I have a situation in my life that is not something I have control over or even contributed to very much.  I just have to let go of these relationships and any hope the people involved will ever become mentally well, because it has become clear to me it's just not going to happen. 

 

I have tried for years to help these people, when that didn't work and they became too toxic to even deal with, I walked away and stopped talking to them entirely, but I always secretly in my heart held onto the hope they would get better.  Recently, it's come to my attention that they are more far gone into mental illness than I thought and perhaps they are happy consumed by bitterness, hatred and the need for repeated revenge on people they already got revenge on for minor perceived slights over things that happened well over 20 or more years ago. 

 

I am sad they will never get well and that they don't even consider themselves sick.  I have to let these people go just as if they had died just like my dad.  I love them, but they're not going to change and I just have to let go, so I can move on and be at peace with the fact that recovery is not going to happen.  I let go of the relationships long ago, but now I have to let go of my hope too, because it's not realistic. 

 

People of faith have all sorts of tricks to let go and forgive and just put things into the past.  But how does a person do this without religion? 

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Replies to This Discussion

First, I'm sorry for whatever issues you are dealing with. Mental illness is difficult to deal with and hopefully, they can get help.

You said it best yourself in your opening paragraph...you just have to let go of not only the people but also, the notion that they will ever be any different or that you have the power to change them. I never liked the word forgive or forgiveness because it implies that you are relieving them of their responsibilities for their actions. I prefer acceptance of the reality of the situation.

When you, in your heart, wish they could still come around and be anything different than they are... you really haven't let it go and accepted the reality.

And don't think the religious have it figured out! They don't accept reality at all!

Man, reading this back, sounds a little like I have all the answers, but I don't! Every situation is different, I hope this helps.

One of these people just recently did something that was incredibly damaging to me. I mean to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars just to get revenge on me, because basically I didn't give this person their way.  The thing is the property was jointly owned, so they share the burden.  For my own well being, I just have to put this behind me.  Since it was part of an estate and  there's no proof, but everyone knows who did it, there's no justice.  I'm just sad this person a) did this  b) hates me so much they felt it was necessary to do it and c) I haven't hardly spoken to this person in 20 years, so what could have I done that exists outside their mind?  If I have done something so terrible it merits seeking several thousand in revenge on me, it was 25+ years ago, because I have left this person alone to live their own life since  high school.  Whatever crap their life is, it's not my fault.  

 

The judge asked me what did you do to this person that they hate you so much that they have to have extreme revenge on you.  I said I didn't do anything to this person.  I'm not harboring a grudge about anything.  The judge talked to the person for thirty minutes and basically, "you're right.  I am concerned for you and your family's safety.  We'll make sure you and your family are out of the building and gone before we let this person leave." 

 

There are two people like this who shared my distant past and they know if they cross the line or threaten me in anyway, I'm going to the police.  I had hoped that one day they would get better, but after yesterday's letter, I know that's not going to happen.  Just a few more months until this estate is settled and I am done with them for good.  I hope.   You can never tell though.  

 

I'm not really mad about the damage to the property or the money lost, I'm just sad this person is so raving insane they would do something like this.  They're freaking nuts and they like it!  Go figure.   

I'm with Susi on the forgiveness thing. I stopped "forgiving" others several years ago and focus now on forgiving myself when I need to. This sounded pretentious to me when it was first suggested, but I decided to try it.  I found that I was able to better handle my emotions, I guess because in acceptance there's much less anger, and when I wasn't so wrapped up in my feelings it freed up my mental capacity to figure out what I needed to do.  I also don't require forgiveness from others. When I've done something that I regret I make a sincere effort to correct it if I can, and I try to evaluate my actions so that I can improve going forward.  When I've done that, and conclude that I've made myself feel bad enough for long enough, I forgive myself and move on.  It's not nearly as easy as it sounds and I am sure there are those who will be critical but I find that I can be harder on myself than almost anyone else so it's really pretty effective.

I also agree with John D that you must first take care of yourself.  You are able to help others much more if you're emotionally strong and healthy. Best wishes to you whatever you decide to do. I know it's hard to let go, but pouring your energy into a dysfunctional relationship is so much more damaging.

I don't hate this person.  I love this person.  They are my sibbling.  I have always loved them.  I will always love them.  But I can no longer hold out the slightest hope they will ever be mentally okay.  This is not the only area they have of instability.  Far from it.  We don't live in the same town.  They have extracted petty revenge on another party involved in this.  I have called that sweet lady and informed her that yet another round of this mess has started.  The police and neighbors are aware of what this person has done. but there's no proof.

