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  1. #1

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    “Fathers, Sons & thoughts of Violence” - Relationship Question

    My close friend told me that sometimes he thinks of killing his father. He’ll never do it, but he thinks about it sometimes.

    My friend Erik is a 51 year old professional well educated well behaved man. His parents are in their early 70’s, retired professionals, well educated with comfortable lives. At multi-generational parties, in our circle, Erik and his parents are a pleasure to deal with. We all love inviting them to various events, and love to come to their dinner parties. Erik’s father is an architect who traveled the whole world, knows everything, and one of the most interesting people to talk to, and so is Erik by the way.

    Few days ago, during a candid conversation “about parents” between me and Erik, Erik told me that there are times when his father makes him so mad, that he wants to smash his father’s head to smithereens with a baton, or at least slap him very hard on the face so that the father flies against a wall.

    It’s hard for me to imagine that an adult child desires and feels a need for such an act of violence against a parent, given the parent has never physically abused him (never, in the case of this family).

    What makes Erik mad, however, is something that I have noticed as well, in conversations between Erik and Father, over, and over, and over… Here are few examples.

    Conversation about Erik’s ex-wife Marina.
    Father:….. oh, yes! that Marina! The one who left you and ran off with your friend Pavlik.

    Erik:…. I told you many times, and you were there during my divorce….. Marina did not leave me, or ran off with Pavlik. I asked her for a divorce because of issue X, and 2 years later she met Pavlik and married him.

    Father:….. well, that’s your version. That’s not how I remember it.

    Erik:…… But you can’t “remember” something that did not happen…. Why do you always turn all my situations in the most unfavorable perspective?
    Father: ……. Whatever… you have your truth, I have mine.


    Conversation about Erik’s old motorcycle.

    Father:…… on, yes! that old motorcycle which gave me and your mother sleepless years. The one you crushed after spending all these money on it….


    Erik:………. I did not crush it. I rode it for 5 years and then sold it to Felix for a good price and sometime later Felix crushed it…..

    Father:….. well, that’s your version. That’s not how I remember it.
    Erik:…… But you can’t “remember” something that did not happen…. Why do you always turn all my situations in the most unfavorable perspective?


    Father: ……. Whatever… you have your truth, I have mine.


    Conversation about Erik’s college/university education.

    Father:………. (some issue in discussion)….. that community college you graduated from…..

    Erik: …….. Father, for the 10th time...I did not graduate from “that” community college. I graduated from Stanford University. I went to “that college” for 2 years and then transferred to Stanford, my diploma is from Stanford. You went to my graduation.

    Father:…… well, yes, I know you have your diploma from Stanford, but for most of the years you went to “that community college”.

    Erik: ……. No father! I went to “that community college” for 2 years, and then to Stanford for 2 years, and I graduated from Stanford.

    Father: ……. Well, I remember differently. You went to community college for 3-4 years because at the time you had no ambition and your high-school grades were a joke. After you realized that community college will give you no future, then you put your brains back into your head and applied to Stanford.

    Erik:…. No father, that’s not true. After high-school my grades were bad. I wanted to go to Stanford, I’ve learned that my only option is to take 2 years at another institution and with good grades I can transfer to Stanford. I had plans to go to Stanford from the beginning.

    Father:…… that’s not how I remember it……

    I’ve been listening to the same type conversations for many years. There are many more "issues" of similar nature, and Erik’s versions of stories are the correct ones.

    Once I sat down with Erik’s father and told him: “Evgeniy Igorevich, I’ve known your son since the 70’s, and it is true that he was the one to ask Marina for divorce, she did not run off on him; that it was Felix who crushed the bike after purchasing it for 1500 USD; I remember clearly that Erik wanted to go to Stanford since 11th grade in high-school, could not wait to get out of “that community college”, finished it in 1.5 years by taking summer sessions, and his diploma is from Stanford, remember? We all went to his graduation.”

    The father listens to me, and then says “you have your truth, I have mine”.

    How can this be? Why such an intelligent man remembers “the negative which never happened”? It would be bad enough if he only remembered "negatives" about his son which actually happened.... But he remembers "negatives which never happened".....

    What’s going on?

    - What can be the cause or the motivation for the Father to remember or choose to remember the events in his son’s life in a most diminishing version? Why does he not he accept the true and more favorable account of the events in his son’s life.

