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Nancy, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 746
Experience:  ABD for a PhD in Psychology, Psychotherapist for over 20 years
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After numerous and ongoing emotional "traumas" over the past

Customer Question

After numerous and ongoing emotional "traumas" over the past five years (on a background of growing up with a hostile and verbally and physically abusive father), I seem to have erected a wall around my feelings and seem unable to feel many positive emotions. I have been significantly betrayed in separate incidents by two people I thought I could trust implicitly. Now I find it hard to trust anyone and have isolated myself from many people with whom I used to have contact, so much so that I now work from home to avoid people as I tend to look for faults so that I can push them away. I can have an element of depression, but I don't think I am clinically depressed, although I experience sadness from time to time. I'm finding it hard to experience any positive emotions or happiness at all.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Kaushik replied 8 years ago.

Hi there ,

Welcome to Just answer !

What type of psychological counseling have you gone through , and by whom -- a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist?


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
The counselling was via a clinical psychologist, and was over a year ago. It related to marital problems. My husband had an affair as I had been pushing him away and he felt I did not want him. That does not excuse it, just explain it's genesis. We struggled in dealing with that and sought help. We decided to remain together and have worked through most of those issues, and whilst I now trust him much more than I did, there are times I struggle to do so.

The latest traumatic event was a falling out with my older sister. I am the youngest of five children. She is very domineering and controlling. I have resented many things she has done over the years but have remained silent in the interest of family harmony and in respect of my mother. My sister and I had a close relationship until she became very angry with me for getting upset over some things she had done, to the extent that she said if I did not disclose confidences told to me, she would "disown" me.

This is on a background of my father having rejected me at birth as he did not want any more children and being abusive to me until he died in 2004. I was always afraid of him and found him unpredictable. When my father died one of my older brothers became aggressive towards me and, as a self-preservation measure and being fed up with people being dominating in this family, I told him I couldn't have him in my life if he persisted in behaving in such a way. We have not spoken since that time.

I am married with two teenage daughters of whom we are very proud. Considering my own early life, I think I have done a pretty terrific job with our girls and they are delightful young women. I have tried to keep in touch with my family of origin for their sakes, and also because my husband is not close to his family, although there are no hostilities, etc, they are farming people and not very emotive or demonstrative.

Now I feel like distancing myself entirely from my family. Both my parents are dead and it feels like I will virtually be an orphan, and my children will have no extended family with whom they are close. I'm becoming more and more isolated, apart from interaction with my husband and two children. I don't know what I should do because I know that is not healthy, but it just seems that when you love people, they have the capacity to hurt you.

Sorry if this is more information than you were asking, but it gives a better background of my problems with trust, domineering family members and my only seeming defence of "retreat".
Expert:  Dr. Kaushik replied 8 years ago.

Well, thanks for the reply , and i really appreciate your detailed explanation as it has put to rest many doubts and queries in my mind . Well, first of all, i will prefer that instead of rushing to a psychologist , and seeking help for the distress that you are facing as of now, it will be better to give a fair try to solve the problems yourself.

I am really sorry to know about the abusive relationship you had with your father , but then since he is no more it is not apt to talk about him , may his soul rest in peace , although this must have influenced you immensely and to an extent it may have been a cause for you distancing yourself from your family , but , if you see, no body is perfect , as we all say now and then , but this phrase has a deeper meaning in life which can solve a lot of tiffs / spats / hostilities , if we apply it in our lives.

Yes , i concede that since you are the youngest in the family ,your parents and siblings have dominated you most of the time , but i am quite sure you must have been looked after more than the other siblings as well, and your siblings also may be harboring such feelings that no one have given them their due and respect which they desrve ,things like these , expectations never cease to occur and they keep on multiplying as we move on in life , but to stop meeting your own family , will not be a good idea , as after all they are your flesh and blood , and many misunderstandings and tiffs can be resolved by talking about them in a mature , subtle and undersanding way , and i believe you seem like a person who is balance headed , and you are the one who can take initiative and sort out your differnces with your sister and even your brother , and i believe you will not become small in stature or it will not dampen your reputation if you take the initiative , in sorting it out , in fact it will be a move which will show the level of maturity that you hold , and i am quite sure others would appreciate it.

Why i am asking you to sort things out with your family members , is because this is an opportunity for you take out fear of getting hurt from your mind , and this will happen only when you will move against the tide , or will look into the eyes of your fear and win over it by reinstating the forgotten love that exists betwen you siblings.Well , if you want you can take help of a psychologist for carrying out Famil therapy , with you and your brother and sister attending the session together or individually , but i still prefer that you talk to them personally , and i am quite sure that they are also longing for the reunion to happen. You see , one has to have a support of family members , yes right now you have your husband and kids , but what about your siblings with whom you have shared a great bond over the years .. so i suggest you introspect deeply over this , as this is the main reason ,why you want to part ways with family members , as you think they should be more respectful towards you , and i believe they should , but that would happen only when you express your feelings in a warm , and understanding way to them , i am sure they will reciprocate in the same affectionate tone.

I wish you all the best and happiness. Take care..

I hope my answer serves your query according to your satisfaction.

Please press the ACCEPT button if you are satisfied with the answer as only then will i be credited for my service.


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I did not find the answer helpful ... it actually seemed quite unprofessional and like something an acquaintance might suggest, without any real insight into family dynamics, which I felt I had made clear. To suggest it is not apt to refer to my father because he is dead seems insightless.

The answer made no reference to my mental health, which is why I asked the question of a psychiatrist and not just a welfare worker or counsellor or friend.
Expert:  Nancy replied 8 years ago.

I am so sorry for the extremely unprofessional response you received from this man - ignore that, please and let's you and I talk this over. I've reported him (again) for being so unprofessional - you may want to do the same.

I've read what you've written, and just want to clarify a few things - when you talk about betrayal, are you referring to both your husband and your sister? Or your brother for being so abusive now?

We can come back to that after you've answered - but do let me say this - sometimes, when a father treats one child as though he doesn't like her - it's to protect his relationship with another daughter - sometimes because he's molesting her. Is that a possibility here? Was there a golden child-daughter he had a close relationship with? I mention this because you say your brother became aggressive toward you - another sign is when someone steps into that unpredictable family role. It's a stretch - I know, but I just want to bring it up because SO MANY women come to me after a life of being rejected by Dad, only to find out that he was molesting another sibling. It's a little talked about syndrome... but just something to think about.

That early on rejections certainly does impact your future relationships and it's no wonder you've retreated into your own world - working at home, barely trusting anyone. But, I will point out, that's a good defense mechanism and because you are so aware of what you are doing and why you did it - if it's something you want to work through and get past - you can. People with high insight can always achieve their goals with good guidance - it's the people with low insight that struggle.

You see to understand family dynamics - and on that note, you know that in some families, there is a scapegoat. You seem to have been cast into that role. Changing that is almost impossible unless all of the other family members see it and want to change it as well - but after all of you growing up with an unpredictable, abusive Dad, chances are, at least some of your siblings are stubborn, willful people who are not as psychologically minded as you.

As for your children not having an extended family - it seems they might be better off with no family than a family that doesn't love and cherish you. I know that's a hard pill to swallow - to consider letting them go, but are they ever going to be the family you want them to be, for you, or for your children? If so, let your children pursue that - even if you don't want to, but it seems that the abuse has taken its toll - it broke you all apart (which is what abuse does) and sometimes that is irreparable.


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Hi Nancy

Thank you for your response. Perhaps Dr Kaushik meant well, but his "advice" was of no help to me.

In response to your question, I really don't know if my father was abusing one of my older sisters, but I doubt it. Why he rejected me is that he really only wanted two children ... his first two were daughters. My mother wanted a big family and then had another two sons and I guess he accepted them (although reluctantly) because they were boys. He finally admitted to me in my early 20s that he never wanted me, never liked me and blamed me because he had "lived like a monk" after I was conceived and my mother no longer had sex with him. Whilst I can understand his frustration, I also understand my mother. She was a lovely woman and I guess her only defence was to withdraw from him (emotionally/intimately) and devote herself to her children. He "punished" her through the children. Family was of paramount importance to my mother.

My sisters were 11 and 12 years older than me and I would be very surprised if my father had sexually abused them. He was not physically, emotionally and verbally abusive towards my sisters, but was toward my brothers to an extent, but I tended to cop the most and he took his anger and frustration predominantly out on me. I was never good enough, and he made his dislike of me quite clear.

Whilst I know my siblings love me in their way, it comes at a high price at times ... something I just kept quiet about for years because family was so important to my mother and she was important to me. My relationship with her was hampered because I tried to avoid my father, but whilst she was never demonstrative and the words "I love you" never passed her lips, I never doubted for a day that she loved all her children very much ... as the old saying goes, "by deeds not words".

My siblings always considered me the "spoiled one", which is ridiculous if they knew the treatment I had at my father's hands, but I guess from a superficial viewpoint perhaps because I was the only one left at home my mother may have had more money and given me a few extra things they never had, plus she saw my father's contempt and was no doubt trying to make my life a little happier, or perhaps she was just worn out with having been through teenage years with four others and so relaxed with me and was a little more permissive--but in a sense it was almost like another generation having been through the 60s, and the 70s were a time when young people did have more freedoms.

I appreciate your understanding that "family at any cost" is not a great concept. I have told my children their relationship with their extended family is something separate to mine and that they can keep in close contact and I honestly don't have a problem with that. However, their loyalty to me makes it difficult for them. But they are still young and their attitudes may change. I want to keep that door open for them because there will be significant milestones in their lives that may be saddened if they cannot share them with their family. They would otherwise only have each other and they are very different children and whilst they love each other, they are not really close.

