Father perceives strangers in extremely negative light; help me understand/diagnose

Jan 2022
2
2
Scotland
Hi all.

My dad is in his late 50s, having grown up in a time where being a hard-man, or at least acting like one, was the done thing. He was never fully into this, but it certainly forms a little part of his persona. I'd say he's around average intelligence. He quite enjoys video games as a pastime, among a couple of other, also quite solitary pastimes.

We play competitive video-games online together, and while he really enjoys this and keeps coming back to it even when I know it frustrates him, it's shown me his true colours in ways that are distancing me from him. I play video-games in addition to the sessions we play together, so I can take it or leave it. I partly play to provide support for him, because I know he enjoys it more when we both play; we have more success.

The game we play requires cooperation within a team of 5 players, against an opposing 5. There are certain standards of communication and teamwork, some of which players can dislike, but they're just 'the way it goes', so you have to put up with them. In other words, you can't get away with doing exactly as you want in a particular game session.

I've put hours and hours of time into being patient with him, giving advice and tutoring on the game that I know is very tailored to him (online guides etc. would frustrate him, and I know him well, therefore I can teach him things as well as anyone).

Despite this assistance, and my presence, a few things happen:

- He often defies my advice subtly/silently, which I think is in a belief that there are other, more inventive ways to win, but because he still really doesn't grasp the basics but thinks he does, these inventions end up just getting him into more trouble. He'll be going rogue, essentially, to avoid having to cooperate more with other people, I think.
- He constantly makes excuses, which he forgets won't fool me because I know the game well; essentially, white-lies when my focus is directed elsewhere in the match; that isn't helpful, and he doesn't need to defend himself, we're there to learn and improve together.
- He argues with other players, over increasingly smaller and smaller issues.

This last point is the one that I can no longer stomach. If I've been absent from games, when we get together again and he tells me how badly they went, he describes how much the other players would rage and argue. But I'm starting to see that lately, players committing deeds that are seen as nearly negligible in the game's community, he jumps on as if they're forbidden and criminal. (Mind you, this is a behaviour that other hot-headed players also exhibit, so he's partly just adopted the trend in nastiness of a few other players, although I wish he'd be more constructive than that). This is where his perception of strangers' intent comes in. There's a feature of the game that can be used to warn other players, or attract their attention, called a 'ping'. That plays a sound, and in a sense, it can be construed as an instruction, a demand, a plea, a good suggestion, a bad suggestion, and so on. It's open to interpretation. Players often ping more than once, in a kind of quick repetition, for emphasis. These pings can become quite frequent and noisy in a match, and that's been consistent since he started playing, so something's changing that makes him perceive the human element much more critically than before. But now, if someone pings him, he'll say things like "no need to ping me, I know". That would be a polite response. On worse occasions, it'll be "STOP that ping spamming boy", just as the game begins, setting a portion of the team up for an argument or for refusal to want to get along and make strategic moves together. However, meanwhile, I'm performing repetitive pings of a similar nature, sometimes to him, and often to other players - it's part of the game. He has no problem with my insistent strategy calls, or at least he doesn't voice that he does. Sometimes he'll sigh at occasional repetitive suggestions I might make, but essentially, while I'm afforded a huge amount of leeway, and he'd occasionally get annoyed at other players, the bar has now been set that if they do even the slightest thing to annoy him, he'll sit them down for a lecture, rather than try to brush off the event (an event that 99% of other players of a wide age range of 15-60 can move past) and consider, for example, that the consequences of this argument are that the 45 minutes (roughly one match length) of our limited time together is tarred, and instead of us combining forces to win the match, he's downed tools to argue with someone, limiting both him and the other one or more teammates in a way that often voids the potential for a successful or enjoyable match. But in his mind, they've already ruined it, as they were first to act.

