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Ask Anne: Relationship AdviceAsk Anne:
Relationship Questions

Angry But Over-Controlled

Mon, Mar 31st 2003

I feel like I am a failure as an adult. I am 28, but emotionally, I feel like a teenager or a child. Sometime in my growing-up years--blame it on my family, my school, the Catholic Church, whatever--I got the message that anger is forbidden, and letting someone know that you're angry is especially wrong. I grew up in a loving but strict household where Mom and Dad's word was always law, right after the Bible, and I was an overachiever of the highest degree, always trying to be the best at everything and feeling inadequate if I wasn't good at something. I repressed a lot of my disagreements with my parents and kept a lot of information from them in the interest of being a "good daughter." To this day, I am afraid to disagree with my parents, even though some painful family issues are arising and/or getting worse. My beloved grandparents are starting to fail physically and get forgetful, and my mother treats them like children, although they are still relatively sound. There's been animosity between my mother and her brother and his family for years, but no one has the courage to discuss it. I've always loved my uncle and his family, and I have been forced to hear the complaints from every side. To top it off, my favorite cousin, who is my aunt and uncle's eldest daughter, is dating my ex-boyfriend. I am angry with her, but I have to deny it for the sake of her happiness and the family's peace. My mother told me I had no right to be angry, and yet she is still angry at my cousin about this. That's just a short list of ways that I have not been permitted to express anger or disagreement, with family, friends, employers, strangers. I am tired of having to hold it all in. Two weeks ago, I was in the emergency room with chest pains due to an anxiety attack (all tests came back OK; doctor told me it was muscle strain or pleurisy). I've had several other attacks, I have headaches and other pain frequently, my menstrual cycle is out of whack even with the Pill, I'm obese because I stuff down anger with food, and I think I may be developing an ulcer. All my repressed anger also is making my mental health problems worse. I want to be able to disagree with my family (and others) in a respectful way. I want to let them all know I won't tolerate backbiting or other cruelties. I want to tell my mother that I love her, but I love my grandparents too and don't like to see her treat them the way she does. I want to be able to tell my father (a Vietnam vet) that I am against war because I respect veterans and active members of our military, not out of disrespect. I want to tell my cousin that I am angry so that I can start truly forgiving her. Please help me get started. I don't want to hurt anyone with my anger, but I don't want to end up getting hurt myself.

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