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How Do I Know If What I Perceive Vis A Vis Family Relationships Is Real Or A Product Of My Mind?


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I've written things about my family on the thread I deleted, and an other internet forums, where I've stated how I feel about them. And how I believe they feel about me.

I feel, I perceive, that they feel I am less than in worth as a human being to them, and to other members of society.

I perceive that they view me as the family pariah, as a loser, as an embarrassment, as the black sheep, as the ne'er do well. I feel that there is a family standard, a set of values, or personal qualities, and of life outcomes, which have been set in generations past and which they believe I have not attained.

And I feel that they all feel this way, starting with my mother, to sisters, brothers in law, nieces and nephews, cousins aunts uncles.

I think I am the family laughing stock, and that they enjoy talking about me behind my back and putting me down to my face.

How do I ever begin to know what is real and what is my projection of my own problems onto other people, or just plain my imagination run wild?

It is a difficult challenge or me, I don't have an answer.

I need to give just a little background: My home as a child was really weird. My father lead a double life, a public face that was all just wonderful stand up guy, and a private reality when the doors were locked and the curtains drawn that sucked us all into a hellhole. He was formally diagnosed quite late in life with paranoid delusional disorder. He believed that my mother was continually unfaithful to him, which was the 180 degree polar opposite of the reality, she actually swore off men entirely because of him, before and after his death, due to the extreme trauma and emotional abuse he inflicted. And he believed that I was the product of this infidelity, even though anyone just looking at photos of me through my life recognizes that as an instant delusion, as I bear a strong, strong resemblance to members of his family. As a result of that, he was never a father figure to me to speak of, and was very threatening and abusive to me from adolescence into adulthood, to the point that he made verbal death threats, told me I was worthless, didn't deserve to live, that sort of thing.

I was able to properly and legally obtain his medical records, and after his death I found the official psychiatrists documentation of his diagnosis. It proved vindication for me, because he always told us that WE were the ones that were crazy, delusional, etc.

But it was a troublesome life, because he had a good, responsible job in management, and as a result had social obligations related to it, and there were a lot of outsiders in our lives in business social situations, dinners and parties. And we had to appear to be the PERFECT loving family to the outside world. And I had to be the perfect student in school, the perfectly behaved child when we went somewhere. And it was all lies for show.

Also, I am the only boy, much younger, a late in life accident after they had already had a family of all girls. And they too had the perfection thing going, but with them, despite the household and the mental illness, all did become successful in life in their ways, whether it was career or family or both. And much, not all, but much of my extended family is made up of the same kind of people, professionals or corporate types or even some serious long-term, fairly high ranking career military.

And I am nothing like that. My problems with failure, and with serious emotional issues, began when they sent me away to college. It was an entirely from the top down situation, they told me what university, what majors, the timelines and the deadlines and micromanaged everything in my life. In fact, because I was basically alone in the house with the parents starting around junior high age, I was the sole object of my mother's interest, she had only me for support and doted on me to the point of smothering and micromanaging, and my father would enter the picture each night to terrorize me. So at 18 I had been basically very isolated, very controlled, and never caused any waves or gave anyone any problems because the ramifications of that from my father would have been dire. I was sent off to go into the sciences and engineering, which was my father's basic background. And it became very apparent to me right away that I just didn't have the knack for the higher stuff, such as advanced calculus or physics. As a result, I became severely depressed and had tremendous suicidal thoughts, and I flunked some classes and changed majors a number of times and ultimately majored in that was fluff, a degree with little practical value, and I hid all of this really well from them, actually, he didn't know until after I had gotten my bachelors and was ready to start a job in that field what I had done.

So, I have done pretty poorly in life. I've always worked, but it was in low paying jobs, mostly in retail management. What I was in dried up a few years ago during the economic problems, I saw it coming and did a 2 year career program at a local college to get certified to do what I do now, which is work as a paralegal. I hate the current job, too, it has no appeal, not even when I enrolled in the program, it's just an employable skill. But I work for a really small firm, bottom end of the pay scale, no benefits, no potential for advancement, Just something to pay my bills, I don't get ahead at all financially, and I stay because its convenient and not too hard to work for and fits into my life now, and easier than better.

I think that all of my family hates me. I think my mother tolerates me, she loves me but views me as a failure and helpless. I think my sisters and their husbands think I'm really a loser, as do nieces/nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles. I think they look down on me, I think that they hate me, I think that they don't really consider me a member of the family or an equal as a human being, and I think that they believe I deserve no say, no vote, no voice in family issues. And I think that they treat me mostly like a servant or hired help, not like a member of the family.

I have some evidence to back this up, there are things, like my birthday isn't ever acknowledged to speak of, I might get a card some years, but usually not. No one every celebrated my life milestones like graduations or jobs.

But is this real, or in my head? Am I mentally ill like my father was? Am I paranoid?

Do I suffer from what he had? How can I ever tell what is real and what is in my mind? Do I blow things out of proportion? Or are the perceived slights and attacks actually real?

The answer really matters to me, in fact, it may shape the rest of my life. Because if I am in their eyes what I have described above, the family laughing stock, the butt of jokes and gossip and inuendo, if I am someone who is less than a person in their eyes, I will move on. It is too hard living this way, among people who hate me. And I won't any more, I will sever ties and try to fill my life with new people who would care about me for me, not view me as someone tolerated because he is the useful ***** to them, or just be alone, because anything would be better than this.

I need to know, but I don't know how to find the objective truth. I am viewing the situation through too many filters.

How do I ever know what is real, and what is in my mind?

Edited by Denninmi
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Hi Denninmi,

Sorry you are going through this. I am kind of in the same position and situation. I think we are all socially conditioned to over-simply complex human realities and that includes that smallest of societies, the human family; the society we enter as its weakest and most defenseless member. The complex reality of human beings that is often denied is the fact that humans have contradictory feelings. People can love and hate the same person. People can be proud of someone and jealous at the same time. And that goes for all the feelings. Parents can both idolize and demonize their children. And children can have similar feelings for parents. Not only that, it is not always a 50/50 proposition: 50% love and 50% hate. There can be inequalities in the levels of love and hate. We would like feelings to be nice and neat and tidy, but feelings are feelings.

If you are worried about distinguishing objectivity from subjectivity or subjectivity affected by a possible brain illness like paranoia, a visit to the doctor is my best advice. Or a visit to a therapist.

Eventually, I think, we have to accept the contradictoriness of feelings in order to survive. Parents can brutalize their children consciously or unconsciously. But often, it is too simplistic to simply attribute this to ill-will on their part. Because of their own upbringing, parents can be missing parts of their own inner lives that were denied to them by their own parents. So many of their actions, and sadly, many of their parental actions can be motivated by fear: fear of feeling powerless, fear of feeling unappreciated and invalidated, fear of feeling weak or vulnerable, fear of being seen as imperfect or flawed, and fear of losing emotional control. But even when little or no ill-will or malice is involved, children can still get physically or psychologically brutalized.

Originally our parents set our boundaries, sometimes even denying our own feelings. I saw a child tell her mother that he felt scared and the mother told him: you do not feel scared. The mother was actually sending a message to the child: I determine your feelings not you. I am the expert on you, not you.

So it might help you to set boundaries with your family now.

You can start by realizing that you were not responsible for what your parents did to you, they were. And second, that you are responsible for your life now, your parents are not. Then you can go about setting healthy boundaries. Children often have no privacy from their parents. You can now create an area of privacy around yourself by emotionally separating from your parents. You can go at your own speed. It is difficult to set boundaries. You can separate from your parents to any degree you feel is necessary for your mental health. So the boundaries can be small lines drawn on the sand or huge yawning chasms as you see fit.

You can learn to become your own parent and your own best friend. You can learn to give yourself what you feel your parents were unwilling or unable to give you. You are a person of complexity and richness. You have unbelieveably powerful untapped inner resources. You can find substitutes for whatever you have lost in life, even parental love. It is going to be an adventure with many ups and downs. Go easy on yourself. Take things slowly. Aim each day for progress and not perfection.

I do not want to give you a whole new set of "shoulds" to replace those of your parents. I don't want to unshackle you from one set of chains only to bind you with another. So please see my words above as things to consider, think about, use, modify or outright reject. You must discover your own personal values which advance your survival and development. And my advice may be totally wrong for you. In any case, I want to wish you the best. I am sorry you are going through this. All good things to you.

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