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Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt, Mom

11 Oct
Dear Belleruth,

Can Guided Imagery help with my grown adult son? I left his father when my son was around 13. My son was physically abused.. Including being bitten on his back..when he was round that age. For YEARS my son was in and out of hospitals, trouble with the law (not serious, but continuous.. Traffic violations etc), and violent temper.

He wants help.. He is now 34.. He is doing 100% better, but his temper is still a problem. About once or twice a year he will have a violent episode, hurting either himself or his wife or doing verbal and near physical abuse to me.. When he is drinking.

He says 12 step programs do not help him, yet he says he wants help. Please help us.. He wants to do better, but nothing seems to help.

My daughter-in-law, son and I are really all we have..he struggles so to do better, only to have it happen again.

You may post my problem (not my name) if it will help others.

Dear Mom,

Guided imagery alone is not going to be enough to help your son, although the Alcohol & Other Drugs imagery, The Leviton’s Inner Peace, Outward Power, the imagery for Healing Trauma (PTSD) and the imagery for Anger and Forgiveness could be an important help, along with other things. Learning a practice like Qigong from a master teacher like Ken Cohen could also do him a world of good.

But I suspect having a good strong older man as a sponsor in AA and the 12 steps would be best for him. It’s either that or a support group for male abusers, or a no-nonsense therapist. AA is free, it’s very savvy about these issues and it’s got a program that works for hundreds of thousands of people.

One more thing: the way you talk about him and his behavior, in the passive voice, reveals that you don’t quite see him as responsible for his behavior. You say: "He struggles so to do better, only to have it happen again" . Sorry, but it doesn’t happen again; he does it again. To report that "12 step programs don’t help him" is going along with his blaming the program. If you put him in that sentence, it would read: "He won’t stick with a 12-step program" or "He objects to AA".. Sure he does. Change is very uncomfortable, especially when there’s addiction in the mix.

I’m sure you feel terrible about the abuse he suffered as a child. But to enable him now, as a 34 year old adult, is another, more subtle form of abuse. Your son needs to know that his behavior is unacceptable to you and his wife and that there are hard consequences to his actions. Telling him he needs to "shape up or ship out" - and meaning it - can be an act of great love and respect, because it has expectations for improvement attached to it. It also models self-respect.

If this is too hard to consider, you might want to visit an Al-Anon meeting or Coda meeting (Codependents Anonymous) to get some help for yourself. And I’ll bet these violent episodes happen more than once or twice a year. You could be soft-soaping that too. 

Good luck with this and let me know how it goes.

All best,


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award