Having trouble forgiving my perpetuators

I have ever been emotionally abused during my teenage years by my sister. Name calling, emasculating, claiming my space as her own, you name it. Anything that isn’t physical abuse, but still cuts as deep or even deeper. During the worst times, I tried to seek help from my parents, but to no avail. The saddistic perpeatuator then took the advantage to further her actions and get away with them, just to satisfy her ego. I was effectively being emotionally neglected. I didn’t have enough courage to commit suicide but cutting emotional ties with them seemed a feasible coping mechanism. I lost trust in my whole family.

Until today I keep them at arms length. I don’t believe in family anymore. I’m a 25yo working adult and I only see them as a responsibility, not a safe haven. I see that my friends can tease their family members, say those nice cringey “I love you” messages on their IG posts, but I can’t bring myself to say that I love my family members. To cope with my loneliness, i tried to make friends outside and, as I realised recently, construct a “family” outside of my home that I can grow in. At times I wonder if this is the right thing to do, because my friends are not obligated to stay by my side forever. and I agree with that. To maintain my “family” I just make more close friends. But I’m still scarred. I feel that a sense of anxiety & caution undermines my daily emotions. I have never been able to truly live in the moment, never able to truly connect with the world emotionally in a layman setting. Something as simple as expressing happiness at a birthday surprise takes rehearsing in my head to be able to look normal. Most of the time, I look retarded. Turns out I did not just build barriers between my family & I but with the world.

All this while, I have met many great people I look up to. People with qualities I desire. People with values I value. People whom I really want to be by my side forever. But because I have built all those barriers and I feel that anxiety undermining my daily emotions, I feel handicapped. As a result, I feel like they deserve better people than a lowlife like me who still can’t get over his ■■■■.

I’ve spent a year reflecting and I feel that I am ready to remove these barriers to relive my life again. But there’s something holding me back: my family. I still feel anger well up in me when I shared my story above. If you asked me what the hell happened back then, I’d say I only remember the emotions: injustice, unfairness, prejudice, abuse of gender stereotypes, name calling, hypocrisy, whatever you can legally get away with. It’s weird in a bad way when you’re living with all your perpetuators and they never really addressed the part about me being abused or neglected…because they may not even think of it that way. A part of me wants to ditch this whole family and start a new elsewhere.

A counsellor has advised me to forgive. He explained that it doesn’t mean reconciliation. It’s done for yourself, by yourself. I didn’t spend enough time with him to walk me through the entire process. I guess I can do the rest by myself, but as a first step, I want to be able to forgive myself and my family members for all they have done and not done so I can go live my life outside without being bogged down by anxiety and the barriers I built.

Thanks for reading this far. I appreciate your time.


Hi @Beast thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear that you had to go through such an ordeal in your teenage years. It must have been frustrating for you to be treated that way, and to have your parents be unsupportive of you emotionally in your time of need. All your feelings are valid and it is understandable if you do not feel ready to forgive.

I hear you and I can see why you would keep your distance from your family, and choose to build your own with your friends instead. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ with a decision like this. I can imagine that what you went through was awful enough for you to feel this way, and I want to let you know that is it ok to walk away if you choose to do so. Families are complicated and sometimes they can be toxic. If what you are doing by walking away is protecting yourself and removing yourself from a toxic environment, then that’s just more power to you. Conversely, I also understand that filial piety is very prevalent in asian households, and if you feel the want to make up with your family and forgive them eventually, that is ok as well!

You do not have to make a decision to go in either direction before working on your anxiety and barriers, and living the life that you want. A part of moving forward is accepting what has happened and coming to terms with it. This does not necessarily mean forgiveness, and it certainly does not mean you have to forget. But if your past is preventing you from living your life in the present, then perhaps you may wish to consider what you need from this in order to move on. Is it an apology for all the wrongdoings done to you? Or perhaps it’s simply the acknowledgement by your parents that you did not show up when you needed them to. I agree with the counsellor in that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation and it is something that can be done by yourself. If it helps, perhaps instead of forgiveness, seek closure from what has happened so you can allow yourself to move on from that chapter of your life.

Whatever it is, you can take the time to think about it while still living your life. You are so much more than what you went through and you deserve to experience life the way you want to. I am glad that you have people around you that you can look up to and you are formulating an environment that allows you to grow as a person. You are worthy of surrounding yourself with the people who value you and whom you value, so don’t cut yourself short on this. Despite how you may view yourself, the people around you have chosen to stay because they see value in you as a friend. I agree with what you said, that friends are not obligated to stay. So the fact that they do anyway should speak volumes.

Finally, I would like to encourage you to continue counselling or therapy. It sounds like it had helped you in some ways and I hope you can continue having that support. Please feel free to reach out again if you require any resources regarding this or anything else.

All the best! :slightly_smiling_face:


Hi Jane. Thank you for replying. It feels comforting to know that someone out there understands my pain.
I only went for counselling while I was still an undergrad student. Now I’m working so I stopped. I’m guessing forgiveness is the way forward. But I want to do it without my family involved and I wanted to hear what are some exercises one can do daily to achieve that. My end goal is to be able to think about my family without feeling angry.


Hi @Beast, I’m glad to hear that! I can imagine it hasn’t been easy for you, so to decide on the path of forgiveness is admirable. I hear you on wanting to work on this on your own and I would highly encourage that you resume counselling for this, if possible. Your counsellor would be able to better help you navigate through this journey and process any tricky emotions that may arise.

While I do not have specific exercises that would guarantee forgiveness, here are some prompts you may find useful to reflect upon:

  • What does forgiveness mean to you? Are you on this journey for your family or for yourself?

  • If you are often angry when you think about your family because of bad memories, what are some good memories you can replace them with?

  • As difficult as it may be, try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Perhaps you are right in that your parents may not even have considered what happned to be abuse. Maybe your parents did not know what to do or who to side with amongst their children. This does not justify their actions by any means, but it may help you gain an understanding of where they might be coming from. Here is an exercise you may wish to try out that could help you with gaining perspective: (https://mindline.sg/youth?wysa_tool_id=gain_perspective)

  • Forgiveness does not exonerate what the other person has done. Just because you forgive someone does not mean that they are freed from accountability, nor does it mean that they can continue with their behaviour. Instead, forgiveness is for yourself to no longer hold onto the hurt you feel and let it take over your other emotions. Forgiveness does not mean that they deserve to be forgiven, but rather it means that you deserve to have peace. Forgiveness is not a gift to the person who has wronged you, but a gift of freedom to yourself from what has happened.

  • If it helps, you may wish to rephrase the word forgiveness into releasing. Release yourself from the past. Release the anger and resentment you are holding onto. Release the bad memories you are reminded of when you think of your family.

  • I respect that your decision may not necessarily entail reconciliation or rebuilding the relationships with your family members. However, it may help to see your family through a compassionate lens. Think about memories separate from the bad events. The good times you shared or times they managed to show up for you. They might not have done you right in the past, but they might be better people now. See them for who they are and not who they were. It might also help to put things into perspective when you think of times that you were the one seeking forgiveness for something you have done, and how you have grown from those experiences.

Forgiveness, like any other healing journey, is not always linear. Sometimes we are reminded of what has happened and we might feel hurt again. When this happens, remind yourself of your goal and be patient.

I hope this helps o( ❛ᴗ❛ )o


Your friends can never become your family, especially those who will go on to create their own families.

I faced a similar situation as you. My family was quite dysfunctional too. I knew I couldn’t count on friends because they are merely passing by in our lives. So the only way to solve this issue is to start my own real family. Use your experience with your sister and parents to create a family that you want.

You slay king :crown: