By Dr Aman Rajan Bhonsle
Q: My mother had an affair with our neighbour and my father turned a blind eye to it for many years. The entire neighbourhood spoke of it and I lived my entire life feeling ashamed of being my mother’s son. I never raised this topic with her or with my father. The neighbour’s wife and kids were lovely people. How strange it must have been for them to deal with my mother’s possessive lust for the man for several years. My mother died of cancer last year and the entire family came for condolences. I felt that I owed them an apology for my mother’s conduct and for the pain that family had suffered due to it. I felt extremely angry towards my mother as I did her last rites. I do not know how to get a closure to my anger and shame. I find myself snapping all the time with my wife and kids and I know that I urgently need to resolve this anger within me. What should I do?
Ans: There’s so much that has unfolded in your life. A recovery period awaits. Some people may grow tired of carrying resentments within themselves. It would be a good idea to ask yourself if you’re ready to put in the work to move on from the past just yet or is that something you are merely thinking about as a possibility that you’re not entirely convinced about. Which of these two is it? Do not try and fast track the forgiveness process if you’re not still ready.
This is a common mistake made by many proponents of the ‘positive thinking’ movement. You’re still hurting and any denial of it will add to your wounds. It’s good that you’re being open about it by writing about it. For starters, I would highly recommend that you seek out a psychotherapist with whom you can meet on a recurring basis. There are so many emotions that you are currently going through. You need to come face to face with them under the care of someone who can help you handle the pain. Do not mistake the anger you feel with the hurt that you may be experiencing – as these emotions may be different but they are interconnected.
Anger is usually accompanied with the desire to punish and hurt could catalyse the desire to heal. Since punishing your mother is no longer possible, you’re left with the option to heal. Healing is hard work and often isn’t convenient since many people like to hold on to past grudges to justify their actions and thinking processes. ‘I am this way because I had it rough’ – becomes the justification. Your recovery goal could be to fully transition from the recurring social-shame and humiliation that you felt to a place of forgiveness and inner reconciliation.
Never lose sight of your recovery goal. Self-pity is like a narcotic that people get hooked to. You’ve kept a lot of your feelings bottled up over the years. You are still haunted by those memories. It’s all leading to a most unfortunate crescendo within you and understandably this could get quite fatiguing for you. Fatigue can render you irritable and that could be the cause of why you are snapping all the time at your wife and kids who in no way played a role in your mother’s behaviour – being what it was.
I would encourage you to not use your family as a punching bag as that can lead to a sense of bitterness and alienation that will adversely affect relationships within the home. Your wife and kids may not understand the extent to which you’re hurt and how hard it was for you to carry this around in your mind for so long. Even if they did know what you are going through, it is not their job to fix you or heal you. It’s a road you’re going to have to take by yourself… for yourself.
Dr. Aman Bhonsle, MBA, PGDTA, Ph.D
Consulting Psychosocial Analyst, TA Trainer, Youth Mentor, Relationship Counsellor & Communications Coach. He specializes in Creative Problem Solving, Anger Management, Communication Coaching & in facilitating Mindset Makeovers.