is something very wrong here ???
November 11, 2012 9:41 AM   Subscribe

I have an ex who seems to be be depressed and has sent me a few emails telling me that we are all programmed by the "Source" that free will does not exist, that nothing depends on us etc and that the "Source" has decided that he would always be unhappy in love ! And that if the "Source" has decided that he would be unhappy, unaccomplished, alone then he must be happy with that decision. (He's 55, pianist/composer, not well known, gets by with the financial help of his parents., never been able to commit or live with a woman. His father is bi-polar, been hospitalised a few times for that). This is contrary to my world view, which I told him but I'm rather worried about where his mind is going. Any thoughts, help much appreciated
posted by hopefulmidlifer to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It could be a new type of philosophy he's trying to approach, or it could be some kind of psychological break for him.

Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of help you can give him as his ex, except maybe to listen to what he has to say and gently probe as to whether this idea is helping him or hurting him.
posted by xingcat at 9:47 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you worried he is in imminent danger? If so, you need to inform the people that are closest to him and let them handle it.

Is this something you are interested in helping him with or are you looking for ways to withdraw from the conversation? It is not your responsibility to help this guy with his problems and it sounds like he is an ex for a reason - if this drains even a drop of energy from you, I say it's time to state gently that you aren't willing to engage in this kind of discussion, wish him the best, and move on with your life.
posted by _DB_ at 9:53 AM on November 11, 2012

An ex? You are about to get sucked into someone's crazy, someone that you have already broken up with. Do not engage. The best case scenario is that he is going to tie up your time trying to make you convince him everything is going to be ok.

If you are really worried about his physical well-being, call his mom.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:53 AM on November 11, 2012 [20 favorites]

I really doubt if any good at all could ever come from you engaging with this guy. Do yourself a favor and ignore all communication from him, do not start down this rabbit hole.
posted by Scientist at 10:05 AM on November 11, 2012

Please call his mother and then really limit your contact with him. I don't suggest cutting him off, but please consistently redirect him to healthy places to vent/get advice. You are not well-equipped to help him, for several levels, but he may be reaching out to you because you're safe to reach out to (especially if you don't live nearby; I do that a lot while depressed/unstable and have to consistently remind myself to go to people in person, talk to people who can actually intervene if things are going badly, etc.)

I can't tell whether he's a native English or native French speaker, and I'm not even sure if he's in France with you or not, but if he is a native English speaker, this is a list of therapists and providers in Paris. There's an extensive list of resources by country on the There Is Help page on the wiki, but the only one in France is French-language.

(Do not cut off someone who is depressed/suicidal, with a family history of mental illness, poor social connections, etc., who isn't actively making your life harder. At the very least, give them a bunch of resources and reassurance and warn someone else who will help them, before you do it. Yeah, of course, own breathing mask on first, here, but this is a reasonably low-risk situation and the OP is legitimately concerned. A friend completely abandoning/ignoring you is devastating when you're anxious/depressed.)
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 10:14 AM on November 11, 2012 [10 favorites]

I would agree that there's no good that can come of you engaging on this, but if the central tenet he is working on is "I should be happy with my shitty situation" that's not exactly a path to self-actualization, but it's also not really dangerous as far as I can see. I mean, there's a lot worse ways to accept the concept of lacking free will: self-destruction, nihilism, making other people miserable. "Try to make the best of things," isn't the worst conclusion by far to come to when leading a rough life.

But, honestly, don't make his problems your problems. When a person comes up with their own cosmology, that's generally bad news.

(NB: I am not a mental health professional. Just because I don't think it seems dangerous from what you told us, doesn't mean it isn't.)
posted by griphus at 10:14 AM on November 11, 2012

What is your goal here? To help him? Well he is an adult that has seen his own parent's struggle with mental illness so he is aware of the resources out there. You can remind him how accessing professionals in the past was helpful. It is up to him to access those resources and only after he has done so should you consider being any type of sounding board/emotional support. Otherwise I am afraid you will impede him getting help by reinforcing his delusional thinking. Is this a relationship where your needs are also met? Or is it slanted towards his needs all the time? If it isn't a healthy relationship then maybe you should be less available and instead focus on other, more healthy relationships for yourself.
posted by saucysault at 10:15 AM on November 11, 2012

I ended the relationship with him two years ago.
he sends me the occasional email.

