In this guide, we will discuss the impact of having a narcissistic sister or sibling, what are the signs and how to cope with them.
How do I know if I have a Narcissistic Sister?
Probably you think you have a narcissistic sister but, How can you be sure? For narcissists, their siblings are their first source of their “narcissistic supply”, especially because being a child puts you on a “vulnerable” spot and you become an easy target for your narcissistic sister in their desperate attempt to “search for psychological cohesion and consolidation of their disordered beliefs” (Bridges Of Recovery).
Probably you have noticed some strange behaviors in your sibling but knowing for sure if you have a narcissistic sister can be quite challenging. However, let’s avoid jumping into conclusions or diagnosing them at this moment.
Moreover, it is more empowering to understand the concept of being narcissistic than just finding a label to it and one of the biggest benefits would be having a choice to protect yourself from harm or to start a healing process if there is already pain and resentment involved.
Then, it becomes necessary to know the criteria for a narcissistic personality disorder based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5 especially because it is believed that there are many people in the world that have some of the traits but do not fulfill the full diagnostic criteria.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Someone can be diagnosed with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder if they exhibit 5 or more of the following criteria, present in early adulthood and across contexts:
- Grandiosity or sense of self-importance
- Constantly fantasize of unlimited success, power, beauty or ideal love
- Believing they are special and can only be understood by others that are also special
- A constant need for admiration and attention
- They have a sense of entitlement to be treated differently because they are special
- Manipulating others for personal gain
- Lack of empathy or recognizing other people’s emotions
- They are envious of others or believe others envy them
- They are arrogant and have haughty attitudes/behaviors
However, remember that the presence of certain narcissistic traits during adolescence does not mean that someone has or will have a narcissistic personality disorder throughout their adult life.
The narcissistic Cycle of Abuse among siblings
Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor by the State of Florida and she explains there is a narcissistic cycle of abuse among siblings that is important to take into consideration:
- Feels Threatened: narcissists get repeatedly upset over the same underlying issues, either if the issue is real or imagined. They tend to obsess over the perceived threat over and over again.
- Abuses Others: abuse from narcissists can be physical, emotional, verbal, financial, spiritual or sexual. The abuse can last a few minutes or even hours where sometimes they can use more than one form of abuse.
- Becomes the Victim: narcissists will try to become the victim by making you feel guilty about your behavior towards them where you end up agreeing and accepting the guilt when you are actually not the one to blame so instead of being the victim you become the abuser.
- Feels Empowered: once you give out to their arguments and you agree to do what they say then they feel empowered and in control of you and the situation.
Tips for coping with a Narcissistic Sister or Family Member
Dealing with a narcissistic sister or a family member for that matter can be quite exhausting and it can become very tiresome when you don’t see any benefit in return from your affection or your patience towards them. Let’s analyze some coping tips or strategies according to Bill Eddy LCSW, JD, a lawyer, and therapist Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego.
Tip 1: Avoid calling them “Narcissists”
You will always feel tempted to call them “narcissists” but it is something that can eventually backfire and make things worse. When you call someone a narcissist you are trying to make them conscious about the hurt and damage they are causing in an attempt to make them stop, however, since they can’t relate to other peoples emotions or be empathic then they will try to make you feel as if you are the one with the problem and not them.
They are known to be quite good at it so don’t waste your time and energy trying to make them see their mistake or wrongdoing, no matter how constructive and understanding you might be. You are not going to make them feel guilty or have a little remorse about it and in the process, you might end up making your interaction or relationship with them even worse.
For instance, Bill Eddy gives us his insight on the matter: I know of cases in which an adult child angrily confronted a parent by telling them they had a narcissistic personality disorder. After that, the parent kept dropping by their house uninvited to say, “What you said about me just isn’t true. Now apologize to me or I’ll keep coming back until you do. After all, I’ve done for you, I can’t believe how ungrateful you are!”.