I'm aware that this seems a lot like a post just about video-game woes, but it's easy to imagine that, should a similar real world scenario present itself, there could be a similar vibe. Some of this behaviour of his come through in the real world too, and since I live quite far away from him, I sometimes wonder how much of a problem these things cause in the parts of his life that I don't see - his new partner, his work, things like that. He used to talk about his colleagues and work problems when he was in a previous line of work, and I was suspicious that he was actually the problem. Some of the experiences in this game I'm talking about, I feel, almost provide an insight into the work stories. It's about being over-sensitive to what he thinks is others' intent, and once he finds a minor factor that irks him, he becomes uncooperative.

I'm not just out to moan and criticise. The main problem for me here, is that when we started out playing around 3 or 4 years ago, things were fresh, and he had a great attitude, and things are just getting worse and worse and I miss the previous fun we had. I'm improving in the game, I basically never get into arguments, I'm enjoying it as much as ever, but I feel like he's on a path to a kind of rock bottom where he won't be able to see how he's part of the problem now, and his own actions are hurting him 70-30 now, as opposed to it being 30-70 where he sees negativity and has to ignore it. Now, he is the negativity, primarily. I know that if I highlight this outside of a game, all at once, it might create a lot of friction, as it might seem like a psychoanalysis (and actually, it would be, but in an ideal world that should be okay, because I mean well). On the other hand though, just passing comments inside of matches, like 'can we please just play this couple of matches without arguing this time', won't be hard-hitting enough and he'll still have a miserable time as soon as I leave and he plays a few more matches without me. I don't just want to adjust the games we play together, I want him to get out of this poisonous rut.

- Does anyone have similar stories, that will quell my frustration or allow me to relate?
- Does anyone know what personality traits or conditions this sounds like, so that I can read more and understand better?
- Does anyone have any suggestions for how to approach my Dad, with an aim to persuading him that he's exhibiting what feels almost like a hatred for people, that I believe is brash and unjustified?

Thanks - looking forward to chatting!
 
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Aug 2021
213
119
Austin, TX
As far as experience, I have none, as I am too old to have gotten into the online video game craze. I do know that people are not the same person online that they are in reality. It may be time for him to get out of the virtual world for a while and enjoy the real world around him. You could help hem do that, by going on a walk with him when you two are together rather than playing a video game. See if you can engage him in real world activities rather than the virtual world. Your time together is finite, spend as much time with him and get to know him better as a person rather than a virtual character. He will resist you at first, because he has come to get his relationship rewards from the two of you playing virtual games together. Steer him toward real games, there are many really good ones out there now that allow you to talk as parent child or even as equals. In the long end game you will cherish these times more even than the times you spend playing virtual games. Even gin rummy allows for conversation as you play...
Good luck,
Ivery
 
Jul 2021
618
79
London
Hi all.

My dad is in his late 50s, having grown up in a time where being a hard-man, or at least acting like one, was the done thing. He was never fully into this, but it certainly forms a little part of his persona. I'd say he's around average intelligence. He quite enjoys video games as a pastime, among a couple of other, also quite solitary pastimes.

We play competitive video-games online together, and while he really enjoys this and keeps coming back to it even when I know it frustrates him, it's shown me his true colours in ways that are distancing me from him. I play video-games in addition to the sessions we play together, so I can take it or leave it. I partly play to provide support for him, because I know he enjoys it more when we both play; we have more success.

The game we play requires cooperation within a team of 5 players, against an opposing 5. There are certain standards of communication and teamwork, some of which players can dislike, but they're just 'the way it goes', so you have to put up with them. In other words, you can't get away with doing exactly as you want in a particular game session.

I've put hours and hours of time into being patient with him, giving advice and tutoring on the game that I know is very tailored to him (online guides etc. would frustrate him, and I know him well, therefore I can teach him things as well as anyone).

Despite this assistance, and my presence, a few things happen:

- He often defies my advice subtly/silently, which I think is in a belief that there are other, more inventive ways to win, but because he still really doesn't grasp the basics but thinks he does, these inventions end up just getting him into more trouble. He'll be going rogue, essentially, to avoid having to cooperate more with other people, I think.
- He constantly makes excuses, which he forgets won't fool me because I know the game well; essentially, white-lies when my focus is directed elsewhere in the match; that isn't helpful, and he doesn't need to defend himself, we're there to learn and improve together.
- He argues with other players, over increasingly smaller and smaller issues.

