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what do you do with an angry person


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First, thank you for the opportunity to write this. There is so much to say, I hope I can be clear with the issue.

My sister has been married to a man for 10 years (this is his 2nd marriage) who has a terrible anger problem. I have witnessed his irrational behavior on several occasions or received the phone call to tell me about it (mostly). Your article on the psychology of anger describes him to a tee. The only thing missing is his name. The verbal abuse, the demeaning comments, the "your crazy"..all of it, it's him. It is not an everyday occurrence but certainly often enough. He has held grudges for years with people that I know of. He and I were actually very close up to this.

His relationship with his two adult children from his previous marriage is one of complete perfection. His belief is they are the best, the smartest, could not ever do anything wrong etc. The pedestal is high.

My sister and he have a 7 yo son (my nephew). My nephew partcipates in advance courses and posseses an IQ of over 160 yet is still a little boy who loves footbal, baseball, golf, karate etc. He is very calm, good hearted and completely non aggresive like his mother. We spend (spent) much quality time together even travel. I have exposed him to many hours of experiences most children unfortunately will never see.

They were doing a major renovation on their house in which they lived with me for almost two months. Once completed they moved back into their own home. Much of their sons items were still in a POD in the driveway. He asked his father if he could get his video game out of there for him. After a few days of requesting, his father did go out to get this. Within about 3 minutes my nephew ran into the house crying. His lip had been pinched so hard it broke blood vessels and was black. When my sister asked what happened, my nephew told her that dad got mad because he had moved one box and wasn't going to look any further. He said he told his father that "my dad is not a quitter" and he pinched his lip. My sister then went out into the pod and got the video game right from where my nephew said it was. Obviously my sister lost it and it began. Her husband claims he was called a quitter and that their 7 yo son was lying. In fact, said that he called him a quitter "10 times". That is the most preposterous comment he could have made as I could never imagine those words coming out of his mouth nor could his mother. In fact I wish he was more aggressive. This incident turned into hell for my sister for about two days as he continued to call his 7yo a liar and it escalted to pure hate towards his wife. I was so upset by this and knew I was going to get involved (right or wrong) that I called his daughter for advice on how I should deal with it. I understand needing to reprimand (although I didn't believe what he said), I was more ticked at his behavior AFTER the fact. What he called my sister could not have been any lower and I couldn't write it on here. I also know my nephew did not say what he claimed. My opinion is he snapped, realized it and was now caught.

After I told his daughter what occured and that I beleive he needs anger management, She told me I need to stay out of it and she couldn't understand this as they grew up in a Leave it to Beaver household. Sorry, that was sarcasm. Did I mention his first wife actually left him AND the kids after 20+ years? Could you imagine what really occured? She told me she would not say anything and we hung up. Well of course she didn't even have a good dial tone before she called him to tell him of our conversation. I actually told her I was going to tell him we had spoken but she said "don't say anything". I have nothing to hide and no quams going toe to toe with him. Regarding education accomplishments between his family and ours or any other issue. That would actually be a joke so he wouldn't go there with me, just my sister who never speaks up.

That night I got a phone call from him where he began to cuss me out pretty good. Screaming he has down. Of course I did not hold back and let it fly telling him he indeed had issues that included an out of control anger problem, he is violent and needed to get some help.

Now he will not speak to me and tells his wife he will have nothing to do with me etc. Unfortunately, it is my nephew that I miss.

I could not be a more calmer person. It is my nature, but this ordeal has me in a position of feeling like I should do something.

Should I have called his daughter, no. I should have realized that is his source of justification.

What do you do with someone who is so righteous would never admit to having a problem and I do not believe there is anyway he would seek help.

He also has certainly written me off because I challenged him.

My sister, loves him and is just trying to make it work so her son has his father. I do not get it, but also understand (if that makes sense).

There has never been a divorce in our family anywhere. We obviously grew up quite different.

I want a relationship with my nephew. I could just imagine what is going through his head. He actually asked his father if it was ok for me to come over when he wasn't there. How pitiful is that? What do I do now? I would try to approach him again but honestly, only for my nephew and I do not think he is capable of being rational. Especially now.

I'll take whatever advice you might have given the information I have shared.

Thanks, I really appreciate it.

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Guest ASchwartz

Your concern for both you sister and nephew are very understandable. It must be very difficult for you to know what an abusive father and husband your brother in law really is.

In one way I believe that your sister makes a good point when she tells you to stay out of it. After all, how much of an impact can an aunt and sister in law have on such a difficult situation. I guess you could talk to your sister and urge her to leave this angry man. However, if she refuses there is not much you can do other than remind her that there are sources of help and support for abused children and wives.

In another way, I am fully aware of the laws that require that anyone aware of ongoing child abuse report it to the authorities. From what you wrote it appears that your nephew is being physically and verbally abused, if I am understanding correctly. You reported that the boys father had pinched and damaged his son's lip. Things like this, if they are part of a pattern, can be reported and investigated.

You cannot force your sister to take action unless you warn her of the obligation to report child abuse. However, you can take this action on your own initiative.

What do others think?

Allan Schwartz

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I knew somehow I would not be able to explain all of this more clearly. I apologize for that. My brother in law has never prior to this physically abused my nephew and is not part of a pattern. The pattern is more the vulgar, demeaning, aggressive abuse and mostly towards my sister when something occurs and he snaps.

Is there any way that I could speak to him (if he lets me) where I might try and convince him that he needs help?

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Guest ASchwartz

OK, it is clearer to me now that you are worried about the demeaning way this husband treats your sister. I do not blame you. You can try to speak to your brother-in-law but I doubt very much that it will help. In fact, there is a good chance that he will become enraged again and that you will feel more frustrated and despairing.

What can I tell you, it could be worth a try but, do not get your hopes up and expect the worst outcome possible. That way, you will feel less disappointed if the worst occurs.

What about your sister? She tells you to stay out of it. Could he make things worse for her if you try to speak to him? Will you tell her ahead of time that you will try speak to him?

You have very good intentions and you care about your sister and nephew. But, remember the old saying about

The road to hell being paved with good intentions.

I rather like another more recent saying:

No good deed shall go unpunished.


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Thank you so much for your input. This helps me understand more.

I think your advice to try and speak with him is good. This is the advice my sister gave me.

My sister was not the one that said to stay out of it, it was his adult daughter. And once I get the knife out of my back, I might need to say something to her also. Of course that could open an entirely diferent can of worms. That was an enlighting dynamic in all of this. I truely believe his closeness with his daughter is because she enables his behavior. It is his justification. Poor daddy, must be someone elses fault.

Maybe he will come around over time and be ok. Maybe he actually heard me when I told him he had an anger issue, while he was yelling at me.

I say this because something interesting happened today. I coach my nephews little league baseball team and his father will help out occassionally. During warm ups, he was playing catch with him and my nephew was not doing/listening to him about how to catch the ball. He did get frustrated and when that happened, he turned to me and asked me to play catch because he was getting mad. He actually said that. I took that as very positive progress. Maybe, just maybe... What do you think of this? Is it a wolf in sheep skin or could it be real?

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  • 5 weeks later...

Hello Concerned,

It is possible that your brother-in-law has taken your comments to heart. However, you will not know if it's an act until months (years in some situations) from the first sign of progress. I'm glad you have some contact with your nephew. In fact, this is a great environment to see his dad's interactions with others and while in stressful situations.

I can speak from personal experience that the 'little' steps like "I'm getting upset - can you practice with him" can make a huge difference in regards to learning how to manage anger/rage. You might comment to him (at an appropriate time) that you were impressed with his comment. You have to be careful how you do this - coming across as condenscending is not going to help the relationship. His ability to admit that he was getting angry and give the situation over to someone who stood up to him is impressive, imo. How many times would we have liked to see that occur at children's sporting events?

Something that might be good for you to do is figure out what your "perfect world" scenario would be. From what you've written, it sounds to me like you want the abusive actions/words to stop. Whether this is done by leaving or by growing, you don't much care. But what would you really like to have happen? Keep that in mind when you are interacting with your sister's family (all of them), and that will help you choose your words wisely. I would caution you to clearly see what is really happening too though - wishes don't make reality.

Let us know how things are going. Good luck!


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Guest ASchwartz

Dear Chou-Tonbo,

Welcome to our community. Let me say that I agree with you. Can you tell us more about your self and your experience with abuse?

Dear Concerned,

Perhaps your brother in law is taking to heart what you have said.


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Thanks to the both of you for your input. Unfortunately I have had little to no contact with my brother in law since the last event. We see each other but basically are transparent. Zero conversation and no eye contact.

I would like to approach him now that some time has passed. My sister has told me that he is very angry at me not because of our confrontation but because I called is eldest daughter (my sister's step daughter) when this occured for her opinion about the situation. She is the one who told me to stay out of it and not say anything, when I was going to confront him initially so I didn't, then she immediately called him. Character has never been her finest point.

What do you think? Should I approach him now?

The good news is, although I do not see my nephew as much, I still see him ocassionally. He has not totally cut me off. That could just be because of my sister. Who knows.

I myself do not care for conflict that drags on yet I am not going to apologize to him for anything. Is that wrong?

Thanks, I look forward to your response(s).

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Concerned,

Well, I will repeat what I said recently and that is, in my opinion, you are best off staying out of it completely. Do not apologize (you have no reason to anyway), and do not try to make things better. There are those times in life when our efforts to make things better only makes things worse. He is an angry person with whom it is impossible to reason. What do others think?


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(Sorry about the delay. I had a pretty busy week at work.)

I don’t think approaching him is a good idea. Everyone has their own way of dealing with anger or other issues. For example, my sister needs tons of time to cool off if she's been upset about something. I don't need anywhere close to the same amount of time to be all relaxed again. It is possible your brother-in-law has quite a bit on his plate – hopefully because he is looking at his anger problem. Forcing an issue is generally a bad idea (even the intervention model is being questioned).

I actually have two different lines of thought on you contacting his daughter. The first is that you were right in contacting her. He was exposed, and therefore would have to lie or face up to what he had done. The second thought is that you involved someone who did not need to be involved, even when you view her character and input as minimally helpful at best. Either way, an apology is not a good idea; angry folks often misunderstand apologies.

He is an angry person with whom it is impossible to reason.

I know that some people believed this about me too. Unsurprisingly, I disagree with the sentiment (presuming the angry person is relatively calm when trying to reason with them). People have motivation to do whatever they are doing. When we use the wrong information while making a decision or jump to a conclusion, we mess up relationships. That is what is happening here, mostly in regards to your brother-in-law. I had an internal wake-up call that coincided with my friend moving out. Double motivation to fix my problem! It is possible your brother-in-law has woken up. It is also possible he has not and his anger will continue to escalate. There is a way to reach him, but it sounds like you are too far away from the situation to have a good way to initiate something positive. You might see an opportunity like the ball practice one you mentioned, but simply be aware and keep perspective!

At any rate, I could tell you what was going on inside me when I would explode, and I did have reasons for my actions. They were not logical when looking at reality after the fact, but they made sense inside of me at the time. Now I see that I felt out of control internally, so I would try to control my surroundings (including the people), albeit in an ineffective way. Because people were nervous around me, I knew more or less what was going on and people were concerned about my reactions so I felt cared about. However, my goal of having a happy life was being undermined by my very own actions. Your brother-in-law is very likely in a somewhat similar situation. Hopefully he will address his issues, be able to talk to you about what happened in an adult manner, and have family relationships improve and grow.

Those are my thoughts. I’m curious if anyone else has comments.


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