Last week, Anguished in Altamont bared her soul about a daughter whose behavior has changed and asked if she was alone. Apparently she isn’t. This week’s letters and next week’s will consist of responses to Anguished, with advice and words of comfort. Thanks to all of you who have written.

I have a lot of questions. Anguished mentioned that this daughter is not her biological daughter. So is she your husband’s biological daughter? Why is this information important to Anguished’s story? Is Anguished the only person the daughter lashes out against? Has Anguished treated this daughter different from their other children? I think the answer to these questions would be interesting.

But without that information I would look at several things. If Anguished is the only one getting this treatment, then maybe there are some unresolved issues. The daughter may not know how to deal with them. If she is lashing out at everyone, maybe it is a physical or mental issue that needs to be addressed.

If the daughter’s husband doesn’t want to deal with it, then Anguished’s husband needs to sit down with the daughter and ask if he can help her get a physical. I know that I was a basket case at one point in my life as I was in an abusive relationship. No one knew. But I was a screamer and of course no one would have linked my lashing out to the fact I was sinking in the relationship. My spouse at the time could make it always look like I was the bad guy.

After the divorce, my mother came to visit during my daughter’s wedding. For days she had picked and picked at me and talked about me behind my back but not really because I was in the next room. She went on and on and finally I just exploded. I am sure if you were to ask my mother she would say she did not deserve the treatment but after weeks of nitpicking and telling everyone around me how awful I was, I had had enough.

I am sure the day I exploded, the people there did not get or understand what was really going on. My bonus daughter and I talked about it later. She was freaked that it happened but later (years) when I explained the whole thing she was like “oh my heavens.”

I would first find out if the daughter has physical or mental issues. I would check to see if taking her to lunch away from everyone and everything that she opens up about anything that might be happening. And if she is just toxic like my mom then I would limit my time around her. I limit my visits to short stays and always stay at a local hotel where I can control the access.

Been There Too

Thanks for reminding us, BTT, that there may be issues behind the scenes that have nothing to do with Anguished, but that can be causing the anger. Anguished may be a convenient target, and perhaps spending some one-on-one time with the daughter can uncover hidden issues. If not, as you pointed out, distance may be a solution.

I just read the article “Helping in a Family Crisis” in today’s Meridian and hopefully can provide a word of comfort and understanding that will help in your healing process.

First, let me answer the answer that you asked at the end of the article:”Is this happening in other families in the Church?” I am a bishop in a ward in Argentina that has been shattered twice over the past couple of years over situations like these. So yes, my guess is, it is happening in other families in the Church, even though I speak for our ward and the issues I’ve had to deal with as a bishop.

Just a word of advice, actually. Do you know anyone you can trust in her ward (maybe the Relief Society president she serves with)? If you feel her anger is directed towards you and even your husband hasn’t had much success in talking to her, there must be someone that both you and your daughter trust that could help and smooth things a little bit without being judgmental. Been there, done that.

Also, here is a talk by Elder Scott. It is about healing both from sin and from the actions of others that have caused us pain. I hope that you will find it useful.

Take care and feel free to write back.

Gabriel A. Cnepa

Email isgacanepa at gmail dot com

Thanks so much for your counsel, Bishop, and for providing the link to the talk. Readers, I’ve spelled out BishopCnepa’s email address so he won’t have trouble with spammers.

I think the husband has given the best counsel. Stay away from any contact with her.She is toxic and will only get worse with additional contact.

Pray for forgiveness and understanding.

She has her free will and will reap the rewards one way or the other.

All the best.

John R. McLellan

Thanks for your input, John. I agree that any action Anguish takes should be done after counseling with her husband. Two heads are less likely to be clouded by emotions than one. (I know that’s true in my house!)

It sounds like your daughter is suffering from a mental illness. From the outside, a mental illness can often look calculating and controlled. But for the person inside, it is a search for the “safest” route for these uncontrollable feelings to escape.

Though it is a small consolation, this woman may have chosen you as the one person she is safe with, the one who will still love her despite her suffering. Church friends don’t have the deep love for her that you do. She may be afraid that they will cut her off if she expresses this hurtful cry for help.

