How to stop my father's rages (or at least their effect on me)?
December 11, 2013 8:40 AM Subscribe
Throughout my life, my father has had anger issues, typically directed at me. Although he isn't violent, he will become extremely (almost uncontrollably) angry whenever I do anything 'wrong'. Now that I'm an adult and no longer financially dependent on him, I want to stop this cycle. However, I'm having trouble figuring out how to do this.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (63 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Ever since I was young, he's become furious at me for tiny things (he once screamed at me so much for putting the ornaments back in the wrong place after dusting that my mother threatened to move out). My mother has typically acted as mediator in these conflicts, and while I love her and she's much more reasonable than my father, she sees this as a fifty-fifty situation, and expects me to work harder to appease him. I also think there's an element of emotional abuse in their relationship (he makes her cry regularly) but she doesn't seem to see it.
In any case, I don't know how to appease a guy who throws a fit whenever anything goes slightly wrong. Today, in our most recent fight, he became furious because I didn't wash my hands in-between stroking the cat and looking in the freezer. (For reference, I wasn't touching any food.) My father is not violent (mostly), but he does seem to lose control of himself when he's angry. He physically grabbed me & pushed me out of the kitchen today, and he threatened to hurt (and poison) the family cat. I don't think he'd actually cause deliberate harm, but his tempers are out of control.
I'll admit that I'm definitely not flawless - when I was a kid, I derived a perverse enjoyment from seeing my father lose control, and regularly tried to push his buttons. (Using what I know now to psychoanalyse my child self, this was probably because he seemed to lose control whatever I did, and so it was preferable for me to have control over when it happened.) I always yell back when he yells at me, and ESPECIALLY when he threatens the cat. But at this point, I'm done with being screamed at for minor transgressions like using the wrong saucepan. What I would like is to not have this in my life.
I know that if I declare that I am no longer engaging with him in any way, this will be construed as childishness by all of my other family members, including my mother. My sisters in particular have always defended him and accused me of antagonising him. But I am just so tired of always being attacked and yelled at for incredibly minor issues. I also know that if I request that he attends anger management counselling, I'll be seen as overdramatising a normal family dynamic. It feels like the only option to avoid being seen as immature and histrionic is to just suck it up and try even harder to avoid antagonising my father.
I should note that I'm 24, I've moved out of the house (though I'm home at my mother's behest for Christmas), and while I don't make a lot, I'm financially independent. I need a place to stay for a few weeks over next summer, but aside from that, I don't really have to stay here for extended periods again.
So, in short, Metafilter: how do I stop my father's rages (or at least avoid engaging with him) without being treated by my entire family like an overdramatic child?