This last point is the one that I can no longer stomach. If I've been absent from games, when we get together again and he tells me how badly they went, he describes how much the other players would rage and argue. But I'm starting to see that lately, players committing deeds that are seen as nearly negligible in the game's community, he jumps on as if they're forbidden and criminal. (Mind you, this is a behaviour that other hot-headed players also exhibit, so he's partly just adopted the trend in nastiness of a few other players, although I wish he'd be more constructive than that). This is where his perception of strangers' intent comes in. There's a feature of the game that can be used to warn other players, or attract their attention, called a 'ping'. That plays a sound, and in a sense, it can be construed as an instruction, a demand, a plea, a good suggestion, a bad suggestion, and so on. It's open to interpretation. Players often ping more than once, in a kind of quick repetition, for emphasis. These pings can become quite frequent and noisy in a match, and that's been consistent since he started playing, so something's changing that makes him perceive the human element much more critically than before. But now, if someone pings him, he'll say things like "no need to ping me, I know". That would be a polite response. On worse occasions, it'll be "STOP that ping spamming boy", just as the game begins, setting a portion of the team up for an argument or for refusal to want to get along and make strategic moves together. However, meanwhile, I'm performing repetitive pings of a similar nature, sometimes to him, and often to other players - it's part of the game. He has no problem with my insistent strategy calls, or at least he doesn't voice that he does. Sometimes he'll sigh at occasional repetitive suggestions I might make, but essentially, while I'm afforded a huge amount of leeway, and he'd occasionally get annoyed at other players, the bar has now been set that if they do even the slightest thing to annoy him, he'll sit them down for a lecture, rather than try to brush off the event (an event that 99% of other players of a wide age range of 15-60 can move past) and consider, for example, that the consequences of this argument are that the 45 minutes (roughly one match length) of our limited time together is tarred, and instead of us combining forces to win the match, he's downed tools to argue with someone, limiting both him and the other one or more teammates in a way that often voids the potential for a successful or enjoyable match. But in his mind, they've already ruined it, as they were first to act.

I'm aware that this seems a lot like a post just about video-game woes, but it's easy to imagine that, should a similar real world scenario present itself, there could be a similar vibe. Some of this behaviour of his come through in the real world too, and since I live quite far away from him, I sometimes wonder how much of a problem these things cause in the parts of his life that I don't see - his new partner, his work, things like that. He used to talk about his colleagues and work problems when he was in a previous line of work, and I was suspicious that he was actually the problem. Some of the experiences in this game I'm talking about, I feel, almost provide an insight into the work stories. It's about being over-sensitive to what he thinks is others' intent, and once he finds a minor factor that irks him, he becomes uncooperative.

I'm not just out to moan and criticise. The main problem for me here, is that when we started out playing around 3 or 4 years ago, things were fresh, and he had a great attitude, and things are just getting worse and worse and I miss the previous fun we had. I'm improving in the game, I basically never get into arguments, I'm enjoying it as much as ever, but I feel like he's on a path to a kind of rock bottom where he won't be able to see how he's part of the problem now, and his own actions are hurting him 70-30 now, as opposed to it being 30-70 where he sees negativity and has to ignore it. Now, he is the negativity, primarily. I know that if I highlight this outside of a game, all at once, it might create a lot of friction, as it might seem like a psychoanalysis (and actually, it would be, but in an ideal world that should be okay, because I mean well). On the other hand though, just passing comments inside of matches, like 'can we please just play this couple of matches without arguing this time', won't be hard-hitting enough and he'll still have a miserable time as soon as I leave and he plays a few more matches without me. I don't just want to adjust the games we play together, I want him to get out of this poisonous rut.

- Does anyone have similar stories, that will quell my frustration or allow me to relate?
- Does anyone know what personality traits or conditions this sounds like, so that I can read more and understand better?
- Does anyone have any suggestions for how to approach my Dad, with an aim to persuading him that he's exhibiting what feels almost like a hatred for people, that I believe is brash and unjustified?

