My brother is 21 years old and was dumped by his girlfriend. He
liked her a lot more than she liked him. He took this rejection very badly.
He has gotten drunk and injured himself several times with a knife. He has
gotten beat up by a gang. This behavior is completely out of character for
him. He does not seem to be able to forgive himself for what he has done.
He blames himself for the breakup with his girlfriend; he is very angry. He
does not sleep for more than four or five hours a night. He is exercising
and keeping busy, but doesn't feel better about things. It has been three
months since the break up and he does not feel that he is getting over it.
He refuses to seek professional help. How do I help him help himself?
Apparently your brother had a lot invested in this relationship. He
views the break-up as a reflection of some personal flaw and believes that
had he behaved differently with her, the break up would not have occurred. So
now he is obsessing about the outcome, believing that the responsibility for
the break-up was totally his fault. Your brother cannot tolerate the thought
that this girl was not as attracted to him as he was to her. He wants to
believe that he had more control over the situation and her feelings than is
possible. Her reasons for rejecting him may have had little or nothing to do
with anything he did or did not do. People's feelings change, especially
when it comes to affairs of the heart, and even more particularly when one is
You state that your brother's behavior is out of character. I assume that
refers to the drinking, self-mutilation, and fighting. The magnitude and
duration of your brother's reaction to the break-up leads me to wonder
whether this event triggered a deeper, underlying issue that needs
Self-mutilation is dangerous. People can do serious
damage to themselves, especially when under the influence of alcohol. I
wonder whether this incident might have touched off some feelings of low
self-esteem, powerlessness, or underlying depression. You might encourage
him to seek out a consultation with a professional psychologist. It is
unfortunate that people have a bias against seeking a professional for their
mental health concerns, while even professional athletes will seek a
professional consultation for their physical health concerns. Just as one
can wait too long to seek medical help, one can wait too long to seek
The issue of trying to help someone help themselves, as you put it, is
difficult. The short version is, no matter how much you want to help
someone, unless they want to be helped there is little you can do other than
be supportive, empathic, and understanding. Sometimes you can give
information. That's about it.
Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist,
Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing
psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years.
He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation,
couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and
assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing
Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.