You may not be the person to address her possible need for professional help. Your husband may be more appropriate, or her husband, but it is doubtful to me that her love for you is the issue here.

Medical Professional

Thanks for bringing up the mental health issue, Medical. The next letter echoes your sentiments:

I would like to respond to the anguished mother in Altamont.When someone’s personality changes suddenly like that, we are usually looking at a medical (psychological) problem. It could be caused by any number of things that should be addressed by a doctor.

The mother does not have much power to affect any change in the daughter’s behavior whatever caused it. She can recommend to her son-in-law that he seek some medical help for her daughter, but whether they will and whether or not it will help is out of her control.

What she can control is her own response to the change in her relationship with her daughter.

I also have a son who is mentally ill. He is always very angry with me and can be verbally abusive. I sometimes physically aggressive, so I do know what she’s dealing with. The first thing that helps me is to realize that he suffers from depression (as well as paranoia) and when he is feeling the blackness, he aggressively seeks someone to argue with. Often that is me. I have come to see that the argument is generally not really about me, but an opportunity to express the negative emotions that he’s feeling. I have come to see it as a symptom of his illness.

A metaphor I have for thinking about it is this: When people are sick, they vomit. It’s gross and disgusting and if you’re the one closest to them at the time, you might get some of it on you. But you still love the people, even though you hate getting vomit on you. You wish they would get better.

When a person is mentally ill, you might be exposed to “verbal vomit.” It’s not any more pleasant than the other kind, but you realize that it is the product of an illness, just like the other kind. You still love the person, but you wish he could get better. Maybe he can.

I’m still hoping my son can get better. We’ll see. In the meantime, we limit our exposure to him. He doesn’t live with us at home anymore, but he sometimes comes home for a weekend. We try not to keep him over a Sunday because he’s worse when the subject of religion comes up and he does better if he only stays one night, not two.

We are doing the best we can to help him be successful in life, but he’s an adult and his choices are his own. Thankfully, he has no wife or children at this time.

As far as your daughter’s husband is concerned, I’m guessing he is a kind and loving man who ignores your daughter’s outbursts because life gets back to normal quicker if he just lets it go by. We often ignore hurtful things that my son says and the anger dissipates quicker if he isn’t able to engage us in an argument.

If I were in your shoes, I would offer that son-in-law every ounce of support and compassion I could give him. He is doubtless often the recipient of your daughter’s anger. I would also stay as involved as I could be in my grandchildren’s lives. I would try really hard to let my daughter’s words go by without meeting them in argument (this is really hard!) and be as supportive as I could be of her family.

This mother sounds like a caring and compassionate woman. I hope this helps her.

Been There Too

These two letters have some commonsense advice, Anguished. I hope you consider whether mental illness could be a factor in this situation.

I am so sorry for the pain and suffering that Anguished is going through. I have been there with a son, and understand. I’d like to share a few things I learned.

Anger is a secondary emotion. Usually fear is the primary emotion, and it is expressed in anger. There are so many things that can cause fear, and so finding the source, while important, can be difficult.

For example, I had a neighbor with a very angry daughter. After some counseling they were able to find out that she had been sexually abused by a neighbor as a child. She was angry because they hadn’t protected her, and fearful that she wouldn’t be able to protect her future children. She underwent treatment for that and the anger began to dissolve.

Sometimes there is nothing we can do to fix a situation. This was the case with my son. The fact that I lived halfway around the world didn’t help. All I could do was turn him over to the Lord.

I had to physically do this, not just think it in my head. I knelt down, and talked to my Heavenly Father about what had happened. I knew I hadn’t done the things he had accused me of, but he wouldn’t listen to me. He was too angry. I then told the Lord that I was giving this young man to Him. I plead that he would put people in his path that could touch him in ways I couldn’t. I plead that his heart would be softened and he would eventually come back to our family.

I can testify that the Lord did take care of him, and nurture him. By the time we came back from overseas, (about 2 years), he was ready to rebuild our relationship.