Thanks - looking forward to chatting!
It could be normal behaviour stemming from trauma or could be high functioning autistic (who was raised being distrustful of strangers), or highly sensitive too. One trait doesn't help diagnosis. It makes sense, socially, to perceive strangers as dangerous as you don't know them, how do you know they are good or bad? And that has nothing to do with being extroverted or introverted either. I am extroverted but I do find some strangers dangerous. Many low functioning autistic are trusty of people. The HSP is also trusty of people to certain limits, especially in the first periods of life, etc., and then we learn too.
 
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Jan 2022
2
2
Scotland
Thanks!

@IveryKeys, we do live a distance apart, so walks and local games are only possible 2 or 3 times a year, so the online games thing is a hobby that we both separately have, and it theoretically should be fine for us to play together. I play the same game, and other games, constructively with other friends.

@Usedandabused I get what you're saying - there's a natural element in perceiving strangers as dangerous. The issue here is that a huge proportion of other players are treating these elements of the game as neutral, and taking what information they can, from the interactions. Someone might slightly incessantly perform these pings I'm talking about, simply for emphasis - exactly like a player in your football team shouting "MAN ON!" when someone's about to tackle you. The issue is that my Dad is gravitating towards a new response for this kind of cooperation, focusing on the idea that the person has done him a serious service, insulting him, having considered him incapable of noticing that there's a 'man on' by himself. That's a serious series of leaps to make, especially when the end result is that you now dislike your team, 30 seconds into a 30-45 minute period.

Sure, everybody naturally sometimes assumes ill-intent on the part of the stranger, or is bitter about certain things, but to turn those fleeting thoughts into a larger, public issue, is detrimental in the real world or the virtual. He does actually realise that, I know he does, because he used to display grievance and frustration at the small proportion of other players that do similar things in matches because they'd rather criticise their teammates for any imperfect performance from the outset. The point is that he's become the 'moaning child' that he used to say was ruining all the previous games.

In the real world and the virtual, you have to be able to describe others' micro-behaviours in a way that gives them the benefit of the doubt, especially when not doing so has a high chance of costing and being a detriment you, personally (in this case, you lose the fun of a normal match, regardless of the end result win/loss, because you're happy to open with an argument over nothing instead).

A slightly loud-mouthed player on your football team is possibly just 'energetic', 'passionate', 'not completely informed', 'exhibiting behaviours that are widely accepted in this environment'. Or, you could label them 'selfish', 'arrogant', 'aggressive', 'an asshole', 'ruining the game', 'causing us to lose the game'. You can rationalise that small action they've performed, as anything from angelic to satanic. As you've said, @Usedandabused, you don't know if they're good or bad yet. But they have been assigned as your teammates, for the time being. This is a scenario where, temporarily, you're supposed to cooperate with strangers.

I'm essentially passing comment on many people, here, not just my Dad. I don't know the statistics on how many humans are capable of any kind of social and cooperative sport or game in the physical world. It's easy to assume it's 99% of people, but maybe that's not the case. There's obviously the anonymity aspect online, where someone feels more keen to act on a tiny frustration they experience. What bothers me is the lack of common sense and the lack of that tiny bit of foresight needed, to remember how these situations played out previously, sometimes as recently as the previous game just 45 minutes prior, where the same thing happened, and a whole 45 minutes was wasted. This might be harsh, but I think a blunt explanation is that there's a near-subconscious decision made at that point, where he says to himself, "I need to put this stranger in his place for this tiny, essentially non-infringing action, even at considerable cost to me and, sadly, my son, who's taken the time out to play this match, which I know he prefers to do positively and constructively."
 
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Jul 2021
618
79
London
Thanks!

@IveryKeys, we do live a distance apart, so walks and local games are only possible 2 or 3 times a year, so the online games thing is a hobby that we both separately have, and it theoretically should be fine for us to play together. I play the same game, and other games, constructively with other friends.