It has taken a lot of therapy for my to realize that a lot of the anguish I was feeling over these relationships was because I loved these people.  I had to come to terms with the facts that I did love them and they weren't really worthy or ever going to return that love or even maybe capable of it.  I tried to hate them, but I couldn't do it.  It was just hurting me. 

 

I do pity both of them a great deal.  I wish they would get better and move on with their lives and find some peace and happiness.  But maybe they have peace and happiness being miserable.  I have to give up wishing and hoping one day they'll get well, because that's not going to happen, because they don't want it to.  The only one getting hurt from this hope is me.  They could care less about anything other than revenge.  Pretty sad way to live. 
Their life.  Their choice. 

 

If dad were alive, of course none of this would be happening, he would know just what to say to make me feel better.  He was a very loving person.  I don't think he ever accepted my sibling's insanity even though he knew it was true. All this just makes me miss him so much more.

 

At any rate, the moral of this story is, if you love your family and you don't want to put someone through this, write a freaking will.  I wish dad had. 

This story sounds a lot like that of an affected family member of an alcoholic.
I asked dad over and over if my sibling was using drugs and alcohol and he would never give me a definite answer.  I believe it is very possible and even likely my sibling is an alcohol or drug addict.  We have fallen out over this person's drug and alcohol use before.  Nothing I can do about it.  They did show up to dad's rosary  and funeral drunk though and that's telling.
With or without religion, it doesn't matter.  If a person holds onto their anger and hate, and clasps it close, they are nurturing the hate and anger with all of their energy, like a mother nursing her child.  The only way is to let it go (someone else said this: forgive yourself and others).  If they can't let their anger go, it will damage/ destroy them.  The only problem is they usually cause a lot of grief for the rest of us.
It's possible there may be something positive you can get from Al-anon. They're pretty supportive. That may seem weird advice coming from someone at an atheist website, but we're free thinkers, and we know how to winnow the good from the bad. There's even a group here I'm in called "Atheists, Addictions, 12 Step Recovery, and Alternatives". Just a thought, not a suggestion.

After briefly researching family members of alcoholics, I see I have played many roles in my family.  When I was younger, it was caretaker/hero.  When I was really young, it was lost child, but then my mom checked out so much, and dad was constantly working, so I had to be the caretaker because someone had to do it.  I felt a lot of guilt about how my sibling turned out because I mainly raised them from the time I turned 11.   I played the caretaker/hero role for a long time.  But then I had my own child and my own MS and I basically told one of these people, I'm not taking care of you anymore.  And then I became the  scapegoat where I've been ever since. 

You´ve carried far too much responsibility at such a young age. Your parents should have protected you from such a job! Whatever happened, you were not responsible, even if your siblings would like to make you responsible.

But I know the pressure is very great! I was in a similar situation when I was 17 - an elder brother leaned heavily on me while he went deeper into alcoholism and during some suicide attempts. When I worked out that he wanted me only as a caretaker and would never share equally with me, I stepped out of his life - haven´t seen him in thirty years.

You can wonder if you made the right choises in dealing with situations like these, and perhaps you´ll never be sure about it, like I am - but there´s this: when someone resents it that you choose your own life after you tried hard to help, it´s better to leave, because then there´s no open talking to them possible. You are not guilty and you owe them nothing - what they owe you is their problem.

What I've found helpful in coping with the feelings from such situations is Eric Berne's transactional analysis, explained in Games People Play many decades ago. It's not only alcoholics and drug addicts who get caught up in the rescuer/victim/persecutor triangle. It can be described as a restriction memeplex. Basically a person narrows down their entire view of human relationships into one of these three roles. Every action or motive is twisted to "fit" into one of these roles, in their mind. First as lost child you were victim, then at 11 you moved into rescuer. Any slight criticism or failure to give the person what he/she wants shifts you into persecutor, in their mind. Someone locked into this mind game gets self esteem by "guilt free" attacks on others, "justified" by the slight. It proves to them that they're better than you are. Hatred and resentment are nurtured as an ego defense, everything wrong in their lives is your fault, which makes them virtuous victims, better than you. The bottom line is they're hooked on provisional self esteem based on invidious comparison. It's the only way the know how to feel better about themselves. This restriction meme doesn't support infected hosts actually authentically loving and respecting themselves, for example based on strengths or accomplishments. When somebody buys into the rescuer/victim/persecutor triangle they settle for invidious comparison instead of authentic self love, and never look back. Once you're inside, you can no longer imagine an alternative way to feel better about yourself. So yeah, don't hold your breath about them getting better.

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