What you need to know:
- The hate and anger you have towards your dad is the same that sent your mum into depression and blood pressure.
- Exposure to violence at an early age can impair the development of a child and lead them to be abusers.
Growing up, I witnessed a lot of violence in our home. Our father was abusive towards my mum and this created tension in the family. His hostility made me develop strong emotions of anger and hatred.
Unfortunately, the violence caused my mum to get high blood pressure and depression. She succumbed to the illness barely 12 years into the marriage and we were left motherless quite young.
Shortly after my mum’s demise, my father remarried but it didn’t last long. He went ahead to marry again but, again, it didn’t work. He has been divorced three times and had a number of girlfriends along the way. I am now grown-up, middle-aged, and run a successful business. However, I have a problem trusting men or even pursuing a serious relationship. I feel the difficulties I have are caused by childhood trauma and the anger I feel towards my father.
Although my father and I barely speak to each other, my current stepmother is a wonderful woman. She checks up on me often and we once met up for coffee. How do I get past the pain in my heart so that I can settle down and have a family of my own?
I empathise with you in the pain you have endured. As I read through your question, it dawned on me that the hate and anger you have towards your dad is the same that sent your mum into depression and blood pressure.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, estimates show that up to 1 billion children in the world have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect. Exposure to violence at an early age can impair the development of a child and lead them to be abusers.
A United Nations Economic Commission for Africa report of 2012 notes that violence against women is perhaps the most widespread and socially tolerated of the human rights violations. While most communities see fathers as symbols of protection and provision for their families, the abuse you saw by your father left not only a void in your life but also fear of enjoying the loving and caring hands of a man that may never have been like your dad.
The anger you feel is part of the helplessness you felt growing up. As a child, there was nothing you could have done to stop the violence against your mother. This left you with emotional baggage. But today, you have a chance to make a choice that would redefine your worldview on life and family.
First, it is important that you deal with this past. Your dad made choices he will always be responsible for. There is a need for a recognition that your father’s abuse has no place in your future. You are grown up now and able to decide what to do with the abuse you experienced as you map out the kind of future you want to have. What you carry is evidence of a strong emotion that will act like a slow poison in your body. It has the ability to pollute your heart, and soul and destroy the great future intended by God for you. Your desire to talk about it may lessen the inner pressure that you feel.
Second, make a choice not to allow this anger to define your future. The only way to deal with this past is through forgiveness. If done right, forgiveness will empty your heart of the fear, hate, and anger you feel regardless of the actions of your father. Mother Theresa noted that “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create it anyway. The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
Also read: How to deal with childhood trauma
The challenge is when most people find it easier to point a finger than to be introspective in forgiving. In addition, a session with a good counsellor will help you develop a path toward lasting healing and the rebuilding of healthy feelings. The truth is, you have the ability to control the feelings you have instead of choosing blame. No one can forgive our aggressors on our behalf.
Finally, earlier in this column, I stated that forgiveness will not necessarily mean reconciliation and full trust. While forgiveness is a choice to let go of the pain and offense, trust will take time to build. After all, there is virtually no place in your memory where you saw kindness in your dad. Trust will happen as you seek to build positive thoughts towards your dad. I am glad your stepmother is showing you the way. I am sure she has some idea concerning your difficult past, albeit in a small measure. Use her as a ladder to re-engage with your dad when the time comes.
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