‘I have not had contact with my siblings for many decades, nor did I attend my parents’ funerals’

Tell Me About It: I have no friends nor any acquaintances, no one ever contacts me, nor vice versa, and I never socialise


Suffice to state that I came to the [realistic] conclusion, nearly half a century ago, that I was brought up in a dysfunctional, abusive and violent family grouping. It was a cold and loveless environment where little if any real communication took place between my parents, or between them and my siblings.

Crucially, my mother ensured that each child who came along was poisoned against me, and actively encouraged to taunt me and assault me, and to destroy my few personal possessions.

As the eldest child of an increasingly large group of people (there were eventually nine children) who inhabited the same building (I hesitate to use the term family home) I was designated from the early 1960s onwards (especially after my mother had returned from the mental hospital) as the scapegoat of the group – upon whom every woe, mishap and mistake within that group was heaped relentlessly. As I grew older, my female progenitor targeted me for abuse with the active collusion (and passive acquiescence) of my father. The statutory authorities were never once contacted to intervene.

When I asked my father for his assistance, and only once, to tell her to stop beating me and relentlessly criticising me, he inferred that I was telling lies. He was dismissive, disinterested and disengaged.

As the eldest child of the group, I had to go out to work in order to pay my mother for being reared. My father simply announced that, from then on, I would have to pay her for any food. I have not had contact with any of my siblings for many decades, nor did I attend either of my parents’ wakes or funerals. I was actually informed of my mother’s death many months after the event by a complete stranger. I have no idea where my parents are buried, and even if I knew I would never attend their graves. I found a number of effective ways of dealing with the manner in which I was brought up over the years (I am now retired and thankfully have a secure pension) but the effect on me has probably been more severe that I realise.

I have no friends nor any acquaintances, no one ever contacts me, nor vice versa, and I never socialise – although when called upon I can converse with people, if really necessary. I enjoy my own company, and I have a proactive policy of complete isolation and secrecy.

I have never been married, although I have a daughter whom I have had no contact with for over 25 years. And it is many decades since I had a girlfriend or enjoyed any form of female company. I am exceptionally well educated, (verifiably) highly intelligent and also very knowledgeable; but I find that most people bore me, because they know so little about anything.

However, for years many people simply walked over me, and I was never able to assert myself, especially in my employment. I was almost invariably the subject of bullying, physical and verbal abuse.

What can I do now, to increasingly assert myself, and enhance my low self-esteem, even at this late stage of my life?


Like many people, the very thing that you created to protect yourself at one stage of your life has become the millstone that makes your life difficult at a later stage.

Your determination to never need or depend on another human being now means that your life is empty, lonely and even without contact with your daughter. There is often an assumption that retirement brings with it a sense of satisfaction and completeness, but of course what can happen is that there is a lot of time for what we have been avoiding to surface. The thing about avoidance is that it is largely based on fear, and, after a lifetime of avoidance, the fear will have become a large blockage to change or development.

You have had good reason to develop this stance, but holding on to an attitude that any closeness will bring destruction, will bring you more of the same and this is what is causing your current distress. You use the term “to assert” yourself and perhaps what you mean is to get acknowledgment of your existence or to have a sense of self reflected back to you. In fact, we can directly relate self-confidence to being heard and valued by others. True assertiveness is not demanding attention, but rather having the capacity to speak with confidence and to be fully heard and for this to happen one needs the capacity to recognise and pay attention to another person.

The starting point is to know where the other person is coming from, so that what you say connects with them and it helps you to know if the other person is listening. If you operate from an assumption that all people are out to get you, or are boring, this will inhibit communication.

The challenge for you is to attempt some genuine connection and, in the process, face your fear of rejection and to do this over and over until you feel less anxious about it. Try for small encounters at first and try to have real interest in what the other person might say and with time you might find that you can risk more engagement and begin the journey to a more satisfying life.

In your letter you highlight your intelligence and indeed you are well able to identify the blocks to your wellbeing. There is no time when self-development is easy, but you know there is a need for it now, so apply your intellect to your situation and begin making changes.