    - Is it sociopathic and pathological for Erik to have thoughts of violence against his father in such instances?

    - What really bothers Erik in all of this? Why can’t he just write off his father’s words as “silly talk of an old man”, given that Erik and everyone around know the truth?

    When my family members say or think “wrong stuff” about events in my life – I give them the “middle finger” in my thoughts, and write them off as “idiots”….. they are not worth it to be “killed or smacked”.......

    - Any comments and opinions would be appreciated! I can’t figure this one out….

    Most immigrant parents over-praise and over-estimate their children’s abilities and accomplishments, and here we have such an odd-ball situation…
    Last edited by Tinami Amori; 10-20-2010 at 08:41 PM.

  2. #2

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    Well this a generic response, but the father seems jealous of the son. Jealousy is a pretty basic emotion. Or is the father just a bitter person all around? Bitterness can cloud one's perception of everything.
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  3. #3
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    My father-in-law rarely had anything good to say about my husband. He was an unhappy man who only saw the worst in everyone. As he got older, he became convinced that his pessimistic view of his children was the "truth" and his "memories" reflected that more and more the older he got.

    It's hard for children (even grown children) to hear that kind of thing from their parents and just as hard to ignore it, but your friend should know by now what his father is like, expect it and dismiss it for the garbage it is. If he can't, perhaps he has a problem that could use some professional help.
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  4. #4

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    Thank you very much for taking time to read my questions and your replies.

    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy View Post
    Well this a generic response, but the father seems jealous of the son. Jealousy is a pretty basic emotion. Or is the father just a bitter person all around? Bitterness can cloud one's perception of everything.
    Jealousy is a basic emotion. I have yet to reconcile that it is biologically possible between parents and children…. although I’ve been told often enough that it is….. So I guess it is, but it never comes to my mind as a possible explanation in such cases.

    Father is not bitter….. He has great wife, great family and home, comfortable interesting life, professional and social recognition (much more than his son has in every aspect). Father is the Life of the Party…… women flirt with him because he is very handsome, looks like a mix between Paul Newman and Kirk Douglas; his wife looks like Sophia Loren…. His works made few architectural magazines, he won awards… Erik (son) has a lot to catch-up with….. if anything the Son should be jealous (hypothetically)….

    Quote Originally Posted by Nan View Post
    My father-in-law rarely had anything good to say about my husband. As he got older, he became convinced that his pessimistic view of his children was the "truth" and his "memories" reflected that more and more the older he got..
    I think Erik could handle “pessimism” if Father remembered only Negative Fact, as long as they are Facts. Erik is infuriated because Father twists the truth that is not “negative” into “negative events” which never happened. Erik thinks it’s because of something “pathological” in his Father’s mind in regards to Erik….

    Quote Originally Posted by Nan View Post
    It's hard for children (even grown children) to hear that kind of thing from their parents and just as hard to ignore it, but your friend should know by now what his father is like, expect it and dismiss it for the garbage it is. If he can't, perhaps he has a problem that could use some professional help.
    Thank you for confirming my thoughts. I think Erik does need professional consultations. It is NOT normal to want to kill your parent if Parent is not trying to kill/destroy you (Physically or Financially).

    I think letting the thoughts of murder to enter one’s brain in response to Parent’s, let’s call it, worst verbal and psychological offense, is still! ver self-indulgent and to me just as un-natural biologically as “jealousy” of Parent towards Child.

    World is getting weird. Parents supposed to be Zwengali and Pigmalyons to their kids, and support and be proud of them when it’s due.

    Kids supposed to grow up, succeed and buy their parents villas in Italy and apartments in Paris and send them on yacht-cruises….. and present diamonds on New Year… Take them to operas and ballets, and join them on park walks in Baden-Baden, and discuss Plato and Kant and learn from their wisdom….

    I don’t know why parents and children have to complicate things between them. The thought of wanting to kill your parents is scary……

  5. #5
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    Some people are just unhappy, bitter, and/or jealous, even if they have a great life. My father is very unhappy, even though he's got plenty of money, a wonderful and pretty wife, and two awesome daughters.

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    Perhaps dad is exibiting early stages of Alzheimers disease? Perhaps son is subconsciously not wanting to take care of dementia patient? Just straws...
    "awwww....shades of Janet Lynn" - Dick Button on anyone who makes more than one mistake in their program.

