Juliet struggles with aggression and low self-esteem, which probably relates to her difficult childhood. An overly involved mother and the use of corporal punishment has left Juliet with emotional trauma. How can she manage her anger problems?
Juliet is a 20 year old and has a huge problem with anger. She starts slapping her face, pulling her hair and biting her hands when she is angry. She finds it difficult to concentrate on her work and finds that when she is under stress of some sort, her brain goes to sleep. She has faced this problem from as far back as she can remember. This is her way of getting her brain to order. When she was a school student, she regularly beat herself to make her mind concentrate on her homework, her projects and exams. Thank God for Mummy, she always came to the rescue when Juliet showed signs of distress.
A strict disciplinarian, Juliet’s mother had always felt her daughter was difficult, even as a little girl. Slow to start speaking, Juliet had been a hurricane of a child, always in a rush and always getting her hands in all the wrong places. No amount of harshness had made an impact on the girl. She must have been slow, her mother averred because it wasn’t till she was 5 that she made coherent sentences. At some point, the hurricane aspect of the girl reduced but she remained short-tempered and resentful. Juliet’s mother had never understood why and how her daughter had turned out this way. It seemed like the stricter she was with Juliet, the more trouble she got into.
Juliet’s aunt had a different view point. She felt her sister was too harsh with Juliet from the start. Juliet’s mother had beaten her when she was less than a year old. The reason – the baby had dropped a glass bottle. When the baby was a toddler, she had climbed on to the bed and started jumping on it. Irate that the freshly made bed was getting spoilt, Juliet’s mother had ordered her off it, but not without smacking her across the face. The mother insisted on carrying her everywhere to avoid her getting her frock dirty until she was five years old. Juliet’s mother viewed arguments as a sign of disrespect. Whenever Juliet showed signs of obstinacy, her mother would give her a ‘hard one’ across her face. When Juliet stopped crying, her mother made it a point to continue to beat her until she broke down. ‘That is how you break obstinacy’. When there was an argument, you could never tell what it was about. Juliet’s mother would be screaming about all the trouble she had taken to bring up her child while Juliet would be screaming about wanting to do something or the other and how her mother always came in the way.
Juliet couldn’t deny that she had got through the difficult years of education because of her mother. Every time Juliet sat to do her work and faced a difficulty, her mother would come over and help her, at times, completing her homework for her. Unfortunately, Juliet never got to do the things she liked either. When there was a drawing competition at school, her mother insisted that Juliet complete her homework and studies and leave the drawing for her mother to do. Upset, Juliet refused to show the drawing to the teacher. Her mother had been hurt by Juliet’s attitude towards her effort but let it go as a part of callousness of youth.
Let us try to understand what has been happening. Juliet was a ‘hurricane’ as a child, always on the move. We must see the connection between her delayed speech and the energy that emanates from the desire to speak that remains trapped within. This leads to an effort to make the listener understand by way of physical gestures. When the communication fails, the child shows signs of agitation.
Is it possible to stay silent when one wants to express a thought or feeling? A person who has to keep quiet when in a state of anger is likely to throw something or tear papers or punch a pillow. The agitation will come out in the form of physical activity that appears disruptive to the onlooker but feels normal to the person who with suppressed emotions. In the case of Juliet, the parent has missed out on understanding the child’s context and focused on propriety. The child felt the reaction and was enraged as well as frightened. If Juliet’s mother harks back in time, she will realize that Juliet’s behavior came under some control when she was able to verbalize her needs.
Unfortunately, Juliet’s mother had started using physical means to control her child which impeded communication. She has also tried to create dependence on herself, possibly in the hope of emotional redemption. So, Juliet believes that she cannot do anything correctly and hates herself more and more.
The fact that Juliet is trying to overcome her fears by engaging in work is a sign that she is motivated to feel better. This means that if the suitable path is charted, she may falter and prefer to withdraw at times, but there is hope for her to recover the feelings of being able.
The first thing to do is to highlight all that Juliet DOES correctly. In the course of the day, Juliet must be doing some things right at work and at home. If she loses her job as she fears, it is possible that she needs to identify work that she really wants to be involved in or needs to add to her skill set. Either way, the loss of a job is not a sign of lack of ability; it is a sign of lack of fit between the individual and the role.
Juliet will take time to come to terms with the fact that her mother was flawed in certain parenting practices and the problem was not Julia’s. She will have to accept that she is personally capable of completing work that is assigned to her without intervention and takeover of the job. She needs to recognize that her belief in her inability to independently do a job is associated with insufficient habit formation at a young age. Concentration on a task can be improved with the introduction of suitable habits in the absence of other issues linked to this aspect of mental work.
She must engage herself in soothing activities that induce creativity to flow and recognize her ability. The choice of activity must be connected with intrinsic talents that she possesses to avoid reinforcement of her lack of self-belief. She must choose and be encouraged to stay with the choice for a given time period.
Professional help is needed to help her overcome her habit of hurting herself when she finds it difficult to concentrate.
Once she is able to direct her mind to areas of more fruitful activity, she will be able to learn to harness the energy that anger creates in a way that is appropriate rather than harmful to her. This will improve her acceptability in professional and personal relationships.