My father combines a short temper with a complete intolerance for anyone arguing with him and an inability to admit he could ever be wrong about something. If something you do angers him, he will stay angry at you until you apologize (regardless of whether or not you were in the wrong). If you never apologize, he will happily never interact with or acknowledge you again (as you can imagine, he doesn’t retain too many friendships).
I’ve always been the quick to anger, quick to forgive type. It doesn’t take much to irritate or infuriate me, but I will also happily forget all about it within five minutes and hug things out if I’ve had an argument with you—I’m pretty much incapable of holding onto anger, it just evaporates after a while.
As a kid, I would yell and scream at my mum when she pissed me off, and ten minutes later we’d be crying and hugging. As you can imagine, this didn’t work with my dad. After many times when I yelled at him and was then forced to grovel to him so that he wouldn’t beat me or pretend I didn’t exist, I learned to internalize and control my emotions around him. You don’t argue with him, you don’t tell him he’s wrong, you just smile and nod and move the conversation in a different direction if he’s ranting about something.
As for how this has influenced me, I’d say there are four major ways. One is that I am emotionally somewhat repressed—I have great difficult expressing my emotions to other people, or talking about them. This doesn’t just affect anger, I also have trouble showing great happiness or excitement.
Secondly, I flee confrontation. Because being yelled at by my dad was always the ultimate sign I had fucked up, any form of raised voices towards me can reduce me quickly to a trembling, teary mess. I avoid any situation where I have to directly confront someone about anything controversial. I stay away from fiery topics of conversation, even if I have a strong opinion, because I know I will turn into a stammering mess if I try to express that opinion.
Thirdly, I have a young child now and I am committed to learning as many lessons I can from the way my dad treated me growing up and doing the exact opposite. I am so terrified of turning into my dad, but my little girl (and to an extent my wife, who is a wonderful, patient person) keeps me focused on making sure she never has to go through what I did.
Fourth, I have battled a life long struggle with eating. That’s how I came across this and am glad to see it. I mentioned being emotionally repressed and I find that I eat more often when I have a build up of emotions that I’m not really aware of. Even happiness, like having a good day with my child will have me eating after she’s asleep instead of talking and sharing my feelings with my wife.
The pictures I included are of an area I used to play in as a child to get away from my father. I’d spend many summers there with friends but also alone much of the time. I’d sit in the grass and look up at the clouds, trying to escape.
Sorry this is long, but it felt pretty cathartic to type out. Thanks for allowing me this.
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