[long] Thought my abusive brother was better, now I don't think so

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Asche

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My FOO consists of me, one sister, and three brothers (my parents are dead.)   One of the brothers used to terrorize me when I was growing up -- telling me what to do and threatening to "murder" me if I didn't do what he said.   It was no secret -- my parents knew about it, but they said I should just hit him back.  Looking back on it, the main thing for him seemed to be being able to control me.  As long as I did what he said, he could sometimes be kind of nice to me.

Anyway, that stopped after he went away to college, and as the years went by, I thought he'd gotten past that.

However, when I would talk about things with him, it would sometimes turn weird.  Basically, when I would state something, he would come up with all sorts of reasons why I was looking at it wrong.  This was especially weird when it was something I  knew about intimately and he knew nothing about, like when I was talking about the problems I was having with my wife which were leading me file for divorce, and he kept saying stuff like, maybe she's doing this because you're  [something.]  But in the context of the weirdness of my FOO (there's a reason I have C-PTSD), it didn't seem all that unusual.

More recently, he started sending me and my kids books; some were okay, just not stuff I found interesting, but some of them were books representing the "conservative" point of view.  By this time, I think everyone in my FOO knows that I lean what is called "progressive," so it came across as trying to convert me.   I mostly ignored them and simply got rid of them.

However, in the run up to the recent USA presidential election, I posted to the family E-mail mailing list my fears about the election.  I am trans, and I was explaining that I felt unsafe, like I was "in the crosshairs", due to the blatant transphobia and homophobia of the administration and most of the Republican party, and was seriously considering moving out of the USA if they stayed in office.  I specifically mentioned fearing the (now ex) vice president Pence, because I believe he  wants to eliminate us, because when  he was governor, he spearheaded a number of laws making life difficult for LGBT people.

This brother's response was to send me a book by one of Pence's children about the "wisdom" of Michael Pence.  You don't have to agree with my political views, but I think I was pretty clear as to how I felt about him.   When I contacted him to ask what he thought he was doing, since sending that book seemed at best pretty hostile, he insisted that I must be mistaken about Pence, since he'd heard one speech by Pence and he didn't hear anything transphobic or homophobic in it.  He also talked about how my fear that Trump might try to overturn the election was simply a case of Google leading me to misleading sources such as "Democrat extremists."  Basically, I was looking at everything wrong.

This sort of trying to make me distrust my own judgement was so familiar from my childhood: basically, anytime I thought something different from what my parents thought, they would try to convince me that I didn't know anything and I should just listen to my betters, and I would get no peace until I at least seemed to agree with them.  So this was kind of triggering.  It didn't actually make me doubt my own judgement, since over the years since I left my FOO I have learned that my judgement is actually pretty good, and better than my family's, but it brought up the impotent rage I felt throughout my childhood, when I would be judged wanting by my parents and other adults in my life and expected to agree with them.

This experience made me adjust my reading of him: I now think that he has never stopped trying to dominate me, but he can't threaten me, and I don't see or talk to him more than once a year, if that often, so he has to do it in subtle ways.   And over the years, I've tried to create a real relationship with various members of my FOO, but have never managed more than superficial conversation.  It alway feels like talking to some on-line AI bot.

In the week or so after I got his E-mail, I was very, very upset and went back and forth over what I wanted to do.  Part of me wanted to tell him in detail why he was full of it, but I realized it would do no good, he'd just come up with new "arguments" as to why I was wrong.  I kind of want to go NC, but we have so little contact as it is, I'm not sure it would be a change.  In the past, I'd see him every few years when I'd drive down to the town I grew up in to visit with some of my siblings, but I'd already decided I didn't want to do that any more because the visits were so empty.  They were kind of like trying to visit with a YouTube video.

I'd also see him at our family reunion, which has been happening every few years, and being there for a week with him there would be difficult.  But then I asked: what do I get out of those reunions?    All they do is sit around and talk about superficial things, on the level of cocktail party chit-chat.  One year, my ex came down for a few days, and despite how difficult my ex can be, it was such a relief to talk with someone who is more than a cardboard cut-out.  My nieces and cousins are a lot better, but they don't attend any more (they've got lives of their own.)  So I think I won't go any more and I'll try to find other ways to keep up with the people I can relate to.

It feels like I'm giving up on my whole FOO.  But maybe it's that I'm giving up the fantasy (or trying to) that there's something I can do, some magic words or spell-casting or something, that will give me a Real Family, one that I can have real connections with.  A "home" --- you know, "home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."  People who you can rely on.  But my parents weren't people any of us could rely on, so how would any of us know how to be relied upon?   It just makes me feel really, really alone in the world.

But maybe I'll feel better after a while.  When my parents died, I realized I felt relief, rather than grief, because I no longer had to wonder if there was something I could do to turn them into Real Parents.

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Bella

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Re: [long] Thought my abusive brother was better, now I don't think so
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2021, 11:27:40 AM »
Hi Asche!
Just wanted to let you know I've read your post, and I feel your pain, frustration and loneliness.
No wonder you long for a family you  can have true connection with. It is a need that is built into our system!
That longing for true connection, I believe, is one of the core traits of CPTSD. CPTSD is relational trauma, so our biggest wounds happens in relation to other people. Especially when it happens within our family. You probably know all this.... just wanted to tell you I hear you!

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Three Roses

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Re: [long] Thought my abusive brother was better, now I don't think so
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2021, 03:13:04 PM »
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... anytime I thought something different from what my parents thought, they would try to convince me that I didn't know anything and I should just listen to my betters, and I would get no peace until I at least seemed to agree with them.

Classic gaslighting!

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It feels like I'm giving up on my whole FOO.

I went NC with the last of my FOO (male sibling). At times I do feel a sense of loss, especially when I hear others talking about having good relationships with their siblings. But mostly these days I feel a kind of pride that I finally valued myself and my peace enough to cut him out formally (having a phone conversation with him stating I did not want a relationship with him - he did not take it well - my heart was pounding but I did it). I am nurturing the relationships I do have with my chosen family, those who give back to me as I also give to them. I'm focusing on making sure all my relationships are two-way streets. That feels really good, much better than any controlling, shallow relationship I had with anyone just because it felt like I was supposed to.

You will find the answers you need if you just keep listening to that inner voice telling you what's best for you.

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Asche

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Re: [long] Thought my abusive brother was better, now I don't think so
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2021, 08:41:33 PM »
... I am nurturing the relationships I do have with my chosen family, those who give back to me as I also give to them.

"Chosen family."   I've been looking for opportunities to create a "chosen family," but it's been hard.  One of the ways my parents gaslit me was that if I was myself with people outside the family, most of the time my parents would wait until the outsiders were gone and then instruct me that I had horribly offended them and ruined whatever chance I had to be friends or otherwise have a good relationship with them.  There was no one else I could go to who I could trust to tell me what was really going on, so I was stuck with my parents'  judgements.

I've learned that they were wrong -- intellectually.  But those rules and the message that I'm this awful person who no one in their right mind would want to associate with still have their death-grip on me, so whenever I try to relate to someone as me, rather than as the rule-bound construct that my parents told me I had to be, my anxiety goes through the roof, and I start imagining all kinds of stuff, and after a while, I can't tell the reality from my paranoid imaginings.  The only way I've found to calm myself is to isolate myself completely for a few days.

You will find the answers you need if you just keep listening to that inner voice telling you what's best for you.

Well, I do have what I call my "inner oracle," which is that hidden part of me which seems to steer my life (and is a heck of a lot smarter than me) and occasionally does speak to me when I'm at a major crossroads in my life, but it doesn't seem to be helping much in this situation.  Probably because when the hurricane winds get wild enough, I can't hear anything but the wind.  Besides, it doesn't seem to involve itself with my daily life.