“Destroyer of families”- 2 December 2018

Mr X is an arrogant and hot-headed man. He behaves like a brute when his sense of balance is lost which is often. Anything and everything can make him angry. Beating up his wife is a common occurrence which does not deserve much mention but the fact that he could brand his tiny son with the hot clothes iron lying in the bedroom is worth noting. He flew into a rage when he heard the marks of his son in fourth grade, picked up the hot iron on an impulse and placed it on his thigh. This was noticed by the school teacher who referred the child and parents for counselling. This was out of a horror film but it is not unusual to hear such stories.

Another father pulled his eight grade son out of bed in the morning, dragged him out into the living room with the bed-sheet and then pulled his hair and spanked him. All because he was suffering from a mild depression since a year and was unable to wake up early in the morning and go for a run as advised by his father.

Many times it is the mother that is aggressive with the children and the father is a polite and respectful person. One mother was hypercritical of her children and whatever they did fell short of her exacting standards. She would cast aspersions on her teenage kids and they would beg forgiveness from her. They feared her wrath as she could punish them with her bitter tongue and could thrash them once a while. Many mothers use the stick too as fathers use the belt. Whether you use the tongue, the stick, the belt or the hands it is violence against the other. One kid told me his father could use any item which he could lay his hands on- such as the mug, the paper-weight, the rod whatever. Such shocking stories are rampant in clinical practice.

Besides children the second easy victim in families is the woman. The wife, the daughter, the daughter-in-law are easy targets of anger and violence by male members. Mrs. Y was beaten up on her honeymoon itself for she opened the hotel door to the room-service boy in her night-gown which according to her was a decent one. He cast aspersions on her character and nature that she wanted to display her body. There was no way she could defend herself for he was rigid in his ideas.

Mrs. D was shaken up when her husband in a rage threw the fully loaded dinner plate which she just served him with the statement that ‘there was no salt in the vegetable’. She had understood by now that she could be thrashed for trivial reasons such as less salt, no salt, more spice, no spice, food was cold and not hot enough and such simple mistakes which grew due to her anxiety. He could shout, abuse and hit her for apparently simple faults of hers. He wanted everything in order and in perfection with no tolerance for anything.

Mrs. Y had a different story with a twist. While she had no trouble with her husband she was harassed by her father-in-law. He had a strange obsession for perfection in the ‘roti’ that he was served by his daughter-in-law. Firstly the ‘roti’ had to be made freshly and served hot at a specific time too. If she was out of home she would have to rush back in time and prepare ‘fresh hot roti’ for him! The story does not end there –he needed the ‘roti’ with a specific dimension and cooked in a way where there should be no brown marks due to excessive heat- even a tiny speck of brown would make him abusive and he would throw the ‘roti’ away! Feeding her father-in-law was a task full of terror. Besides this pathology, he was abusive, harsh and inquisitive about small details of her existence. She was embarrassed and humiliated and no one would protect her for fear of him.

The one thing that destroys families is anger. It is extremely unfortunate that adults cultivate extreme anger and believe that it is in their right to abuse and aggress against family members. Many parents in their arrogance believe that children are their ‘property’ since they have given birth to them and hence they can hit and hurt them to correct them and reform them. They also think and believe that it is the most effective method of control and discipline. They also believe that this form of punishment is ‘for the betterment and improvement’ of the dependents in the family. Because they are the bread-winners of the home, they have an air of authority and arrogance. They believe in ‘force, pressure, and violent methods’ to get their way at home. This culture of violence needs to change for anger against family members destroys the home atmosphere, creates a terror in the hearts of loved ones, spreads hatred instead of love and shatters the soul and spirit of the oppressed. It damages the psyche’ of the victims and leaves permanent scars on their personality. This gets reflected in the larger society since ‘people and personalities’ are manufactured in the micro-unit called family.

The role of the family is to nurture and to provide a positive and conducive atmosphere for positive growth of kids and members. The home should be an sanctuary of peace and understanding and sharing of love and affection. It should be an institution for the enrichment of the mind body and spirit. It should be a cosy nest where the members should look forward to flocking back after a full day of work. It should be a haven for safety, laughter, mirth, humour and freedom. It should be the paradise on earth.

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