From the U.S.: My problem is best explained describing a typical incident. This is just the latest of many that have occurred since adolescence.

A laptop computer was being used to stream a hockey game from an internet site. The stream froze, I think the internet connection was lost. It probably just required a restart of the laptop since this happens occasionally, but I instantly became angry and slammed the laptop with my fist, breaking it beyond repair. I did this before I even had a chance to think. It was like an instantaneous reaction. It would have taken two minutes to restart the computer. I don’t know why I do this.

This problem is limited to objects and is caused by anger at these objects that do not operate properly, or anger at myself.
I seldom get angry at people, and do not have any tendencies toward violence directed at others. I get angry at myself for making mistakes when trying to fix things like mechanical objects, or not knowing how to fix computer problems.

A second example is my anger when replacing the water heater in our house. One particular step in the process became a problem that I could not solve. I became frustrated and angry at myself for being so stupid and unable to do a simple job without screwing it up. It makes me feel as though there is nothing that I can do well, or even right. That I am incompetent, inept, stupid. That everything I do turns into a giant mistake. That I am a failure in life.

When this happens, I tend to break things by throwing or punching them. The frustration becomes unbearable and I lose control. I have had to replace 5 doors in our house due to my having punched holes in them. I hope this is an adequate description. It would be enough, I think, if you could at least advise whether I should seek help.

A:  Yes. You should seek help. You are in your 50s and you say this has been going on since adolescence. If you could fix it yourself, you would have done so long ago.

My guess is that sometime long ago you came to the conclusion that in order to be good enough, you have to be perfect. When you make a mistake or something goes wrong, you have little to no ability to separate the mistake from your belief in your own worth.

A letter doesn’t give me enough information to be able to figure out how and why this got started. I can only tell you that I’ve seen many (mostly) men with this problem and it has its roots in unrealistic expectations, low self-esteem and insufficient role modeling for problem-solving.

A counselor can help you get to the root of your version of the problem and will help you reconsider your childhood conclusion that to have any human flaw is to be unacceptable. You will also get some coaching in anger management and problem-solving.

I think 40+ years of this distressing behavior is long enough, don’t you. Please get yourself a counselor and make the next 40 years happier ones.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie