I think the world is out to get me

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I’m going to give some background information so that you can understand my history and where I’m coming from.

8 years ago my mom passed away, I was 12 years old at the time.

My father re-married 2 years later and we began to have problems. I was treated unfairly because of my stepmother and her much older children. My father was made to believe lies about me, and our relationship crumbled in a matter of months. My step-mom & stepbrother had read my diary; being that my dad didn’t speak English they told him lies about what was in it. My dad sent me away for several months, and eventually I was allowed to come home after he discovered that my step-mom had lied about the contents of my diary. Problems continued at home, mostly due to situations being manipulated against me. Any little chance they had to hurt my relationship with my dad they took it. I was made out to be a horrible daughter and eventually got kicked out of the house again. I was allowed to come home again after a while, but problems continued over insignificant things. When I entered high school I was isolated from the world. I wasn’t allowed to have friends, speak to anyone, and go anywhere. Eventually I ended up in the hospital because I hurt myself, and was later diagnosed with depression and received therapy. I overcame my depression ONLY after moving out and getting away from the negativity at home.

Since then I’ve noticed I am extremely sensitive. I feel as though everything is an attack. I always feel like people are out to get me. I’m always on the defense. Little things will set me off. If I feel threatened I get extremely angry and I will lash out. Even though sometimes there’s nothing to be upset about. I find myself overreacting to any little comment but I only realize it until afterwards. I can’t take criticism even if it’s for my own good. I think it has a lot to do with me always having to watch my self at my dad’s house. It’s unfortunately taking a toll on my marriage because I often get angry with my husband over insignificant things. Any little comment will bring up an argument because I automatically feel as though he’s purposefully trying to attack me.

What can I do to get over this? I’m scared this is going to hurt my marriage. I don’t know how to understand that he’s not trying to hurt me or bash my feelings and opinions. I need to learn how to understand that neither my husband nor the world is out to get me.

A: Thank you for explaining the background and asking for some direction about your condition. From what you have described your current situation makes sense because of your past experiences. Let’s see if we can sort it out.

People that should have been there to comfort, love and guide you betrayed you. This means that trust and betrayal has played a large part in your life experience. Your mom’s passing when you were so young may have begun the concern that people you love may not be there for you. Your father’s remarrying, and the behavior of your stepmother and stepsiblings were all contributing factors. Your father not coming to your aid during this time was a huge disappointment. Essentially every person you should have been able to rely on betrayed your trust.

When this happens early in life it colors our perspective of the world. Imagine having a piece of dark gray glass that you are holding up in front of your eyes. Everything you will see through that glass will look gray. The gray glass is your earlier experiences and they are tinting everything else. The work is to recognize that not everything is that color. If you move the piece of glass from in front of your eyes you will see that the world can look very different. The gray tint is still there, but it doesn’t have to color all that you see.

I would recommend two things. First, some individual therapy to sort through the dynamics of the history of betrayals in your life would be in order. You obviously have a very good start on understanding this, but working with a therapist will accelerate the process. The find help tab at the top will give you some referrals in your area.

Secondly, I would do one of two things. I would have some brief couples therapy so you and your husband can deal effectively with each other around these issues. Or, alternately, if your work with the individual therapist is productive you can ask the therapist if inviting your husband in for a session or two would be possible. Often a brief information session for spouses can relieve the struggle.

I admire your resilience and desire for growth and positive change.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Sep 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). I think the world is out to get me. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/09/10/i-think-the-world-is-out-to-get-me/