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Why Do I Argue with My Father about Nothing?

Asked by on with 1 answer:

From a young woman in the U.S.: I have ong, drawn out arguments with my father (who I live with) over basically nothing. I think that the problem is he doesn’t listen to me and ignores my feelings. He thinks the problem is I was emotionally abused as a child by my mother (they’re divorced) and that I’m projecting those feelings into him “picking a fight”;

Whenever he brings it up his theory when we’re fighting it hurts my feelings a second time on top of whatever we’re fighting about. He’s right that I can’t be objective about what happened to me as a child. But after a long period of soul searching I don’t think the problem is him.

From my perspective he’s avoiding accountability for his own bad behavior by hiding behind my blindspots. I can’t however have a clear and honest conversation about this because every time it turns into an argument where he eventually becomes angry and frustrated and yells at me. And I cry because I literally cry everytime someone yells at me due to past trauma. He takes it as a sign that I’m being irrational, rinse and repeat.

Im … out of ideas. I’ve tried being calm, I’ve tried telling my father he’s upsetting me, I’ve tried literally walking away from him when we’re getting worked up. But the last one makes me feel worse, like I’m to blame for my feelings getting hurt if I don’t tell him what upsets me.

I have an anxiety disorder and it makes it hard for me to do things like leave the house or get a job. And with the global pandemic it wouldn’t be possible right now anyway.
What should I do?

Why Do I Argue with My Father about Nothing?

Answered by on -

A.

This is a very hard way to live. I’m very glad you wrote. The fighting does have to stop for you to feel safe in your home. The hard part for you to accept is that you can’t change your dad. Stop trying. He is who he is. He’s not interested in changing. He has theories he is going to hold onto no matter how much you argue with him. For you to keep up the fight only frustrates you and angers him. It elevates your anxiety and probably exhausts you both.

You didn’t indicate what you fight about. I suggest that unless there is real danger (like someone smoking in bed, for example), the fights aren’t worth your energy and distress. Walking away is not an admission of blame. It’s the mature thing to do.

You reported past trauma and an anxiety disorder. You didn’t mention whether you have had any treatment for either. If not, you need and deserve the attention and support of a mental health professional so that you can learn skills for managing the anxiety and for recovery from trauma. If you have had treatment in the past, it would be a good idea to get back to your therapist. The fighting isn’t good for you.  At 24, you deserve to have the support you need to be able to launch yourself into an adult life — with a job and a place of your own.

The pandemic makes it more difficult to start therapy, but not impossible. There are therapists who work online. You can also jump-start your personal work by ordering some self-help books on recovering from trauma and dealing with anxiety. There are forums here at Psych Central where laypeople provide each other with guidance and support.

Energy you spend fighting will be much better put to use by focusing on your own healing. Give yourself the attention you deserve.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Why Do I Argue with My Father about Nothing?

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). Why Do I Argue with My Father about Nothing?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/04/14/why-do-i-argue-with-my-father-about-nothing/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Apr 2020 (Originally: 14 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Apr 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.