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Ask Amy: Loving dad prone to rages

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • March 8, 2013 - 1:58 PM

Dear Amy: My father is in his 50s, and my sister and I are in our 20s. He has always been a loving, involved father — smart, witty, caring and a great provider — and also the angriest person we’ve ever known.

His rages, which consist of swearing and yelling, are never directed at us or my mother. Politics and sports make my dad a different person. These are usually the cause of his rage, though everyday things like breaking a glass will set him off, too.

Normally he is soft-spoken. However, he is a sports fan and a political junkie and is completely unable to control his emotions and anger over these topics. He is, at best, very tense (when his team is doing well), and screaming and belligerent when his team is not. He also frequently goes on tirades about politics. Luckily, our family shares the same affiliations, and his anger is not directed at us.

I love my father, but his anger and screaming make me, my family, our dogs and anyone unlucky enough to be near him uncomfortable and embarrassed. My greatest fear is that he will have a stroke or heart attack during one of his tirades.

His anger is probably rooted in something much deeper, but we don’t talk about those things. At this stage in our lives I hardly see the point.

Should we continue to acquiesce to his rages and pretend we are OK with it, or should we (or I) confront him and tell him how much his rage upsets us and how worried we are about him? Talking about this would be a big deal.

Amy says: If you feel that in your family there is no point in discussing challenging issues, then by all means keep cowering in the corner whenever your father’s team or political party take the field.

If you are not OK with something happening in your family, then it’s a good idea to express your view, which in your case might be accompanied by a white flag of surrender. It’s hard to believe that not one person has ever commented on your father’s screaming rages, and it’s hard to imagine that his raging over something like a broken glass has no effect on or consequence for the family.

You should lovingly tiptoe up to this big deal issue and tell your father that you are worried about him, and that you think he needs help to modulate his anger. You are correct that these rages are bad for his health. And you should also demonstrate that his behavior affects you by, at least, leaving the room (or the house) when he rages.

A book your father might find helpful is “Beyond Anger: A Guide for Men: How to Free Yourself from the Grip of Anger and Get More Out of Life,” by Thomas Harbin (2000, Da Capo Press).

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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