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Author Topic: Beaten Up on All Sides  (Read 1717 times)
Satori

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« on: January 09, 2013, 02:25:08 PM »

I'm the married mother of one young child. My FOO is rife with personality disorders, or at least very weird people displaying many of the characteristics.

I have one older sister. When we were little, our parents each "took" one of us -- she was our father's, I was our mother's. My mother pushed my sister away physically and emotionally and abandoned her to our father's perfectionistic rages, when he punished her abusively for not having just the right table manners and yelled at her if she needed help with her homework since she was supposed to understand everything perfectly right away, as he did. She was groomed to be an upwardly mobile high-flyer, and that is what she became. Me? I pretty much became my depressed mother's girlfriend/surrogate spouse/personal possession. She chased off any friends I managed to make, told me that my father hadn't wanted me and didn't love me, and sowed division and competition between my sister and me. She rarely let me go out and do things, partly out of overprotectiveness, partly because if she wasn't having fun, I wasn't going to have fun (she told me this). I was hers. She poured out her misery to me, telling me the most disgustingly inappropriate things that no adolescent should ever have to hear from a parent. She told me my father abused her. I developed a severe anxiety-related disorder at 15 and started to do bizarre things like washing my face till it bled and refusing to wear my glasses or contacts because I felt "safe" when I couldn't see people. I was failing all my classes. My father wanted to send me to a psychiatrist, but my mother refused. As far as I know, to this day she is perversely proud of having kept me away from mental health specialists. Somehow I made it through my illness, although I ended up having to stay in school an extra semester to make up for all the classes I flunked when I was non-functional -- something that greatly damaged my self-esteem and made it much harder for me to get into college, which in my family was considered an absolute must.

My sister moved away and got married and had little contact with us anymore. My mother decided to divorce my father, and when he refused to give her a divorce, she asked me to go to court with her as her witness. I saw my father as an abusive monster and was eager to publicly side with my best friend, the person I loved more than myself, my mother. She promised me that as part of the divorce settlement, she would get money to pay for me to go to college. That was a lie. She took the money that she won, bought herself a house, and would only pay for me to take a couple of classes. I did eventually manage to get a degree, but it took me eight years.

My mother quickly remarried to a man she had only known a few months, and became so wrapped up in her marriage that I only saw her once a year. My relationship with my sister consisted of her calling me to complain about how horrible our parents were to her, and then she would invariably pick a fight, accuse me of something vague, hang up on me and refuse to talk to me for a few months. We were living in the same city, so I did see her occasionally -- enough for her to mess up just about every major event in my life. If something good happened, she would mess it up; if something bad happened, she would make it worse. I learned not to try to get any sort of sympathy from her. Situations that would bring out compassion in most people brought out cruelty in her. Her rages became more frequent and more exaggerated, her touchiness weirder, and her intense, obsessive envy of me (for what?) more open and uglier. Finally, after one particularly stupid and ill-timed fight she tried to pick with me, I'd had it and told her not to call me again. That was just over a year ago, at the same time that our mother, divorced again and now an invalid, moved in with me.

Two days ago I got a message from our aunt asking for my phone number to give to my sister because she needed to talk to me about the nursing home our mother is trying to get into. It actually sounded important, so I sent the number, but fully expected to receive a torrent of abuse when she actually called. Indeed, that is what happened. Through the floods of tears and the wailing that she loved me and needed me back in her life, she also yelled at me, screaming at me for, among other things, coming to her apartment and saying "horrible things" to her 21 years ago, when I was still a teenager. I know I could be obnoxious as a kid, but I remember absolutely nothing of the sort -- no conflict yet. We got along that year, as far as I knew, and all my visits to her home were pleasant. But no -- according to her, I would say awful things that made her cry and cry.

All right, so it looks as though I'm going to have to deal with her again at least for a while until our mother is settled, but between the two of them I feel pretty beaten up. I have no idea what the best way is to handle my sister. I've never seen mood changes happen so fast; we can be getting along beautifully and then one innocent comment from me and she hates me and thinks I'm horrible.

I sent her an e-mail this morning apologizing for yelling at her when she called and asking her to please tell me what I said 21 years ago that hurt her so that I could explain and apologize. I have not gotten an answer yet. I feel as though she's inventing an incident to explain a feeling that has little to do with me.
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cartman1
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2013, 04:05:33 PM »

Hi Satori,

welcome aboard, these behaviors sound very familiar. The conversations you describe sound very hard to deal with for you. Remember that these conversations can have an effect on our mood and can leave us feeling a little low so remember to take care of yourself.  I have some tools here to help you to communicate with you Sister TOOLS: S.E.T. - Support, Empathy and Truth Is a very good one to start with.