Something is going on with this daughter of Anguished, and it probably isn’t what is showing on the surface.If she is in denial that there is a problem with her behavior, then turning her over to the Lord may be your only option for now, but the most important thing is protecting those precious children from what is going on. Children pick up on a lot more than we think they do.

I can only share what I have experienced. Each situation is unique. I pray that healing can take place, and the adversary cast out.

On the Other Side

What a compassionate letter, Other Side! Thanks so much for writing.

The first thing that came to my mind after reading your post was that this young mother is in great danger.

My brother-in-law was a very kind and fun guy and then his personality started to change and for some reason my sister was his target. I personally don’t know how she managed to stay sane as he would swear at her and belittle her. I told her over and over that he needed to have a CAT scan because he may have a brain tumor.

This went on for years, and no one else picked up on it – not even the doctors, because he was always nice to everyone else. It was just my sister he would be verbally abusive to.

He died of a brain tumor and other complications. (I live in a different country from them so there was not much I could do.)

I worry for the children in the story, because no one knows how her behavior is having an effect on them. It could be a simple fix, such as a hormone imbalance, or some imbalance in her body, or it could be very serious with a brain tumor.

She needs to have a full panel of blood work done, including thyroid T-3, plus other medical work to make sure it is not a medical imbalance. If all the tests come out with a clean bill of health than she needs some emotional counseling with a professional.

As far as the lady that wrote, yes, she does need to stay away from all the negativity that is thrown her way, for her own emotional health. I think there may be more to this story, and it would be interesting to hear what the young mother has to say about her own behavior as to why the (step)mother is being the target. Sounds like some built up anger for some reason that needs to be addressed as it is not healthy for anyone and certainly not a great example for the children to watch.

She sounds like she is in a lot of pain and conflict. Being in the Relief Society presidency, she knows better than to act the way she does, but she is not doing better. That is why I think there is more to the story.

If she is willing to let this sister (who wrote) see the children, then the grandmother is blessed. It could be worse, because the young mother could decide not to have anything to do with her and not let her associate with the kids.

I wish them all well, and hope that either the medical and/or emotional healing can take place, but they do need to find out the reason behind it and not just chalk it up to evil behavior.

Concerned Reader

Concerned Reader makes an excellent point. When there is a sudden change in behavior, the source could be physical as well as psychological. If possible, this young mother should have a complete medical examination. Of course, that might be easier said than done.

No two cases are the same. My husband and I adopted a child who is now 24. When we adopted her, we were told she had some learning disabilities. But through the years we learned that she was also “RAD” (Reactive Attachment Disorder). This is common in adopted children. They supposedly can learn to attach emotionally to others but in some the feeling of abandonment by their birth parents (and other issues) has disabled them.

If your daughter is RAD, you have probably experienced other manipulative behaviors through the years. What we learned is that in most RAD children, there are two types of people in their lives – enemies and victims. She may not know herself the root of her own pain that she is displaying on you. If she can work with an emotional release therapist and deal with her past it might help.

Unfortunately, helping her to see that she needs help may be the biggest hurdle.

Our daughter can be very sweet and loving but only to manipulate until she gets what she wants. For years my husband and biological daughter were the enemies in her mind, and she would threaten to kill them, whereas I was the victim who she would vent her anger on.

She has had a great deal of therapy and is better. We no longer feel at risk. I know it is very hard to not take her anger personally, but my gut feeling is that it isn’t. Do not let it eat at you or it will destroy your health, both emotional and physically. The reason I continue in my relationship with my daughter is because I do not believe she is responsible. I know the Lord will heal her brain/heart in the next life.

Cheryl in Mountain Home, Idaho

Thanks for an enlightening letter, Cheryl. I’ve learned a lot from today’s letters. Thanks to all of you for writing.

To “Anguished” – anger management is almost certainly not the issue here, and it won’t be the answer.The key point in this description is “increasingly fragile.” It sounds so much like what my brother went through with his wife. It is likely not anger issues but mental illness.

My brother’s wife has borderline personality disorder, a diagnosis that she rejected, and possibilities of treatment which she likewise rejected. As she became increasingly abusive, the family eventually was broken apart. It is common for some person or happening to become the focus and flashpoint for the ill person. The rational balance of thought and emotion isn’t working, so perspective doesn’t operate.