Tip 2: Avoid arguing with them
Think twice when arguing with a narcissistic sister or family member, it doesn’t help at all. As we discussed, they will not have any insight on your feedback and they will only see things as “black or white”, there are no grey areas making you feel as it is your fault in the end and they are just the victim. They tend to make everyone see how they are victims in life and how other people treat them so unfairly without any recognition that they are the primary source of the problem.
Arguing with them can only make them shift into high gear of defensiveness instead of understanding where you are coming from and that you may be right.
A narcissistic sister may display certain behaviors in a subtle way, where they will make comments about how intelligent or smart she is, this with the only purpose of feeling superior as they think they are. Moreover, a narcissistic sister or relative can keep going on and on non-stop with their observations and criticisms, making you feel powerless and diminished.
Tip 3: Focus on choices
A narcissistic sister may complain about everything in her life and will insist on how people treat them in such an unfair and disrespectful way, making you see how other people owe her respect.
She will also won’t see how her behavior influences how others avoid her or criticize her in return. If your sister is talking to you in this manner, simply give her choices in this situation. For instance, “That’s too bad. Sounds like you might want to put your energy somewhere else, or realize that so-and-so isn’t going to give you what you want. You always have a choice of what to do or who to be around. Good luck with that.”
As Bill Eddy also explains “at the same time, it helps to know that you have choices, too. Being around a narcissist can be emotionally draining and trigger unnecessary self-criticism. You can choose to avoid them, limit your time together, or have someone else with you when you are around the person”.
From a psychological perspective, if you feel you have a choice or choices and that you can choose to set limits, it helps you to feel less stressed.
Tip 4: Set boundaries
Probably you won’t be able to control your narcissistic sister’s behavior but you have the ability to control yours. Don’t engage in trying to change them, instead, try to look at ways on how you can change. Find ways to tolerate her narcissistic behavior. For instance, she will constantly demand attention and insult you or even your parents, going over established family rules and manipulating decision-making, however, you don’t have to agree or cooperate.
You can remove yourself from the situation or avoid participating in their actions against you or others by simply saying you won’t tolerate their behavior and you don’t agree with her.
Tip 5: Get support and consultation from a professional
You don’t have to feel alone when dealing with a narcissistic sister or a family member. Your own self-esteem may be negatively impacted so far due to the constant insults, criticisms, and humiliation. However, with the support of friends or professionals such as counselors, lawyers, and others, you can get a fresh and positive perspective on how you don’t have to feel embarrassed.
Narcissists are very good at making you believe you are going crazy and you are the one with the problem, not them. This can make you feel so ashamed that you won’t even dare to speak about it with people outside your family, however, it is important to understand that your sister or a relative is suffering from a disorder they don’t really understand, are not aware of and didn’t ask to have.
Talking about it will lift the weight of your shoulders, especially when communicating your feeling to a therapist or a professional who can eventually give you advise and possibly a course of action for you to follow. In some cases, it might be necessary to cut ties but on may other occasions, you can leat how to distant yourself emotionally so it won’t affect you as much as it used to.
Why is this blog about narcissistic sister important?
Identifying a narcissistic sister is not easy, especially because they tend to make you believe you are the one with the problem, manipulating and turning people against you. This is part of their abusive pattern and you might not be aware of the abuse because you are caught within the dynamic, however, once you make it conscious and you realize it is not a normal interaction then you can actually do something to change your situation.
It is not easy to take the first step into talking to someone about how you feel when dealing with a narcissistic sister or family member, but there are many organizations and resources that provide support from abusive narcissistic behavior to help you start your healing process and provide assistance on how to deal with a narcissistic family member.
Please feel free to comment in the comments section below!
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about narcissistic sister
- The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment
- Narcissistic Family: Start your Road to Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse and Toxic Relationships with Parents Suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- (e)Scapegoat Child: A Guide on how to break out of the Role as the Scapegoat Child in a Narcissistic Family
- Removing Generational Curses: Healing From Narcissistic Family
- Narcissistic Fathers: Dealing with a Self-Absorbed Father and Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
What we recommend for personality disorders
- If you are suffering from a personality disorder then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.