My Bullying Father

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I fear my father has ruined my life. He was a tough man and I was terrified of him throughout my childhood and teenage years. I dealt with it by trying to please him. I did whatever he wanted me to do to the best of my ability.

As the eldest and only male child he decided he wanted me to work in his button factory as he was insistent the surname of the owner should stay unchanged when he passed away. I couldn’t have been less interested in buttons but when I was 16 he demanded I left school and became his apprentice. I gathered my courage and tried to persuade him to let me stay and do my A Levels and go to university saying that I felt long term I could be of more help to him and the company. His answer was to explode with rage and ignore me for weeks. So I gave up further education and accepted his demands. My mother was very unhelpful as she was scared of him too and went along with whatever he said.

I worked in the factory for 20 years and watched it slowly decline. He wouldn’t listen to any of my suggestions for modernisation and I eventually gave up. He died recently and nine months later the business went into liquidation. I have since not known what to do with myself. I don’t know who I am or what I want out of life. Is it all too late?


How sad that you have given your life so far to what your father demanded. Following the wishes of a horrid parent can leave people feeling empty and directionless once they have died, especially in your case as his business has also failed. It is a lot to process and understand and understandable that you have many mixed emotions about your life so far and are unclear about your path forwards. However it is absolutely not too late for you to start to live a life that will suit you, bring you satisfaction and hopefully some happiness. There are many ways that you could tackle this.

For a start give yourself time, keep your expectations realistic and don’t give in to feelings of hopelessness or expect miracles. Start to think about things that you like to do, what gives you pleasure and makes you smile. Do you have any hobbies you could develop or a course you could do that might lead to a new career?

An interesting exercise is to take a sheet of paper and write down all the attributes you see in yourself. In your email you have already shown obedience, loyalty, courage and persistence. Now is the time to add to this list as many other characteristics as you can. Build up a map of your own attributes and try and look at them objectively. You will hopefully start to see yourself as others see you and come to recognise your own worth.

When you find you have strong negative feelings about your father try and recall what incidents in your past lead to them. Think about what you would have liked to happen, such as your father listening carefully to what you had to say, or your father treating you with kindness and respect. Try and hold on to those wishes and be the sort of person that you would like your father to have been. See him as a template for how not to be. If he also taught you some useful skills, acknowledge and accept that.

Do try to build up your social connections as well as looking after yourself over the next few months while you are feeling particularly vulnerable.