It’s important to offer your mother a sympathetic haven from your father’s apocalyptic ideas, counsels Mariella Frostrup

The dilemma My father believes the world is going to end. He’s bought a house in the most isolated part of Ireland he could find, without consulting my mother. He now intends to live there and await the apocalypse, which he thinks will soon engulf the rest of the world. He’s trying to force her to go with him. I’ve seen how he uses conspiracy theories almost as a form of emotional abuse, verbally haranguing her until she agrees with anything he says, and now I’m afraid he’s trying to isolate her from the rest of the world. I know she really doesn’t want to live there, but I don’t know how to broach the subject with either of them. 

Mariella replies That’s certainly not a pretty picture. Enduring, let alone trying to understand, the dysfunctional dynamics between parents can be one of the toughest trials of growing up. You seem to have recognised an unpleasant and worrying element to your parents’ relationship but give me little clue as to whether this bullying is an unwelcome new aspect or a long-standing element of their marriage. I’m trying to understand whether the increased paranoia about world events predates his brutish behaviour towards your mum or is a further manifestation of an increasingly troubled mind.

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