Dear Thelma: I am afraid I will become like my hot-tempered dad

  • Family
  • Sunday, 12 Aug 2018

Since I was little, I have experienced emotional and physical abuse inflicted by my father. At first he did not hit me, but I hated seeing my mum and older brothers and sister getting beat up. As I grew older, I started to get the same exact treatment as my mum whenever she messed up.

My dad is hot-tempered and I am so afraid that I will turn out like him when I grow up. The thought of that makes me anxious to the max because it is in my blood. I am so afraid of turning into my dad when I grow up because I’ve been told that I am just like him as I also have a temper. Whenever I get angry, it is hard to control myself from doing the things that I know I’ll regret later. In the moment, however, I am just so fired up that my mind can’t tell me what to do anymore. I hate myself to the core for being just like my dad, but a part of me is somehow wired to act like that and it worries me every single time.

On top of that, I have very low self-esteem. I feel as if everyone looks down on me. I'd like to prove them wrong but I simply cannot because I am not good enough. I don’t have the face, the brain or the body.

Most of my friends and certain family members criticise the way I look and it has affected me so much. People say that looks aren’t everything, but the truth is that attractive people have it way better and I’ve seen this myself.

Other than that, I am always too concerned about what people may say about me. People tend to expect too much of me because of my family and that makes it worse. I would feel remorseful if I did something wrong, and it will lead to sleepless nights, hence making me hate myself even more. This is not good for myself and the people around me, I know, but I just can’t stop the thoughts. I need to talk to someone without being judged for who I am and that is why I am here.

I told my sister about my concern but she didn’t have any response because I usually don’t show her my emotions. And I would appreciate every word of your response. I am sorry if this seems trivial.


Dear Weirdo

I’m sorry you’ve had such a rough start in life, but let me say this right off the bat: you are not your father and you are not doomed to repeat his mistakes.

However, you are quite right to be concerned because we learn a lot of our behaviour from the people we grow up with. As you have seen, you don’t want to be like your dad but you find yourself imitating his ways sometimes, especially when you’re angry. That is because you are repeating the example set before you all your life.

Good news: there are very effective techniques that will help you change.

Look for a person with a Masters degree in psychology or counselling. In terms of anger, they will help you analyse how you think, feel and behave when you get angry. Once you know what’s going on, they will help you devise a personalised system of steps where you learn to replace your unwanted behaviour with the kind of action you want.

As for your low self-esteem and difficulty in expressing your emotions, those are common consequences of growing up in an abusive environment. Abuse makes us shut down and feel terrible, and so it’s not surprising that you suffer. Again, a therapist can help you deal with these issues.

[pull_quote_right author=""]You are not your father and you are not doomed to repeat his mistakes.[/pull_quote_right]

Look, with only a letter to go on, we don’t know each other, but let me share something regarding your deepest fear, that you will go through life abusing others: I think it is unlikely.

You see, people are violent for many reasons. However, truly vicious types have an attitude in common: they always blame their victims. You have probably seen this yourself. An abuser will typically be violent and then say, “Oh but they asked for it” and “They made me do it”.

You don’t do this. You take responsibility for your emotions and your actions. So, I am saying, it is not in your blood. You are a good person, a decent person, but you need a little help and support in coping with the effects of an unhappy start.

I won’t lie to you; making effective change is not going to happen in a couple of conversations with a therapist. It will take time, and you will have ups and downs as you make these changes.

While you make these changes, be proud that you are taking charge of your life and striving for the happiness you deserve. Please also know that you’re not alone and try not to worry, okay? There are many people who’ve had experiences like yours and they end up finding happiness. There is lots of hope.

Know I’ll be thinking good thoughts for you, and write back to let me know how you’re progressing.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Write to Dear Thelma, c/o Star2, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor or e-mail Please include your full name and address, and a pseudonym. Private correspondence will not be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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