You are right, this isn't really my concern and I guess I should really close down communication with him but he sounds rather paranoid "like most westerners you can't see the truth, your eyes are closed etc.."
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 10:34 AM on November 11, 2012

The "we're being controlled" angle (the source of tin-foil hats) is not a new form of philosophy, here's a little something I cut off a telephone pole some years ago.
posted by rhizome at 10:47 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

re controlling - he wrote, "The "Source",or God if you prefer"
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 11:01 AM on November 11, 2012

I have an ex. We have a kid together, so I have to engage. Periodically he goes off the deep end about [the unkown guy obviously responsible for ending our relationship who is now responsible for every hard line I draw]. Equally fictitious. And equally fruitless to try and discuss. I thoroughly nth everyone who says Do Not Engage. I understand the urge to correct/help, but shutting down the conversation every time Alien X comes up, when used consistently, is a very useful tool that keeps you sane & his problems at an arms length. Consistency in application is key.
posted by Ys at 11:12 AM on November 11, 2012

I'd email his mom and say that you're concerned he isn't thinking normally. That's all I'd do other than telling him the same if that seems reasonable. Coud be nothing, but given the family history it's worth him seeing somebody if they're also alarmed.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:13 AM on November 11, 2012

You clearly have a good heart and care for him. You want to help but there is literally nothing you can do - he is on his own journey and if his life has become a self-fulfilling prophecy (I am meant to be alone, a failure - and I will not take any steps towards healthy relationships or success) then it is indeed very sad that at near retirement age he still has failed to launch into adulthood.

It is is not your responsibility (nor within your ability) to make the major changes he needs to live a happy, healthy life. At best, telling him you think he needs professional help is the only useful thing you can do - as long as it isn't taking up too much of your energy/thoughts. If communicating with him is distressing (I would find it so) then disengage for your own health.

You CAN'T save everyone; triage your love/energy/attentions towards those that are already helping themselves and whose relationships you find personally rewarding.
posted by saucysault at 11:16 AM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

thanks people for all the great answers, it's helped me clear my mind.
I feel sorry for him but I don't want to get mired in his problems.
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 11:25 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Someone I know *cough* had schizo-onset friend emailing crazy stuff. Any response garnered more and more voluminous and crazy responses. I auto-filtered their messages out of my inbox and straight to a non-visible place in my gmail. Eventually, they quit writing.
posted by fake at 11:33 AM on November 11, 2012

Is calling God (or what have you) "the Source" associated with a cult? It seems like idiosyncratic phrasing and the rigid theological view suggests cultish thinking to me, too.
posted by gentian at 11:57 AM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had an ex who somehow found me and called to tell me that God will be punishing us because of the sinful nature of our past relationship. It is difficult to do what feels like abandoning someone with whom you were once so close, which is why the first few times she called, I thought I could help her and I tried to argue her out of her position. In the end, I had to make sure she could no longer call me. This choice felt horrible but it beat the alternatives. I suggest you do likewise.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:07 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not a cult apparently, just his obsessive reading on Eastern religions
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 12:27 PM on November 11, 2012

"The source" is from neo-Platonism. It's archaic, but it's not a cult thing. Sounds like an auto-didact that got caught in a rabbit hole from reading to much philosophy without proper context. The belief in predestination by god isn't a sign of being crazy, either. It's standard Protestant theology.
posted by empath at 1:06 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Belief in predestination isn't standard Protestant theology.

From a religious point of view, I would say that "The Source" this guy is referring to is actually the devil, although he may think it's God.

I would definitely take this to mean that evil forces are controlling his life, because this kind of reasoning is only going to keep him depressed. Depression will come out with all kinds of mumbo-jumbo to get you to submit to it, and it's pretty obvious that this "reasoning" is just the depression talking. It may coincidentally resemble stuff that philosophers and legitimate theologians have said, but it doesn't sound at all like he's speaking from his right mind.

I would suggest you do as Fee Phi Faux Phumb suggests. You can't really do much yourself, but you can direct him to qualified sources of help before you disengage.
posted by tel3path at 1:49 PM on November 11, 2012

posted by flabdablet at 12:48 AM on November 12, 2012

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