Thursday, June 01, 2006

a letter to Dad

I had my second session with my therapist this Tuesday. As she did in our first session she said that some people find it helpful to write a letter to a parent who has disappointed or abused us and tell them how we feel about what they did. I have told my therapist that I find it much more difficult to feel anger toward my father for his abuse of me than I do for his abuse of Mom. Cognitively, I know I did not deserve any of the beatings or verbal or emotional abuse, but I find it difficult to feel angry about it. Instead, I have taken what should have been anger (although it couldn't be, for me, when I was young) and turned it inward. It turned into fear, lack of proper self-esteem, perfectionism, trying to find my value as a person through work. Yes, whoever said that "depression is anger turned inward" was probably right.

I hoping (or maybe "willing" is the better word) that now that I am a man (and a middle-aged man, at that), I can put away the coping mechanisms of my childhood (which have extended into adulthood), and can experience genuine anger toward my father. It's partly difficult to do because I love him. It's partly difficult to do because my church taught so strongly that we are to obey and honor our parents. I was never taught about godly anger. I'm not sure I could have understood it at such a young age when the abuse started. I still find it difficult to understand.

But I can't keep transferring my anger to others who wrong me, as I do, when I haven't adequately focused my anger on my father. I have been forgiving my father all my life, but I'm not sure that forgiveness can be complete until I fully feel proper anger for what he did to me.

I would welcome any comments from others of you who have struggled with this issue.

Oh, my therapist says we don't send such a letter to our parent. It's only for our own good. I might post my letter to my father here. Stay tuned.


Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

I have definitely struggled with the anger issue. My mother told me anger was a sin. On the other hand, I watched my father rage so violently that it made me afraid of anger. But, I spent years turning my own anger about my abuse inward. My depression got to the point of suicidal thoughts too many times; I had to do something to deal with the rage and anger. I wrote the letters and found them somewhat helpful (never mailed them--just for me). I did a little "effigy" anger exercise for both of my parents that REALLY worked and released a lot for me. Good luck with this and please, do keep us posted.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Al Johnson said...

Marj, thank you so much for posting your experience. My mother never taught me anger was sin. She did get beat up when Dad was raging, as did I. Like you, I turned my anger inward. I didn't know I was doing that's what it was until I sank into a deep depression (also with some thoughts of suicide) six months after my first round of therapy many years ago.

8:26 PM  

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