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Generational Anger

What could have happened if grandparents had support in looking at the perfectionism and low self esteem hidden under their conventionally successful exterior? How much slack and connection could have been created in relationships through the generations?

I woke up this morning thinking about anger. Anger is a distancing stance. It pushes apart. It's scary. It triggers. It stimulates the other’s survival modes. A common companion to anger—withdrawal—while perhaps not as immediately scary, is distancing. Both shut down effective communication, while teaching, “Obey the rules, or else you’ll feel my wrath!”, or “Obey the rules or else you’ll be abandoned.”

Imagine a family system in which a child is punished by one parent and neglected by the other. Punishment looks to him like a towering red faced man, with arms flailing, and voice raging. Barraged with scolding words and threats, the child just stands there, unable to answer, looking ashamed, and waiting for the next order, “Now go to your room and don’t come back until you’ve thought about what you’ve done.” The child would be brought dinner if they didn’t come out (a meager olive branch offered by Mom).

30 years later, the man (who was this child) has his own family. He doesn’t rage like his dad…a commitment he made to himself. He does things differently. He finds himself getting angry at his own kids when they don't obey. He expressed what they do wrong, and how sad it makes him…and walks off to the garage. He works on a project, and texts their mom about what they have done. He is silently glad her week with them starts tomorrow.

It strikes me that this man only learned to not be like his dad, and to not get violent with his kids. He still deferred ‘teaching’ and valuable connection to his children’s mom. What do you imagine the grandkids are learning about living in relationships, and especially men’s roles in relationships?

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