Traumatic experiences can leave us feeling stuck with thoughts, images, emotions, and body sensations that show up "out of the blue". These symptoms can affect our sleep, our relationships with those closest to us, our ability to move forward in life.
Sometimes, our symptoms can be so debilitating that we can have panic attacks or anxiety anytime we are reminded of the traumatic event, and so we may do whatever we can to avoid anything to do with the traumatic event. Eventually, we can be overcome by the anxiety and panic and find that our world becomes smaller and smaller as we try to avoid anything that even remotely reminds us of the traumatic event. As we withdraw from family, friends, life, panic and anxiety becomes bigger and more overwhelming, which can magnify our trauma symptoms...leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Traumatic experiences can be "big 'T'" traumas, or a series of "little 't'" traumas that, over time, can have the same effect as one "big 'T'" traumatic event.
Growing up with a parent who constantly places you in double binds (ie. no-win situations) can leave you feeling like nothing you do is ever right or enough. It can also leave you feeling like you don't have the right to express your feelings, needs, or desires, because doing so wraps you tighter in the double bind, thus giving them more power to manipulate and control you. These parents are often volatile, confusing, anxiety provoking, bullish, and chaotic. They work diligently and methodically to create an image to the outside world that they are the "perfect parent", however, to the child who lives with them behind the door closed to the outside world, life can be extremely confusing, frustrating, and ultimately, painful, psychologically, emotionally, and physically.
The psychological and emotional experiences for children in these homes leave wounds that carry long into adulthood and can effect various aspects of one's life, no matter how hard you try to “forget about it", "put it behind you", or simply just try to avoid talking about it.
You may find yourself in relationships that feel oddly familiar, once again, leaving you feeling confused, frustrated, resentful, and desperately lonely.
Sometimes, men and women who grew up with these types of parents lack self-confidence and may have a difficult time trusting themselves and others. They don’t always know how to trust their own inner voice and, consequently, may have a hard time making decisions about their lives, about what would be healthy for them, about choosing healthy people.
If you are still struggling from the effects of being raised by a volatile parent, I can help. I teach people how to assertively set and communicate healthier relationship boundaries so that they can stop feeling guilty and resentful. They also learn to effectively express their anger, rather than allowing their anger to overwhelm them by expressing it destructively, either outwardly or inwardly.
I explore with clients how guilt and anger were used by their parents to manipulate and control them as children. We explore how guilt, anger, and manipulative behaviors maintain unhealthy boundaries in their current day relationships, and how that ultimately leads to resentment, unexpressed rage, disconnectedness, and loneliness. Clients learn how to recognize and change ineffective ways of expressing themselves, with their parents and with others who matter most in their life.
You may have heard the phrase, “Anger is a feeling and feelings aren’t good or bad… they just are.” Feelings of anger can cause people to behave in ways that can lead to trouble at work, in relationships, and with the legal system. So it is easy to see why people often mistakenly view anger as bad. I would challenge the idea of “feelings aren't good or bad, they just are.”
I believe that anger is a good feeling that alerts us when our human rights are being violated in some way. It is used as a defense against whomever or whatever may be triggering the feeling that we are being violated in some way. It gives us the energy and power to change the situation. However, sometimes that energy and power can be used ineffectively or destructively.
When someone calls me for help with “anger management,” they usually ask for help in managing the feeling, with the hope that their behavior won’t keep getting them into trouble. Somehow, they have been given the idea that the feeling of anger is “wrong” and must be “managed”, controlled, or altogether discarded. This is especially so if they are forced to seek therapy under threat of divorce, separation, break-up, jail-time, being kicked out, etc., “because of their anger issues.”
My approach to Anger Management is one in which therapist and client collaboratively work on understanding how anger is currently being used to express frustrations around feeling violated in relationships or in certain situations. Anger, the feeling, is not what is causing the problem, it is the ineffective expression and use of anger as a result of continual boundary violations. Together, we work to redefine ideas around anger and associated behaviors. This may include looking at what was learned about anger and the expression of it in your childhood home.
The “angry” person usually states that they are worried about giving up their “right” to be angry when someone or some situation “makes them mad.” We will explore how avoiding the feeling will only lead to passive-aggressive behaviors, and thus, is not the answer either.
Together, we identify those situations that trigger feelings of anger. The resultant behaviors seem to be an attempt to stop the violation from continuing. However, as stated earlier, depending on what was learned from childhood models, these attempts can be extremely ineffective, and sometimes, destructive to the person feeling violated and angry, and to the violating person.
As we identify areas of violation, we explore more effective ways of expressing feelings about being violated. My approach to “anger management” is about helping clients listen to their symptoms (i.e. angry feelings) and what these symptoms are trying to tell them, then teaching clients how to redirect that anger so that they can effectively stop the violating situation from occurring and reoccurring.
Once clients learn to pay attention to the symptoms and understand the purpose of them, they are be able to manage their behaviors more effectively when feeling violated. Clients learn to regulate the “fight” response that kicks into high gear when the brain perceives a violation or threat. They learn that as long as they can regulate the “fight or flight response system”, they can keep both sides of the brain talking, allowing them to access the most effective and non-destructive expressions of anger. Clients learn how to assert themselves without aggressive behaviors.
© 2007-2018 Renee Miller, PsyD, LMFT, Inc 18021 Sky Park Circle Ste E2 Irvine, Ca 92614