March 17, 2000
Dear Dr. Irene,
I have also stumbled across this site by accident. After browsing
through it, I just had to bookmark it and have anxiously returned at any
chance I had. I am pretty sure I am the verbal abuser.
For the most part, I have always
felt that I have a good marriage. We have our fights, but I figured
every relationship was like ours. I am sure that we would have to go
through much more devastating times before I would let our family be
broken. (I have three small children.) After a long time of
going back in forth in my mind trying to figure out exactly what that
small irritating problem was, I think that I've got it. I have just
finished reading the verbal abuser's page and have found a lot of those
qualities in myself.
My main problem is the yelling and
screaming. Nothing is ever done good enough. Not with
my husband or my children. I have this need to have everything perfect.
I would say I have a little bit of compulsiveness, but seem to think my
problem is otherwise. You do have a compulsive
problem. Compulsive problems and abuse go hand in hand. Abuse, as I see
it, is a type of compulsive problem. Growing up I was the
oldest child and expected to do everything right. My mother was very
detailed and if I folded one piece of clothes wrong, didn't dry one glass
completely to perfection, I would be punished. Yuk.
I was very shy around kids at school. I lost lots of confidence in
myself. I felt like I just wanted to jump out of my skin and be
someone more likeable, more easy going, etc., but I just couldn't.
I know that I can't blame my mother
for the way I am now. Well, mom taught you how
to be the way you are. You could "blame" her, but there's
nothing to be gained by doing so. She was doing her best, and you can't
change the past. That's why you want to "take responsibility"
instead - you have control over yourself! I need to overcome my
situation even though I do believe that my childhood experiences put me
here. Yes. Your childhood experiences and your
biology. I know I have to contain my letter, but I do want to
mention that my parents were excellent parents and did what they could for
us, and that I was never physically abused. I will say that looking
back, I would think that I was definitely verbally abused. And emotionally abused.
I could never understand why my mom
hated me so much. Now I understand. She didn't hate me, she just
wanted to teach me things in a perfect way, no mistakes made. Yes. But never forget the way how awful her perfection
expectations made you feel - that is the emotional abuse! I
know that because I feel myself doing that to my own children. I go
to bed crying at night because I have ridiculed and expected way more of
my children than what they could probably give right now. ( 7,5, and
3yrs) I don't want to criticize any more. GOOD!
That's what you need to stop it. But then again, that compulsive
feeling comes back to where I need to teach them perfection and I want
everything done RIGHT. I tend to be
critical of my husband also. The yard work, his faults, (big and
little), I let nothing get past me. The
perfectionism stuff is an obsessive-compulsive disorder - which is an
anxiety problem. As I mentioned above, it is very common in abuse. There
are excellent medications that can help you tremendously. An SSRI like Zoloft
will make your work much, much easier. It won't be so hard to "let
go" of your perfect, and intrusive expectations. If you are serious
about your recovery, you will look into this option as well as the other
suggestions I make. Start by talking to your internist.
I very much want to be more
relaxed and overcome this so that my children do not learn this from me.
I just can't understand why I get so angry at the things that my children
do wrong when I know that they are just small children. I have
gotten one or two books from the bookstores to try to help me with
Yelling, etc. I couldn't find many more. I tried to look under
compulsive behavior, but could find no topics on what I was compulsive
about. (Which I wasn't sure I knew what that was myself) I didn't
realize that the topic should have been about verbal abusers. Anger as compulsion, while not unheard of, is my
conceptualization. Unlikely you will find many books on that specific
topic. No matter. You still need anger management training to learn
not to act out impulsively. You need skills to that will give you a
chance to chill and think before you mis-behave in ways that you don't
like. An easy to read book that will get you started is Ron
Potter's Angry All the Time. A more comprehensive,
somewhat technical, but excellent you- can't- fail- if- you- make-
it- your- business- book is
You will also need
to learn assertive skills to take care of yourself. This is an excellent
book: Jean Baer's How to Be an Assertive (and Not Aggressive Woman in
Life, Love, and on the Job: The Total Guide To Self-Assertiveness) Woman.
I would really like some advice and
some help. I recommend counseling, preferably
with someone experienced in anger management and abuse issues.
I also have problems with the
intimacy part that you've talked about. Not wanting to get close to
someone because of my imperfections. I hadn't known that was the
reason. I've always wondered why I couldn't just go up to my husband
and give him a hug like he would to me. I would think about it
and say" NO WAY". I don't know why. I love him. I am
a very, very sensitive person. He knows that I love him to.
What is the problem with showing those little signs? There
is no problem! I can't understand why I can't go with the flow and
knock this wall down.
are the only one who can know what's going on inside you, so
pay attention to yourself until your underlying thoughts become
clearer. My guess is that you are afraid he will reject you
because you are so imperfect. Terrified actually. (You haven't yet
figured out that you are perfectly imperfect, and that's perfectly OK. Nor
have you figured out that he's already got your number.) Well, I only know
one way to get over that: Just do it. Recognize your irrational
fear, then challenge it! Start here: Show him this page! Talk to
him about your fear. Doing so is a big positive step in the direction
Please answer my letter. I
could use your advice. I am hurting my husband and children and I
don't know why. I don't want my children to grow up feeling
insecure, shy, like I did. That is very important to me. Help
me to learn how to get better.
Thank You, Madelyn
OK. Good luck to
you Madelyn! I can't tell you how much I enjoy hearing from angry people -
who want to fix it! Please keep us posted. Dr. Irene