You mentioned all of the negative aspects of your interaction with this family but you failed to mention any positive aspects regarding your interaction with them. Drug addicts can list all of the negative aspects of drug use but that doesn’t stop them from using drugs. Individuals addicted to drugs are not stopping because of the negative aspects of drug use; they’re using because there’s something positive or reinforcing about the drugs. The key question for you is: what is reinforcing about this family that keeps you drawn in?
One is their involving you in their art project. They began a project and were interested in your participation. By asking you to be part of the project they are in essence saying “you are good enough to be one of us.” There are probably many other instances in which the family sends you a positive message about your personal abilities and qualities. These serve as reinforcers that maintain your interaction with this family.
In your letter you do not mention your social life beyond this family or the Internet. I would, as a therapist, be interested in your social life beyond the Internet. It is easier to interact with others on the Internet than in person. For instance, instead of having a fraction of a second to respond in a face-to-face conversation, an e-mail allows you time to plan a response. You do not have that luxury in face-to-face interaction. There is a possibility that you have problems with social interaction. In my experience, I have worked with many clients who have had difficulty with social interaction and subsequently conducted most of their interaction on the Internet. In all cases, the Internet did not serve as a suitable replacement for real-life social interaction.
You asked whether the family is a group of narcissists. That question is difficult to answer but keep in mind that they are a family and have found a way to interact with one another. The fact that they are a family makes them a tighter social group that would naturally occur in the public at large. They have essentially created a microculture. You are entering their microculture and as with any culture if you do not fit in perfectly, you may be criticized or punished when you defy their cultural norms.
Humans have a need for social interaction and acceptance. This family may be an attempt to fulfill that need for you. They have accepted you into their group but you are paying a heavy price for inclusion: you can’t disagree or step out of line. You must share their opinions, morals and values or risk expulsion. The rules of acceptable thought, opinion and behavior, in their microculture, are very specific and allow no variation.
Your reliance on this relationship is unhealthy and unfulfilling and it should be replaced with relationships that occur in the real world, in face-to-face interaction. To avoid this type of problem in the future, it is important that you identify what specifically reinforces your interaction with this family. Once you determine this, you will want to seek out that reinforcement from other people, areas or accomplishments in life.
Closed-minded people with very strong opinions who are not open to divergent views are the opposite of critical thinkers. Critical thinking is necessary to be successful in life, to be happy and to avoid mental illness. It is important that you learn critical thinking skills. It may help you avoid situations like this in the future.
If you have trouble understanding what draws you to this family and what needs they are fulfilling in your life, I would suggest consulting a therapist. He or she can provide an objective evaluation about what is keeping you attached to this family. Please click on the find help tab at the top of this page to search for therapists in your community. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.