When your Sister calls, is there any message in there that you spot?   
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Satori

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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2013, 05:17:36 PM »

Thank you for your kind reply, and my belated apologies for a post that is all over the place and probably confusing.

I've started reading the thread about SET and am curious to see how things will go if I implement it. But although it sounds like a good idea, the thought of having to do this also makes me angry. My sister never shows a crumb of empathy to me and is so self-centered that her tiny annoyances and inconveniences are always more important than someone else's crises, and she doesn't even seem aware that this is unreasonable. I've spent most of my life appeasing her and I am concerned that if I exert yet more energy in trying to be gentle and understanding toward her, I'll set myself back and lose what assertiveness and self-esteem I've gained since cutting her off. Yeah, I know, everybody here knows how unfair it is!

Do I spot a message when she calls? Do you mean, am I getting a feeling for a general theme in her fight-picking? Envy! Always envy! Always this belief that I'm getting something she's not getting, or that I think I'm better than she is in some way, however trivial, or that people are nicer to me and think better of me than they do of her ... .  It's ridiculous because all throughout my childhood I was compared unfavorably to her, but there it is -- she is terribly concerned that I or someone else might think I'm better or that I might have more goodies than she does.
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cartman1
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2013, 06:03:06 PM »

Your first post wasn't confusing at all to be honest. I think when we start posting our mind wants to get out so much that it can seem like we are writing jumbled notes, however your post reads fine.

I understand what you mean when you say the idea of speaking to your sister using S.E.T. makes you angry, when I first tried it I didn't want to because I didn't want to make the first move as I seen it as loosing a battle but I didn't because as soon as I did it I did something called validation which meant that for the first time instead of having a "I've got a headache, you've got a headache, the whole worlds got a headache" conversation we had a "You've got a headache, here have some pain killers and a glass of water." conversation. You see I solved her problem using S.E.T. I validated that emotion that was hurting her. Here is a workshop on validation Communication using validation. What it is; how to do it If you deal with her feelings then the circular discussions don't begin and your feelings down get hurt either, so you both win.

When you say that your Sister is being envious of you then I suspect that your sister is entering a conversation as a 'victim' in the Karpman triangle (not to be confused with Cartman, that's me!) Here are some lessons. I suggest you read the Karpman Triangle lesson to see how that works. There is a lot there so even if you read a little and then keep posting. Posting helps! Coping when a Family Member has BPD Lessons/Survivor's Guide to Childhood Abuse
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Satori

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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2013, 07:07:26 PM »

Wow. Thanks for that. I read the article and immediately recognized myself as rescuer, my sister as persecutor, and my mother as victim. What a relief to see that this is a recognizable pattern.
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cartman1
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2013, 07:26:08 PM »

Yeah, what we need to remember though is that these are only our starting roles. The roles are Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer. We may start in one position, but as another (or others) shift around the triangle, so do we. Remember the Victim starts in a position one down from the rest and when they switch, and they always do! Then someone else will fill the role of Victim. The best thing to do is to step out of the Triangle and see yourself as an 'Equal' in the conversation.
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Satori

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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2013, 07:57:01 PM »

Yes, I do see how we move around the triangle like children playing "Here We Go 'round the Mulberry Bush". But how do you step off the triangle?
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cartman1
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« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2013, 05:33:26 PM »

For me. I decided that I would speak to my wife as an equal. When she started speaking to me like a victim I just stood there and listened. It was quite insulting but I thought to myself that she see's the world as a negative place, obviously everything she see's will be perceived as bad. Then I ignored the manipulation and she stormed off. Then she came back and I asked her to talk to me so I used S.E.T. when she told me her feeling. Since then I have found that more and more that she will just tell me how she is feeling and then I validate. I've read that you have to take yourself to the position of rescuer and then speak in a non judgmental tone. This is harder than it sounds at first but it really works well, if it doesn't work at first then just keep going. I guess they crave it really. 
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GeekyGirl
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Gender: Female
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Parent
Relationship status: Married
Posts: 2816



« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2013, 06:16:12 PM »

Hi Satori and welcome! 

What you've described sounds like a classic Karpman Triangle or triangulation, as cartman said. It can be very frustrating for sure. There have been some good discussions on Karpman Triangles here. This workshop can give you a little more insight into triangulation: https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=108440.0.

You've come to the right place to find people who understand what you're going through. Please feel free to jump into the conversation!

-GG
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