@Usedandabused I get what you're saying - there's a natural element in perceiving strangers as dangerous. The issue here is that a huge proportion of other players are treating these elements of the game as neutral, and taking what information they can, from the interactions. Someone might slightly incessantly perform these pings I'm talking about, simply for emphasis - exactly like a player in your football team shouting "MAN ON!" when someone's about to tackle you. The issue is that my Dad is gravitating towards a new response for this kind of cooperation, focusing on the idea that the person has done him a serious service, insulting him, having considered him incapable of noticing that there's a 'man on' by himself. That's a serious series of leaps to make, especially when the end result is that you now dislike your team, 30 seconds into a 30-45 minute period.

Sure, everybody naturally sometimes assumes ill-intent on the part of the stranger, or is bitter about certain things, but to turn those fleeting thoughts into a larger, public issue, is detrimental in the real world or the virtual. He does actually realise that, I know he does, because he used to display grievance and frustration at the small proportion of other players that do similar things in matches because they'd rather criticise their teammates for any imperfect performance from the outset. The point is that he's become the 'moaning child' that he used to say was ruining all the previous games.

In the real world and the virtual, you have to be able to describe others' micro-behaviours in a way that gives them the benefit of the doubt, especially when not doing so has a high chance of costing and being a detriment you, personally (in this case, you lose the fun of a normal match, regardless of the end result win/loss, because you're happy to open with an argument over nothing instead).

A slightly loud-mouthed player on your football team is possibly just 'energetic', 'passionate', 'not completely informed', 'exhibiting behaviours that are widely accepted in this environment'. Or, you could label them 'selfish', 'arrogant', 'aggressive', 'an asshole', 'ruining the game', 'causing us to lose the game'. You can rationalise that small action they've performed, as anything from angelic to satanic. As you've said, @Usedandabused, you don't know if they're good or bad yet. But they have been assigned as your teammates, for the time being. This is a scenario where, temporarily, you're supposed to cooperate with strangers.

I'm essentially passing comment on many people, here, not just my Dad. I don't know the statistics on how many humans are capable of any kind of social and cooperative sport or game in the physical world. It's easy to assume it's 99% of people, but maybe that's not the case. There's obviously the anonymity aspect online, where someone feels more keen to act on a tiny frustration they experience. What bothers me is the lack of common sense and the lack of that tiny bit of foresight needed, to remember how these situations played out previously, sometimes as recently as the previous game just 45 minutes prior, where the same thing happened, and a whole 45 minutes was wasted. This might be harsh, but I think a blunt explanation is that there's a near-subconscious decision made at that point, where he says to himself, "I need to put this stranger in his place for this tiny, essentially non-infringing action, even at considerable cost to me and, sadly, my son, who's taken the time out to play this match, which I know he prefers to do positively and constructively."
People who don't perceive others as dangerous is because they are either dangerous themselves, or never experienced dangerous people, and good for them, but to invalidate those who have is a bit ridiculous to be honest. Some use these tactics to get away with crime, imagine how many Irish psychopaths have done so? If you are a male then you'll get defended, if you are a female, noone will defend you, so actually psychopathy is harsher on females, because some women want you to get in trouble, even if you've already been in trouble. Women like that, are not women and are best avoided, likewise, bad men should be avoided. If being a psychopath is what pays off, then you are right, but not everyone is like that. And I knew there was this Irish person in the US who advertises psychopathy and how he is great for being a psychopath, but the fact of the matter is these people suck. Hopefully the law will catch them eventually.
 
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Jul 2021
618
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London
Well, some behaviours just make you feel like something is wrong, unless you were being manipulated by a third party who badmouthed them I guess, too. Sometimes it becomes habit too. For instance when you are surrounded by unempathetic people you might absorb all their negativity and begin to think the world isn't so great either, in reality, you must separate your feelings with theirs. I was born in not such a great place where I experienced quite some hatred since youth, and thus, I am more skeptical of people in general, but it won't mean everyone will be bad. Generally I try to remain professional even if I suffer or vent anonymously online lol! I guess some other people don't react that way, and prefer to act on their feelings or thoughts and that is not good either. But there are bad people out there. I think difficulties make you realise how bad some people really are, but yes it won't mean everyone is bad, however, you try the best you can, when you have to protect your family and presume that's what your dad is doing.
 
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