Everyone has their frustrations and disappointments. Who doesn’t have those moments?
But it is our personal responsibility to catch ourselves when those moments come. We are responsible for not taking out the hurt or the anger on other people, especially our loved ones.
Ironically — and sadly — we often take out these toxic emotions on those who are closest to us out of convenience, proximity, and habit.
Many people also believe and resign to the idea that families do this to each other anyway. What family or siblings do not have any bickering, misunderstanding, quarrels, petty or otherwise, etc., right?
But it’s one of the saddest things that humanity has blindly accepted and tolerated for a very long time.
And it’s something to which I no longer subscribe. It simply isn’t acceptable to me. Not anymore.
I now subscribe to the belief that it is my birthright to be treated with dignity, respect, love and kindness – by anybody and everybody. And it is a birthright that I believe is to be accorded every being and any form of creation.
Aneurysm becomes the convenient excuse
Mom and my sisters were adamant that my brother’s aneurysm was the reason behind his aggressive behavior.
Of course it was. I’m not negating that.
But it wasn’t the only one.
I may not have been in the exact condition as my brother, but I also experienced the frustration of not being able to fully function when I experienced vocal cord paralysis in 1998. I was recovering from thyroidectomy.
So, I could sympathize and empathize with the frustration and the anger of not being able to do what one normally is able to — especially without any assurance or certainty that one eventually would. And I could only imagine how frustrating and infuriating that must have been for my brother!
The severity of my experience surely paled in comparison to that of my brother’s. Still, taking out one’s frustration and anger on others and expressing it inappropriately — with or without aneurysm — simply wasn’t something I was going to tolerate. Not anymore.
My brother, just like Dad, has had a temper that he couldn’t manage — long-standing anger, deep-seated rage that he didn’t know how to express appropriately. He’s had it way back during his teens. It was something to which our family had been subjected for as long as I can remember. We witnessed and tolerated it for the longest time. Condoned.
And as is with the rest of our family issues, individually and collectively, it wasn’t properly attended to. Couple that with decades of drug abuse, therein lies a sure formula for aggression and violence. And while it caught all of us unaware, it truly shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise that my brother eventually suffered from ruptured aneurysm.
A huge factor why his abusive behavior perpetuated is because no one from our family had the courage to stand up to him and face him head on about it. Not even our mother — most especially our mother.
I’m not taking away any responsibility from my brother with that statement. He was, after all, a well-functioning adult even before the aneurysm, and despite the heavy influence of drugs.
I’m also not passing on all of the blame to our family — and that doesn’t exclude me — for having chosen to simply be an audience. To observe. To witness. And allow my brother to continue to lose his way in the long, dark hallways of the evil world of drugs, and which only worsened his bouts of aggression and violence.
But the truth of the matter is, everyone in the family chose to keep quiet and tolerated his aggressive and violent tendencies — perhaps hoping and believing it was simply a phase, that my brother would outgrow it, or that his behavioral problem and drug abuse would eventually get resolved on their own. Without making it the justification for my brother’s behavior, our silence though implicitly gave him the message that his tendency towards violence was acceptable — especially since our father behaved the same way. Our silence reinforced the unhealthy behavior. We were his enablers.
So, I finally mustered the courage to tell my brother how I truly felt. When I told him that I didn’t appreciate his abuse of my kindness, it was probably the first time that anyone ever dared tell him about his ill-temper and anger management issues.
Not surprisingly, although quite painfully, he didn’t take my message very well.
I told my mother that I was no longer going to continue my role of being my brother’s caretaker. Someone needed to step up to it. I wasn’t going to condone anymore my brother abusing me and my kindness.
“But that’s because of the aneurysm.”
Even as I’m writing about it now, I still feel the sting behind those words.
It was the immediate response of my mother, echoed by my sisters. They would stand by it for quite sometime.
Perhaps without my family meaning to or being aware of it, those words only justified and gave an excuse for my brother’s display of lack of respect towards me. It further concealed what’s hidden beneath my brother’s ill behavior and what truly needed to be addressed.
Turning a deaf ear and blind eye may be most convenient but it only perpetuates the problem.
And because I was calling a spade a spade and pointing it out to him, I naturally became the bad guy.
Perhaps the rest of my family, most especially my mother, were not ready to admit what was truly going on with my brother. Maybe also because unconsciously, unknowingly, there was the voice of guilt lurking underneath — that each one of us, in fact, contributed to my brother’s situation. That had we done something earlier on to address his drug abuse problem, the eventual ruptured aneurysm may have been prevented, and the damage to his psyche could have been minimized. Maybe.
But all the what-if’s and what-might-have-been’s weren’t helping. And I couldn’t really be too sure what was truly going on deep down inside every member of my family. And I’m in no position and have no intention to make any judgments or conclusions.
What was clear was their refusal and apparent unreadiness to support my view about my brother’s long standing anger management issue and display of aggression. It was so much more convenient to hide behind the words,
“But that’s because of the aneurysm.”
I told you so…
I stood firm by my observation and decision though — no matter how unpopular and in opposition to the stance of the rest of my family. I most certainly wasn’t going to cave in. And I didn’t and I hadn’t.
And I’m so thankful I stayed strong in my resolve.
A few years later, an incident once more brought to the surface my brother’s aggressive and violent behavior.
During one of his bouts of anger and frustration, my brother once more displayed an inappropriate and aggressive behavior towards his ex-wife. It was a scene that was, sadly, although not the first time, witnessed by his very own teenage daughter.
Without disclosing any more details as they aren’t necessary, the incident finally led my sisters to echo my sentiments. They said the exact words that I had said all along about my brother. Words that I thought were going to be uttered only in my dreams and imagination. Words that I finally heard from my siblings through their exchange of emails where I was copied.
My brother needed to work on his anger and ill-temper, that if he continued to take out his anger inappropriately on others, people would start to stay away from him — the very reason I chose to stay away from my brother and relinquish my role of being his caretaker!
The naughty, immature, then still-hurting, ego-driven part of me so wanted to respond with,
“But that’s because of the aneurysm!” 😉
By that time though, I had already distanced myself from my brother, as well as the rest of my family. I no longer wanted to feed the energy of The Karpman Drama Triangle in which my family was trapped, a family dynamics found in families of abuse.
But reading what was written by my sisters, who sounded so much like me much earlier on, gave me much relief. Of course I felt so validated — not that I needed to be. Admittedly though, part of me felt vindicated.
My decision to keep away from my family, along with the majority, if not all of my other life choices, may not be in accordance with mainstream thinking.
But it is a decision I have no regret ever making — as it is a decision that ushered in the energies for me to look within. It led me to examine the motivation behind my caretaking and savior tendencies, and it eventually led me to break my pattern of playing the rescuer role.
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