normal" to you. But my brother has become an angry person.  I think in his case that the 'abuse' was the decision by my parents to send us to two different schools when we were eleven years old - to separate us - and specifically that they sent him to a less academic school - he was not quite as bright as me - or did not work as hard.  (I won't go into details of the British school system here).  I think he never got over this. Following in his dad's footsteps, no doubt... 

Presumably also our parents and teachers had - whether explicitly or implicitly - compared us and he had the feeling that he had been 'found wanting'. So, too much emphasis was placed on academics as an indicator or worth in your home. Or, conversely, the special ness of each child was not judged on its own merits. Each of you had to live up to certain criteria to get goodies. Ouchhh!  

By the age of 13 my brother was the outgoing, gregarious one and I was the studious one. Yes. That's how you stayed in favor.  By the age of 15 or 16 he was stealing money from me to finance his socializing.  I did not set boundaries.  I was annoyed and constantly let down, but I did not need the money myself.  His 'abuse' of me did not interfere with my life.  I did what I wanted. And, I suspect, you also felt a measure of relief that he took the money. Relief from the guilt you must have experienced in being a "favored child." Kind of like you got away with it and he didn't...

Now my boyfriend - who is also an angry person:  He is manic-depressive.  He became unstable (hypomanic) about 10 months after we met.  He started making fun of me in front of others (I just told myself, "Well he must have his own problems at the moment - they will pass."), until one day he went too far.  I was angry.  He lost interest in sex.  Within two weeks I started trying to get advice (and was told 'talk to him' etc., - eventually he did go to a therapist because he had no interest in sex, and learnt he had done nothing wrong). 

Anyway, I have set boundaries - and it has taken time - he has said/done nothing abusive for over 5 weeks now, although he does not accept that he has a problem. And you want him to own his anger. What difference does it make as long as your boundaries "work" and he cannot be abusive towards you?

What do I know about his family of origin?   He tells me he was horrible to his father (Wanted his attention? Perhaps.), he has told me how once his father fell through a glass door when drunk (He felt let down? My take is he is trying to demonstrate what a yuk dad was. But, why not ask him?). This is the only incident he has recounted. He could speak to his father about his feelings, but not his mother, his father died when my boyfriend was 13, and then he learnt 'to put a brave face on things', became outgoing, wanted to be in the limelight.  Sounds as though he feels somehow guilty that he was not kinder towards the parent he cared for most... 

He has actually told me that at that age he gave up seeking attention from his parents (well his father was dead, anyway).  His mother told him he should always compare himself with the best (secret message: you are not good enough? ?).  He later found out that his father had not been his mother's first choice (she never said this while he was a child, but perhaps she unwittingly conveyed the message to her children 'you are not the children I wanted' - and my boyfriend - being manic-depressive, i.e. genetically a sensitive child - was more sensitive to this message).  Perhaps. And his "solution" has been to meet you, the father figure he craves yet continues to mistreat. 

Of course there is much speculation here - but he has effectively told me that he was a sensitive child, whose feelings/needs were not validated/met, especially when his father died, and that then he learnt to be 'hypomanic', i.e. lost touch with himself. To the best of my knowledge, people don't "learn" to be hypomanic. Hypomanic states are biologically induced. Perhaps the stress of his father's death snapped him into an initial episode which may have otherwise occurred later.

Now the third (fourth) 'abusive' person in my life - my son (I am gay, but was married and have two children).  My son is autistic - but now only mildly so.  No-one notices anything particularly odd about him.  He now speaks (almost) normally for an eleven year-old.  But he treats his sister badly.  OK - many boys do that.  But he also hits other kids at school.  His teacher has had to tell him to try counting to 10 when he gets angry etc.  So where does he get this from?  OK - his step father sometimes shouts at him, but so does his mother - but not more than most parents - nevertheless 'bad' behaviour perhaps.  However, his mother tells the   step-father that he is expecting the children to behave like adults.  

When we separated my ex-wife and I made it quite clear to the children that this had nothing to do with them - and I see them frequently - they have just spent the last 2 1/2 weeks with me. :) However, my son is autistic (and yes this means that he is a sensitive child).  Yes. My daughter seems to be happy enough (though she of course has a difficult time with an older brother she has to look after, who bullies her in return). My son does not bully his sister when I am not around. He bullies her only when you are around? Is he trying to get your attention? Anyway, he is young - and only time will tell.  Perhaps he has taken the separation personally. Or misses his daddy lots. I don't know.

All I (and his mother) can do is try to reassure him. Yes. And love him lots, making sure sis is not overlooked in his needier shadow. She has the more difficult task of having to get him to school each day etc., and therefore has less time to deal with his stubbornness than I do when he is visiting me.  It is very difficult to find out what is 'wrong' for my son - if there is a question in this email, this is it - but we are here dealing with child psychology/autism (possibly outside the area of your expertise?) Yes.

Anyway, here are three four people - from 'normal' homes - no consistent 'abuse' (sexual, physical) from an early age. Sorry. Your own home was at least emotionally abusive. Your daughter is also the target of abuse: her brother.  Just with parents who (for various) reasons - none of them to do with the children - could not always be there to meet the (unexpressed) needs of sensitive children. Correct. No parent will ever meet all his or her child's needs; nor should they. Some frustration is necessary. "Good enough" is fine for a parent. 

I don't think there is anything to suggest that the parents had any particular family of origin issues. Well, we differ here... The 'bad' behaviour on the part of the parents seems to be reactive - due to outside stresses - rather than to psychological problems from childhood. How can you separate the two? You are the sum total of your biology and your history. Stress will trigger "stuff" biological or otherwise!  But my brother certainly has psychological problems from childhood, as does my boyfriend (he tells me I remind him of his father - hidden message 'I have an emotional need to see my father in you'), and as for my son - well time will tell.   Kyle  You too Kyle! You are the favored son who lost childhood by working very, very hard to attain that status that you earned, though you don't think you did and feeling somewhat guilty, and let those less fortunate "take." 

Advice: Spend less time worrying about/ analyzing other, and more looking at yourself. Sound familiar?

My very best wishes, Dr. Irene

Comment for Kyle anyone?

I just want to read the posts.