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Mastering Anger/How Do I Help My 31 Year Old Brother With Anger Issues?


Question parents and I are trying to decide the best plan for helping my brother, who is 31 years old and currently in jail because we pressed charges against him for threatening us over the phone when he was drunk a month ago. He called us in the middle of the night, asking that we come get him because he was stranded in the city and had no money or way home, where he stays with a friend. We refused to come get him at 4AM in a place we aren't familiar with and we aren't comfortable being around him when he's drunk or high on drugs, which he has a history of...and he has been a drug dealer off and on since he was a young teenager. He has a criminal felony record for drug bust in the past. When he doesn't get his way, he threatens us (his own family) and also his son's mother in the past. He had just gotten out of jail a month before this incident. He had been in there from Thanksgiving morning until one month ago...for alleged armed robbery on an individual and his girlfriend. My brother and his friend stole $58.00 and a cell phone from those people, but he case was dropped because the victim was also put in jail for something while my brother was in jail for this crime against him. But, then this incident happened where my brother threatened me (said it was his main mission to make me dissapear) beause I wouldn't come pick him up that night. He also threatened my parents and said he'd kill us...and so we called the police. We had not pressed charges on him in the past, partly out of fear and partly because we had hope that he would change for the better on his own. Now, we are realizing that this may not be possible...probably isn't. He has had a history of anger management issues since he was about 7 years old. He used to easily get mad at his friends and chase them around or hit them and he also got mad and pitched fits when his ball team lost a game. Then he got into marijuana and then selling it. He then got into Xanax, Ecstasy, Cocaine, etc...and always drinks too much. He always gets back into his old lifestyle of trouble and selling drugs right after he gets out of jail. My parents used to bail him out but they stopped recently. They want to see if there is some kind of court-appointed rehab and mental evaluation that the state may pay for or help pay for. My brother has exhausted my parents funds over the years. We fear him, although he has always seemd to be "all talk" with his threats, but we are not comfortable being around him, and he doesn't even understand why. He says that we overreact. We are afraid for him to get back on the streets without some serious help this time. He seems to get worse with age...and we don't know if it's just the drugs/alcohol, or a mental condition like Bipolar disorder, or if he was born this way...or if a head injury he sustained to the forehead at the babysitter's when he was a few months old...had caused some sort of frontal lobe damage to his brain, in turn causing anger management and decision making problems. I personally saw a documentary on Dateline or a show like it...back in the year 2000, which discussed a survey that was done on some prison inmates who were incarcerated for violent crimes. They did MRI scans on these individuals and also psychotherapy and determined that 80% of those tested...had frontal lobe damage to their brain when they were young children, and it was caused by either physical trauma or emotional abuse. I am wondering if it's possible with my brother, since he did have a forehead injury when a baby ? And he had the anger issues as a young child and all his life. he just pure evil ? We don't want to believe that, but we need to find out for sure and know how to proceed...for our safety and for his best interest. Thanks for any advice...we are desperate for answers.

Hello Jamie

I'm glad that you and your parents called the police on your brother when he threatened your lives. Although it has only been verbal up to this point, it could become physical violence at any point, and that is too big of a risk to take.

The sad but accurate truth is that you can't help him. Any attempt coming from his family will most likely be rejected, based on what you've written here, and also based on the patterns in these types of situations. The only way he can get any help is if he seeks it out on his own, at his own initiative.

In the meantime, it is essential that you and your parents keep clear boundaries and protect yourselves. You may want to tell him that you will have no further communication or contact with him until he has 6 months of clean and sober living, and no legal problems behind him. He would also have to be financially responsible and engaging in no illegal behavior.

This page on tough love and this one on parenting adult children will help you. I encourage you and your parents to read these pages thoroughly. The second one includes stories by other families like yours who are dealing with similar situations.

Meanwhile, to manage your stress and do your part in contributing to his healing and recovery, I suggest that you make up your minds that every time you think of him or speak of him, you will include the thought or make a statement such as, "I see him waking up, getting help, and making good decisions." "I choose to see the best in him, and I expect that when the time is right, the best of him will take over and he will heal and become responsible." This is a kind of positive prayer, and I strongly encourage you to develop this skill. It is an antidote to fear and worry.

So, in summary, you're keeping clear and strong boundaries as long as he is indulging in addiction, violence and illegal behavior, while simultaneously choosing in your mind and heart to see the best of him taking over in his life.

I hope this is helpful to you and your parents.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

Mastering Anger

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William DeFoore, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about: * How to deal with your own anger * How to deal with somebody else's anger * How to help an angry spouse * How to help an angry child or adolescent * How to let go of resentment and forgive * How to keep anger from ruining your life and your relationships * How to let go and get out of abusive relationships


I have been in practice as a counselor for over 38 years. I have published two books on anger and 10 audio CD programs on anger, health and building healthy relationships. I have helped thousands of people overcome their anger by healing the cause instead of just treating the symptoms. I have a positive approach, and believe in the basic goodness of each person. Anger is basically healthy, but when it is expressed in unhealthy ways it is very destructive, and that's why most people think anger is bad. Learning to understand and accept yourself for who you are is the first step to healing and recovery from anger issues.

I am the author of: Anger: Deal With It, Heal With It, Stop It From Killing You. Health Communications, Inc. 2004. Anger Among Angels: Shedding Light On The Darkness Of The Human Soul. Health Communications, Inc. 2000. Serai: Bringing The Children Home. Wingspan Press, 2007.

B.A. Sociology; M.A. Clinical Psychology; Ph.D. Counselor Education; Licensed Professional Counselor. You can view my full resume here.

Awards and Honors
Adjunct Faculty with the Cooper Wellness Program, of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas Texas.

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