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    My 1st thought too was that the father is jealous, of what I can't imagine, going by your description. Maybe it's time for Erik to cut his father out of his life completely. As adults we aren't compelled to be around people who make us miserable.

    I can understand wanting to smash his face (but not murder) in a way. My father used to make me consider mayhem. He used to tell a story about me as a child that he held up as a horrible example of an ungrateful child. There was no one in my liife who hadn't heard that story, no matter how much I got mad or begged him to stop telling it. One day I had a meltdown & told him if I ever heard about him telling it again he would never see me again. Then I asked how old I was when this event happened. Turns out I was 2 yr old!

    Now why would a normally sane person torment their child with that story? Especially since a 2 yr old's first emotion upon getting a treat usually isn't gratitude.

    PS: he never told it again

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Veronika View Post
    Some people are just unhappy, bitter, and/or jealous, even if they have a great life. My father is very unhappy, even though he's got plenty of money, a wonderful and pretty wife, and two awesome daughters.
    But at least in your family apparently there is no sibling rivalry!.....

    Quote Originally Posted by skatemommy View Post
    Perhaps dad is exibiting early stages of Alzheimers disease? Perhaps son is subconsciously not wanting to take care of dementia patient? Just straws...
    Another friend of ours suggested Alzheimer’s….. As far as not wanting to take care of, in this situation, that is not the case. Father is set for life as far as medical support, including in-home care insurance which provides for on-site nurse and in-home technologies and equipment. And! adult children in our group will NOT let our parents go to nursing homes… we are ready to remodel our bedrooms, bathrooms, and stairs any time… even have contractors set up for the future. But Alzheimer’s is something to look into…… ha! Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by taf2002 View Post
    Now why would a normally sane person torment their child .....
    THAT is my "million dollar question" in many instances between Parents and Adult Children!

    I'd LOVE to read some information about the causes....

  9. #9
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    Have to say "Alzheimers" was my first thought when I read your initial post.
    To think that fun is simple fun, while earnest things are earnest, proves all too plain that neither one thou truthfully discernest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinami Amori View Post
    When my family members say or think “wrong stuff” about events in my life – I give them the “middle finger” in my thoughts, and write them off as “idiots”….. they are not worth it to be “killed or smacked”.......

    -
    I love this - so true!
    I thought of Alzheimer's too!
    Could this be one of the cases where the father finds the the real or imagined weaknesses in the son so familiar to himself that instead of being understanding and supportive he becomes critical and nagging? He can't help it because he hates the same weaknesses that he sees in himself?

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    Perhaps being so successful makes him want to diminish others to keep the focus on himself? I feel like sometimes the people who have the most need more and more, it's never enough for them.

  12. #12

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    It sounds like his father is the type who can never be pleased. Maybe he is always looking for something to complain about and with his son he has to often make things up. Maybe your friend should take it as a compliment that he has to bend the truth to even find something to complain about.
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    To be honest, it sounds like my maternal grandmother and her version of reality. I would suggest sending the dad to a geriatric specialist. In her case, it wasn't Alzheimers, but it WAS senile dementia that eventually required involuntary commital to a psychiatric ward. (She was incapable of caring for herself and violent.) As she was a negative, nasty person her entirely life, who managed to drive away what few friends she had, there was not a lot of sympathy to go round.

    And of course jealousy and violence can happen between family. If anything we're statisitcally more likely to commit violent crimes against family than against strangers. And dealing with an elderly relative whose grip on reality and memory is tenuous to say the least is probably one of the most stressful emotional situations there is, especially if it's someone you didn't get along with in the first place. There's a certain biological drive to not kill your own offspring, but there's no mandatory genetic code to show them sincere affection. Just because they're a blood relative doesn't mean you like them. "Dad" up there sounds like a generally negative personality, and it does sound like he is slipping and probably should see a geriatric specialist.

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    Has the father always done this to his son? Or, is this something new, that maybe started after the father retired and no longer feels useful? I agree that jealousy and dementia probably play a big part. And I can understand the son's frustration when his father rewrites history. My mother does it, when it suits her emotional needs. It makes me crazy, though I don't have any urge to hurt her. As long as your friend is not likely to act on his impulses, I suppose that it is fine. But that level of anger is not healthy for him or his family. Does he have kids of his own? Would he want them to be aware of his anger toward his father? That is not a good message or example of behavior.