Asking for guidance as to what a holy woman would do, instead of reacting with anger, is profound. The pain is deep, I know, and the possibilities are uncertain right now. It will be hard to internalize and truly believe at times, but this is not about you. It’s not because of you, or because of anything you did or didn’t do. Repeat that truth to yourself frequently.

There are forms of mental illness that are about chemistry, not letting the brain’s wiring, if you will, operate. These include clinical depression and bipolar disorder. There are other forms where the wiring itself isn’t set right, and the pathways of thought and response have to be reconditioned.

Sometimes medication helps; sometimes not. Only a capable professional can evaluate your daughter’s situation, and from experience I would counsel you to find one prayerfully, and follow his or her direction. If, with that guidance, you can create an appropriate intervention, you may be able to reach her.

The approach stresses and holds fast to love and concern without condemnation. Defensive reactions answered with perfect gentleness (in fact, with increasing gentleness as you are hit with increasing shrillness) may somehow give way to recognition.

If you believe that your daughter in her heart of hearts, if she were herself, does not want to hurt her children and her family, reach for that. The parts of her that recognize that she is not doing this – reacting to triggers, for example – the right way, that part of her is afraid. That fear will lash out; breaking down and acknowledging the pattern is even more frightening to her.

Yes, the power of the adversary is insidious, and men’s hearts will fail them. Yes, that undoubtedly has a part. Yes, the atonement of Christ can make all things possible. There could be one of any number of underlying problems, abuse long-buried, mental illness, or possibly something else.

Get help, keep praying and fasting, and hang in there for the long haul. I’ll be praying for you.

Help is Out There

Thanks for an insightful letter, Out There. I’m sure Anguished will be comforted by what you have written.

Although my circumstances are different I can see patterns that are the same as a situation I had in my own life. I studied to be a counselor and only worked as one for a couple of years. However, the skills have served me well. It is during times of crisis that these are most useful.

What I say here might seem harsh, but please hear me out. If we were in a counseling situation I would allow you to come to this realization yourself by directing my questions that would enable you to come to this conclusion. But we are not so I am just going to have to say it. Please forgive me if it sounds harsh at times.

It is important to embrace, yes, embrace, a crisis as a positive way to bring about change. This is what I am reading. Your daughter is angry over something important to her (it may not be to you but it is to her), and she is struggling to deal with it. However, you are confused at her anger and want to get to the bottom of it quickly so the equilibrium can be restored and peace may once again return to your lives.

This is understandable but will only occur once she is able to feel the healing that comes through love, acceptance, and the Lord, and it appears that you know this.

In order for a win/win outcome, both sides need to be willing to work together equally in humility and charitable kindness and mutual respect.

Reading what you have said here, and I may be wrong, but I sense bitterness from you. This comes through from your comment about her calling and how she masks her “evil” ways from others. I can understand your feelings of betrayal and confusion. However, this does come across as accusatory, and if your daughter is picking up these vibes, her feelings of hurt will be escalated.

Perhaps you wear a mask to hide your bitterness and resentment at being a target, just as your daughter wears hers to hide her pain. If her anger is aimed solely at you, then you alone hold the keys to restoring your relationship.

If you are still reading, then well done! You are sincerely seeking advice.

Knowing you hold the keys means the power lies with you. Use it wisely, for the Lord trusts you. Remember when Mormon prayed for his children to have the faith to overcome evil? We must do the same with our families. Let me share a little of my story.

Some years ago my son suddenly became extremely rebellious and angry, totally out of character for one so sweet and mild. At first I brought in the heavies – his father (we were divorced) and the bishop – but this only made him retreat further away from me. So I prayed. I humbled myself until I was in the depths of my own soul. And I prayed more. I read how Helaman loved his stripling warriors and started seeing my son someone who was fighting his own battle, and it was hot, painful and although I could not see at the time what his was fighting, I knew he was in this midst of a mighty war. He did not need my judgments; he needed his mother’s love and compassion.

