by Gemma Levett
I have lived with my father on my own for six years now. He is an alcoholic and a negative person who is fighting depression. I helped him recover from a stroke and have bent over backwards to do so. It upsets me that he kills himself with drink and he repeatedly expresses his lack of love for life. He expects so much from me and when I don't give him enough attention I get abused mentally by him and have done for a number of years. I work a full time job and find myself too tired to keep him company in the evenings. He is retired and has no friends and relies on me for company. It is impossible for him to change his ways and make friends so I have reached the point where I no longer waste my energy on helping him as he is not grateful. Everyday after being in a stressful job I have to go home and deal with his abuse. I am trying to remain positive but there are years of anger and upset. He is the perfect person to know what my triggers of upset and and purposely does so as soon as i don't give him attention.
I would like some advice on how to block his comments out and suppress my anger and my emotions that have built up over the years. I want to look forward to going home and feel safe doing so. I need to work on myself and my reactions as trying to change him is impossible. He caused me to have depression and I temporally still have it when I am around him. How do I keep positive in this situation and find inner peace in my past?
Well, suppressing your anger or trying to keep it away will likely end up making you feel even worse. Perhaps you try to do this to a certain degree now - the anger comes, the build up of stress, and because it is not pleasant, often we react by resisting what is there, trying to feel differently or find a way out of the pain that is there.
The more extreme nature of your situation is helpful in a way, because now you don’t feel as if you can do anything to change how your father is. With that in mind, see that the anger that builds inside you is not doing anything to change him or the situation.
Do you express your anger in any form, or do you currently just keep it all inside? Do you express it to your father verbally or have a way to release it in some way? If not, then that might be helpful at first, either just expressing how you are feeling, saying something like “I feel very angry at the moment because I feel you are asking me for things that I can’t give you,” or something like that. If you feel that this is impossible or too difficult, then find some way to release it. Writing can help, screaming can help (perhaps into a pillow), running, walking, martial arts, anything that allows you to release the energy somehow, or express the thoughts, rather than keeping them to build inside you.
And then, when it comes to dealing with the anger, don’t try to stop it. That would be my advice. If you try to stop it or outsmart it, it will seem to have a hold over you. Instead, if the anger is coming, be a space to allow the anger to be as strong as possible. I do not mean purposefully make yourself angry or go around looking for things to upset you, but be a space, see how angry it can get, see how strong the emotion can be that surges through the mind and body. Treat it like an energy that comes and goes. It comes to feed off of your resistance, attention and interest. Notice any habitual resistance or “trying to stop” the anger. Let the anger be there without trying to change it. Then you won’t feel as if you are stuck inside it, and the fuel of your identity won’t keep feeding it.
See that the energy of anger may be there, rather than going along with the thoughts of “I am angry because of this and this.” Treat it energetically. Let the feelings be there.
Notice the triggers being triggered. You don’t have to do anything about it. Just watch the flare up of emotion. When you just watch the flare without trying to fix it, you won’t be so vulnerable to the words of others. You don’t have to be so quick to defend, or to judge what is being said. You don’t have to react, even in the presence of these automatic reactions.
Don’t tie your own sense of self to any reactivity that you have, they all happen by themselves, it is not really you who is doing it.
At a certain point all of this pain inside will then begin to seem futile, something you unconsciously believed would help fix things, actually seems to make them just seem bigger in your life.
And although you may feel your father gives you no space to be, give him space to be. Give him space to think and feel however he wishes to. Then all of this won’t seem so personal. Give him space to say whatever he wants, then you won’t feel it is so necessary to internally correct him whenever he says something untrue.
When you are tired, all of this will seem more difficult, so don’t set up any expectations for how well you should do, or how good you should feel. The bottom line is to let yourself feel exactly how you are feeling. From there any uncomfortable emotions have space to breathe and be released, although bear in mind that at first, they may seem stronger than ever because they are no longer being clamped down by any attempt to suppress them.
Anger comes and goes, but when it comes it pretends to be very important. See that it comes and goes, that it is not a permanent thing. Then you will naturally give it less importance when it comes.
Around anger there is space, like around a chair there is space. The space is not touched, not personal, not affected. Be the space, which naturally allows the anger to come and go in its own time.
So rather than trying to keep positive and fight the negative, let yourself be negative, as negative as possible at that moment. See what happens. And trying to find peace in your past is a way to remain stuck in it. The past only presents itself to you as thoughts and feelings. Let them come and go as they wish.
Hope that can help, thanks for your question,