I received an online question from a woman who was concerned with her ex-military son’s anger. She was also concerned for the safety of his wife and baby daughter. I’m sharing my revised answer to her.
“Your son needs to control his behavior, not his normal emotion of anger. There are two rules for releasing anger. 1) You can’t hurt yourself 2) You can’t harm others.
Have a frank conversation about your concerns, and give his wife encouragement to take the baby and leave when she feels unsafe. She needs 911 on auto-dial, a stash of cash, and a bag packed at all times. Your son makes choices in how he expresses his anger, and she chooses to call 911 and leave with the baby, immediately.
Your son is angry and needs a safe way to let the energy out of his body. Anger can be a pressure cooker. If your son doesn’t slowly release the anger, he could blow-up, which is not good for him or anyone else.
Your son needs to find help with a licensed mental health professional. I recommend groups where he can talk and also get help from other group members who are dealing with anger.
Medications can help, but many people don’t like to take them. Pills plus skills are the correct prescription, and your son is the only one in charge of both.
Anger can connect to other disorders like depression or anxiety — pills and skills help them all. Again, it is in your son’s control. Inappropriate anger somehow meets his needs; maybe he doesn’t want to change. It probably gives him power in an unhealthy way.
Your daughter-in-law needs to be strong and, when she feels unsafe, leave with the baby. Give her your blessings, and offer your spare bedroom.
Also, as a mom, you need to do all you can, but stop when your help is not helping. Know your limits and boundaries. Your son is the only one responsible for his behavior. He is an adult, and you don’t need or want a homicide or suicide — all the more reason to encourage him to get help and to assist his wife in staying safe. Just hoping or ignoring the problem doesn’t work.
Google the abuse cycle. (Blow, honeymoon, tension building, blow) He needs to catch it at the first sign of tension, chart the blows so they can see the pattern. Talk with him after he blows and during the honeymoon stage when he is remorseful and exhausted.
Love him enough not to enable his dangerous behavior. He is responsible and needs to find the courage to call a professional.
Thank you for being a loving mom, mother-in-law, and grandma.”
Until the next time: Live while you live.
Jennifer Goble, Ph.D., LPC, is the author of “My Clients…My Teachers,” and the blogger and writer of Rural Women Stories: www.ruralwomenstories.com.
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