    The father may also have a personality disorder - narcissism. Narcissism gets worse with age, and often leads to very belligerent behavior.
    Last edited by cruisin; 10-22-2010 at 05:06 PM.

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    You certainly know some interesting people, Tinami.

    Here's my take on it. You say that the father has no reason to be jealous because he's successful, but IME, those are the people most likely *to* be jealous. I don't know why, I'm sure there's some psychological reason for it, but the more successful one tends to be, the more approval they need to have. It's probably that drive that makes them so successful. People also always want what they don't have--the guy in the shack imagines that if he lived in a mansion, all his troubles would go away; the guy in the mansion imagines that he'd have less stress and be healthier if he lived in a shack. Maybe he sees his son as living a less stressful, more carefree life, buiding things and traveling the world.

    Maybe he has Alzheimer's--recreating the past in a negative light is a hallmark of the early stages of the disease. If that's the case, perscription medicine like Aricept might curb the worst of it. It worked wonders for my uncle, though it's not effective for everyone. Alzheimer's is such an insidious disease--you can have it for years, creeping slowly about the brain and non-normal behaviors are dismissed as eccentric or just a part of old age.

    Or maybe Erik's father is just a mean, cranky old bastard without rhyme or reason. If that's the case (sorry for the upcoming cliche) but Erik can't control his father, but he can control his own reactions. If Erik's father starts laying into him, Erik needs to get up and leave and not respond to it at all. Engaging the father just encourages him. (Classroom Management 101 ) Although there's not much you can personally do, when the father does start in on the son and you're present, it might be helpful for you to walk away with him as a show of support, no matter how fabulous the dinner party/gathering is. Eventually, he'll get the idea that his behavior is unacceptable.

    I don't give a damn if his father created peace in the middle east, solved the economy crisis, and constructed a perfect ladies' program that had transitions, no splats, and good music, it still wouldn't justify his behavior. That's just window dressing and in no way excuses his behavior. Neither a McDonalds fry cook nor Donald Trum have the right to belittle or demean their children.
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  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinami Amori View Post
    It is NOT normal to want to kill your parent if Parent is not trying to kill/destroy you (Physically or Financially).
    Freud thought it was normal.

    That doesn't mean that most people actually go ahead and do it.

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    It does not sound like the father has dementia. It sounds like the father practiced teaching his son to please him then using negative reinforcement to get achievement, and now it has outlived its usefulness but continues to characterize their relationship.

    The son probably never rebelled as an adolescent, that is never tried to achieve goals very contrary to the desires of his parents.

    I think the best thing the son could do, at his age, is to learn to patronize his father ("Right, Dad. Right, Dad" while rolling his eyes) since rebelling at this age would look immature. Of course, in order to do this, the son must convince himself that what his father says does not matter and it is not worth the stress.

    The best thing you could do for the son is to tell him exactly what you told us.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinami Amori View Post
    When my family members say or think “wrong stuff” about events in my life – I give them the “middle finger” in my thoughts, and write them off as “idiots”….. they are not worth it to be “killed or smacked”....…
    It is pointless for this son, after 50+ years, to try to change his father. He has to change himself.
    Last edited by bardtoob; 10-22-2010 at 07:54 PM.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by bardtoob View Post
    I think the best thing the son could do, at his age, is to learn to patronize the father ("Right, Dad. Right, Dad" while rolling his eyes) since rebelling at this age would look immature. Of course, in order to do this, the son must convince himself that what his father says does not matter because it is not worth the stress.
    And at his father wouldn't look immature? It would be better if he could just ignore his father's fantasy memories, especially since it doesn't seem as if anyone else believes them. If he can't and they still elicit such rage, then I agree with those who think it might be helpful if he talked to a therapist/counselor to try to understand why and work on breaking that reaction.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by bardtoob View Post
    Of course, in order to do this, the son must convince himself that what his father says does not matter because it is not worth the stress.
    From what Tinami says, it sounds as though this would be extremely difficult for the son to do without some kind of radical shift in his thinking.
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  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by orientalplane View Post
    From what Tinami says, it sounds as though this would be extremely difficult for the son to do without some kind of radical shift in his thinking.
    Very true. Advice from a friend may be effective, but perhaps therapy would be more effective.

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