“Are your parents like this?
One of the tricks that both my parents had up their sleeves when I was younger was to be hostile in their own way and then switch to becoming a victim when it was somebody else’s turn to ask for something, or assert themselves or just say what they feel like saying.
They were doing this unconsciously of course (or else it would be kinda evil). They had their own issues as all parents do and they had learned some coping strategies for these issues and found that they could adjust these coping strategies when they were in a position of power (i.e having kids).
In my case my father was an outwardly angry man who would yell and intimidate the family a lot. I’d be shaking inside most of the time and fearful of him when he wasn’t yelling – fearful that he would start at any moment. And in one of the rare moments throughout my childhood where I would stand up for myself or ask for something in an extremely meek way, or meek voice, he would throw guilt my way and then ask, “What about me? What about how I would feel or what about my feelings,” …/ now he wouldn’t necessarily look like a typical victim while saying this but he would be half angry and half hurt looking so that he could remain dominant.
My mother was a passive-aggressive one. She would express her anger by letting you know in much more subtle ways. When she was upset she would turn away from me and let me know ever so slightly that she wasn’t happy. That used to scare me because that gesture was my mother’s way of saying she was ready to abandon me if I didn’t do what she wanted me to do, and so I usually did what she wanted which cultivated a very codependent, grown-up man boy.
And again during one of the rare times that I did want to say something or stand up for myself she would look like a wounded bird, and I thought many times when I was young that my mother might die unless she’s made be feel better somehow and it was my responsibility to make her feel better.
Those are both instances of my parents being hostile in their own way to manipulate me to get what they want out of me, and then making sure that I never called them out on it or asked for anything for myself, by making me feel anxiety about their own well-being and their emotional states.
For kids to feel stable their parents have to feel grounded and stable and so we take it upon ourselves to make sure that they are okay at our own expense, for our own sense of stability and well-being.
So now as an adult the dynamic in my relationships still stands that if I was to ask for anything for myself or stand up for myself or even say “no”, that I am somehow selfish and bad and even hurting other people for doing so. And so this is another obstacle that I have to overcome in all of my relationships at present, whether it’s with my wife, parents, or the bus driver, it makes no difference.
To change the way I relate with others is going to require constant vigilance or awareness on my part, and some discomfort as I interact with people in a different way and learn to tolerate and handle the feelings that arise in me when other people try to use guilt or any other manipulative tactic.
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