Updated: Feb 10
In this article, as a counsellor I answer the challenges you face.
How to handle your frustrations
I hate my brother. But I love him too. When we were kids, he had my back - he's 5 years older, married to a great woman with 5 kids and has his own business. I live alone, have no family and live on my credit card. I dread his visits because he's so full of his own shit. Keeps telling me how well he's doing. When he's done talking (if ever) about whatever he wants to tell me, he puffs his chest out like I should be impressed. Never asks about me. Never sees what I do. I escaped the rat-race after getting ill with ulcers. He doesn't get me. I like travelling with my dog. I make and sell odd bits of pottery now and then. I'm happy with that. But I can't stand his boasting about the latest thing he's bought with the mountain of money he's got. He won't stop. I can't stand it anymore.
Dave was desperate. It seemed like an urgent appeal before he became a victim of a heart attack. In one breath, Dave said he hated his brother. In another, he said he loved him. He even acknowledged how his brother had always had his back when they were kids.
From these brief points, which can seem quite blunt or sharp to a sensitive observer, it appears that Dave may be feeling inferior to his brother. Yet, it is clear his brother yearns for Dave's happiness through his repeated attempts (and failure) at inspiring Dave.
At times, it is hard to distinguish the subtle nuances in conversations, especially when emotions are running high. The emotion that can get in the way of brothely love is anger. Anger forces your brain to act on impulse, it forces all reasoned thoughts from your mind and reacts to situations as a child might, rather than approach them in a reasonable adult-like manner.
Dave compares his life to his brother's which is a complete contrast to his. Yet, he also understands his brother is acting from a desire to help - something his brother has done since childhood. Dave and his brother live completely different lifestyles (as far removed as chalk and cheese or black and white) and, while Dave's brother expects him to fit into a bracket that suits his own lifestyle, it is difficult for him to see Dave living outside of the 'accepted norm' of society.
What his brother fails to see is that Dave formed his ulcers from something that made him want to 'escape the rat-race' and that he is happiest travelling freely while creating. Dave demonstrates this through choosing to live the 'off-grid roaming' lifestyle while making 'odd bits' of pottery. From this, it is evident that Dave has a creative talent, and an indepedent and creative spirit.
Dave's email is written in short, sharp sentences
His message reveals some of his anger and frustration. He knows his brother doesn't accept him for who he is. Rather, his brother wants him to fit a mould that he's desperately trying to escape.
We normally think that angry people are ones who:
are impatient and want to get on with life
are competitive in that they want to be bigger and better than others
want to soar high in the money stakes and business dealings
We think this because we see these people as demanding and wanting situations to be a particular way. When they're not, we see these folk fly off the handle at the slightest deviation from it. However, this is not normally the case.
High achievers are people who have goals and don't allow anything to deter them from it.
They use stress to their advantage.
Biology has proven that men have a higher amount of adrenaline in their bodies and they can use this to reach goals that seem unrealistic or unattainable to the rest of us.
Bucking this trend and, as a result of suffering with ulcers, Dave has chosen a laid-back, easy-going lifestyle. And, yet, he's still upset - but only when his brother turns up. It seems the hostility towards his brother creates the issues he faces.
In order to help ease his relationship with his brother, Dave needs to learn we are unable to control other people, therefore, we are left with the option to control ourselves and our reactions to situations. In an effort to understand his desire for freedom, I asked Dave to fill in the Emotional Needs form on my website, From this, he revealed a number of stress points:
he thinks there's no purpose to his life
he believes he doesn't have any control over it
he says he has no emotional connection to anyone
Anger is a highly emotional state to be in. It can be related to not feeling in control of something. In Dave's instance, this appears to have encouraged him to think in ways that show a desperate need to be released. This seems to be borne out of his frustration and irritation and he finds himself rebelling against his brother's expectations.
7/11 breathing technique. This was a quick and easy thing for Dave to do wherever he was and whatever place was in - and as well as helping him control his breathing, it would increase the oxygen flow through his body and therefore relax him. What he needed to do was breathe in quickly (to the count of 7) and breathe out very slowly (to the count of 11 or more). As he did so, I asked him to push out his tummy when he breathed in and pull his tummy in when he breathed out. This fills up the lungs with fresh air, then clears any stale air out.
The Clenched Fist Method. Why would you teach a man who has anger in his heart to clench his fist? Well, Dave is good with his hands and he has a creative mind. He also loves his brother. Artists don't normally think of their hands while they are doing their work, and this was a method that would help him focus on his hands in a way that showed him how much control he had over the things he created. The idea with the Clenched Fist method is to clench your fist, harder and harder until it isn't possible anymore. All the while, you are to focus on the sensations in the fingers, the pressure against the skin, the tension in the muscles, as your fist is growing ever more tight. You need to focus down on those sensations, feel the strength slowly moving from the fist, up through the wrist, to the elbow and up to the shoulder. Then, just as you tightened the fist, imagine the muscles inside as they very slowly relax and unwind. Then let that sensation of relaxation go through your whole body.
Mindful of the fact that ulcers have been accercerbated in individuals who undergo psychotherapy, I first wanted to find out who his 'hero' was. This would give me a general idea of the kind of person Dave respected and wanted to emulate and I could use this story as a metaphor for Dave's life. I asked Dave what his favourite book was, he said 'Jose Wales', one of those Western/Cowyboy books-to-movie stories, acted by Clint Eastward. The story reveals a man who has been beaten by a cruel society and has no option but to live the outlaw lifestyle. Jose Wales is the kind of outlaw that society looks up to as a hero fighting back against 'the system' through no fault of his own. And this is what we focused his therapy on.
Dave booked a therapy session with me and I guided him through a relaxation exercise where I asked him to imagine a life that was the way he wanted it to be. Then I focused on his creative talents to achieve that.
If you should need my help, simply fill in the form on the Contact page and I'll get in touch with you.
Kaye Bewley MA
PLEASE NOTE: Names, dates and places have been changed to protect the client.
Kaye is a freelance publisher, author and certified psychotherapist with over three decades of experience. She is also a writer for various blogs about writing, publishing, travelling and health care.
Feel free to visit her BewleyBooks.com site, where you can sign-up to follow her on her various social media platforms.