When I talk about "betrayal" (I know it's such an emotive word) ... it was when my husband had the affair, which dragged on in one form or another for what seemed an eternity but was actually three years. How we got through it still surprises me as infidelity (AKA rejection/abandonment ... a sensitive subject because of my father of course) is my Achilles tendon. We struggled through many things throughout our marriage and made many sacrifices, but his infidelity was a pill I found extremely hard to swallow. I do love him and understand why the affair happened and accept my responsibility in the breakdown of our marriage. We are very different people, but I think we have come to be comfortable and accepting of our differences and there can be a future for us.

My sister's "betrayal" was repeating a number of things to others I had told her in confidence. Her excuse was that it was in my best interests. That is just nonsense ... there was no reason to divulge such personal information about me to others. I am a very private person. It is humiliating to know others I am not close to know about my husband's affair or other private things I would never choose to tell them. I told my sisters about the affair, no-one else. I will keep their confidences to the grave, yet my oldest sister feels she can betray mine when it suits her.

Apart from that, I was very hurt when she behaved inappropriately with my husband when I was not there, and whilst I suspect it wasn't sexual per se, I felt it was insensitive given our past five years struggling to salvage our marriage because of the affair, and I thought it was disloyal to me to behave such a way. Saying she had had a couple of drinks and was just being "affectionate" does not wash. She always has an excuse for anything she does, she can never be wrong, and apparently I can never be right. She can be very self-righteous, which I find hard to take at times.

She also has always favoured one of my daughters over the other, which I know they have found hurtful at times. I subtly try to address this without making an issue of it. I tell myself she does not mean any harm by it.

I reach the stage with relationships that become negative that enough is enough. With my family, particularly my brother, I reached a point where I said, "That's enough. I can't do this anymore". That's the stage I also reached with my sister, who is the oldest and has used the excuse of feeling "responsible" for the family ... which I think more honestly should be described as feeling she needs to "control" the family. She married a man who became very successful and they are exceptionally well off financially and she has used money at times to manipulate people ... but she would tell you her intentions are always "pure" ... but I see at times her help has been conditional. She helped us financially about 15 years ago and I have felt "beholden" ever since and regretted accepting it. When we were in the position to do so, I tried to pay back the money she loaned us but she steadfastly refused and told me how offended she would be if I insisted. Sometimes I think God must have personally handed her the rule book, because she feels she knows what is best for everyone. Her help, however, seems to always come at a cost. I have lost count of the times I have heard her lament that all she has ever wanted to do was to help and what a good person she is. I would have thought that was for others to judge. Perhaps I am just being too harsh now because I have been hurt.

Now that I have stood up to her and told her I was upset about a few things (only when pushed for months and months to admit there was a problem), she is very angry and hurt that I should have the audacity to be upset with her and somehow her "devastation" has overtaken the fact that I felt hurt. She told my other sister if I did not disclose certain things to her, she would have nothing further to do with me. In other words, it was "her way or no way". I found that very hurtful but decided I would not betray other's confidences despite her insisting upon it and stood my ground. Her response, to me, seemed like a last ditch attempt to regain control when if she did not get her way, said she wanted nothing further to do with me ... only to send me an email the next day stating her door was "always open" if I wanted to talk to disclose those things. I refuse to do that because absolutely no good can come of that and more people will be hurt. It seems she cannot accept even the slightest criticism, and feels the need to have control over everybody. Surely being the oldest is not the answer? I suspect her having a very successful husband (along with our family history) contributes to her need to be in control and always be right ... he can be demanding and is opinionated. Having said that, he is very likeable however.

Our parents did not have much money, especially with five children, but they always worked hard, we always had a roof over our head, clothes on our backs and food in our stomachs. We were educated (none of us to tertiary level), had the occasional family holidays and there was always money when it was really needed. We didn't have many material things, but that was common for that time and our circumstances. Sometimes I feel my sister uses the excuse of having felt "responsible" because she was ambitious and our life was just not "good enough". I could give you examples but I've raved on enough.

Yes, I have a good deal of resentment regarding my father, one brother and one sister in particular. I'd like to get past that because it's an ugly emotion. I suspect I will always be sensitive regarding rejection/abandonment because in a sense that's been hotwired into me from birth pretty much by my father. But what worries me most is this emotional wall I've built around myself. It's as if subconsciously I have adopted the stance that to love leaves us open to be hurt and I've just reached saturation point with hurt so I won't let anyone that close to do that again. Not good, I know. How do I let down those walls?

Sorry this is so long but, as you can imagine, this is my life and my marriage's and family's wellbeing is at stake if I do not work through these problems.
Expert:  Nancy replied 8 years ago.

You let down the walls, by intellectually gauging who you can trust. Some people are trustworthy and some are not - you know who they are. Trust yourself to know what's right and wrong for you.

Start experiencing your feelings again - don't block out the good when you block out the bad - allow youself to feel what's happening in your life.

Start trusting one person at a time...


Nancy, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 746
Experience: ABD for a PhD in Psychology, Psychotherapist for over 20 years
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