So, I did not judge him, lay down the law, or ridicule him, or try to manipulate him. I did not attempt to bring his responsibilities as an Aaronic Priesthood holder into it. Even though he would burst out with the most hurtful accusations, I would search my heart for any truth where he could have misconstrued any of my words or actions. I would mostly respond to his outbursts with things like, “I’m so sorry. What can I do?” and he would mutter and walk away. He moved to the city to live with his father a few years later, but he would phone me and blast me from time to time.

I really hurt for him; I could see he was really in pain. At rare times when he was calm, I did not raise the issue of his temper.I merely enjoyed the fact that I briefly had my son back. I would phone him, text him or send him a parcel with cookies. I did not put conditions on our relationship or bring in the heavies.

This went on for more than 14 years, and the many, many nights I would cry and plead with the Lord for my beloved son seemed endless. Although I did not see results I did not lose faith that the Lord really loves him, I mean really loves him even more than I do. I could ask for no better assurance than that.

Finally, about two years ago, a miracle occurred. I will not go into it because it is still in the courts, but I will say that in all my wildest imaginations I could never have come to the realization myself. My son had been sexually abused, and the date correlates exact to when his behavior changed.

I’m not saying your daughter was abused, but I learned something important from my son. No matter how bad the behavior, we must never judge our children as evil or pour out our wrath upon them.

I will be daring here and say that it is very likely your daughter feels betrayed by you and although it is not apparent to you now, it is to her. I used to say this a lot and through my son I learned it fully: Another’s anger is a legitimate response to a hurtful situation, imagined or real, and pushing them away with self-righteous statements only makes it worse, so don’t go down that path.

Remember, it is not about you. It is about your daughter. Now, here is where I make suggestions that you might consider in resolving this hurt. Pray for yourself to have a forgiving heart. Pray that you will see things through her eyes. Pray that you may have charity towards her.

This is where you get to use all those Relief Society and Sunday School lessons. Here is where you shine forth and really show your love for your daughter for who she is and not as an accessory to your family.

When, and only when, you feel for her welfare alone and not for appearance’s sake, things can move forward. Don’t bring in the heavies like her dad or husband; this is between you and her. First you need to seek her forgiveness, say how sorry you are for causing her such hurt. If you are not sincere she will see this and if you cannot bring yourself to do this, then get back on your knees until you are humbled.

Once she feels you are sincerely sorry then I would be surprised if the floodgates did not open and her tears roll out along with her reasons for all her hurt. You, like I was, may be surprised at what has transpired to bring about her suffering. At this point you must remain silent.

She does not need your advice; she just needs you, her mother, to accept her, listen to her and love her.

If you do this, the end result will have been so worth all your humbling down. You will share a closeness that you would never have any other way. Go to her with a prayer in your heart and pure love. It may not work at first, but when she feels she can trust you she will, but the ball is in your court, she is waiting for you to show her that she can trust you.

Having kids has, for me, been a truly humbling experience. I often laugh at the song, “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way!” It applies in parenting. Being humble is the only way to effective parenting, because then we rely on the spirit and not on our own understanding. We must remember the spirit can reach into the hearts of our children in ways we cannot, but we don’t leave it for Him alone.

Your daughter is suffering and feels betrayed. Judging her will only provoke those feelings of betrayal and hurt. Love her as Christ does. This will not happen overnight; in my case it took several years.

You may not have caused the hurt, but she is looking to you to love and accept her, and her anger shows she is not getting this. My son explained that he was angry at me because I did not protect him from this man even though it happened outside the home, but in his mind he felt dreadfully betrayed by me. I am his mother and he needed me to protect him. Of course there was a whole lot more, but that was the core of his anger and once we dealt with that he was free to deal with the rest.

All the best, pray, pray and pray, for yourself and your daughter.

Similar Situation

Similar, your letter was a real eye-opener. Thanks for sharing your story.

As you can see, Anguished and Readers, there is a whole lot that could be at the root of an angry child’s anger. It could be psychological; it could be physical; it could be because of a perceived wrong. Next week we’ll have letters from other readers who may have different ideas. Tune in then to see what they have to say.

Until next week – Kathy

“In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already

ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves.”

Abraham J. Heschel

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