My Very Angry Parent


I came across your website unexpectedly and found your suggestions on coping with a horrid parent riveting.  I wish I had seen it decades ago.   

What I remember most of my late mother is her appalling endlessly raging bad temper.  It’s so sad, but that’s how I think of her.  From the time I was a small child until my late forties when she died she shouted at me for misdemeanours  that most people would consider were inconsequential or a normal part of a child growing up.  Forgetting my homework was one, looking scruffy was another, as was leaving a used drinking glass on the kitchen work surface.    

It went on from there and included not studying law at university because she found it fascinating – I didn’t so in her eyes I let her down and she always raged when she didn’t get her own way.  I teach history instead.  At the other end of the scale despite my age she continued to criticise my clothes.   

I have never married as I couldn’t bear to risk having someone else harangue me in the way she did.  As I was her only child and my father died when I was twenty I took responsibility for her welfare as she aged and contracted various ailments.  That too infuriated her as she couldn’t bear to be vulnerable.  It was only a small consolation that she also shouted at the cleaning lady and a very nice neighbour for asking how she was feeling.   

I am now 48  and when I look back it seems that anger was the only emotion she could express and I suspect that she blocked herself from feeling other more vulnerable emotions like feeling sad, anxious or disappointed. For myself I wonder whether it’s possible to overcome such an unhappy start to life and find some personal happiness?



Many people struggle to accept what they are feeling and some find the experience so unpleasant that they deny them, both to themselves and to others. But strong feelings have a way of re-emerging and if we try to mask them they may appear in a different form. So you are probably right that your mother could not accept or admit to her wider range of emotions. Perhaps her resentment about this led her to appear angry and she took it out on you as her only child. If it interests you to do so, think back over your mother’s life and maybe see some events that would have been hard for her to manage and consider how else she could have reacted. This is not to excuse her but to enable you get more perspective on her as a person which will also help you believe that none of her fury was your fault. 

It is not easy to live with so much pain and there are no quick solutions, but there is no reason why you cannot start to move forward in your life now that your mother has died. You could try making some plans about how you would like your future life to develop. Think about what you have achieved so far: your education, professional life as a teacher, friendships and hobbies. Note what has given you most satisfaction and what else would you like to do. Make a list and be as broad and creative as you can. Take ownership and control for yourself without thinking whether or not your mother would approve.    It’s time to do what you want and make the most of your freedom.

Also think whether some counselling might help you on your way?