I’ve recently decided (as much as one can with a bachelor of science in psychology) that my brother quite possibly suffers from narcissitic personality disorder. I have shared this revelation with a few people now, who know him but who I can trust not to say anything to him or my family. And all of them agree. One went “holy shit. That’s him.” Two of them were like “you didn’t know that already?”
He thinks he is better than everyone else yet does nothing to back that up. He’s a blue collar worker obsessed with being a star and expects to live by a different set of rules. He is talented but expects to be treated as if he is a rock star and if you do not admire him or play by his rules there is something wrong with you and you are the enemy. The amount of times I was in the middle of something and forced to stop and perform as his willing audience – or the family dinners where if I didn’t sit and give him the attention he was due… things erupted in violence. He believes all his failed attempts at fame are everybody else’s fault. The record labels, the industry as a whole, his band mates or managers. And while yes they did play a role, there is no way all four attempts fell apart and had nothing to do with him. His side of the story is the only side you’ll ever hear – he is incapable of putting himself in anybody else’s shoes. The attitude of entitlement – that he is entitled to my space and my things, to be a groomsman after never deserving it. That he is doing me a favor by gracing me with his presence. Being arrogant and envious and expecting special favors simply because he exists. Low self esteem and feeling like he has the right to punish people who don’t play along with him – and having a complete inability to empathize or recognize the needs of others and that sometimes they may come first.
I’m still doing research, but it’s pretty clear that I was majorly affected by this growing up. Symptoms of a family affected by someone with NPD include not feeling like you are able to be yourself (check), being labeled selfish for having your own needs (check), experiencing a lack of empathy towards you (check), accused of being uncaring or unloving if you don’t put the narcissist first (check). Lies perpetrated and believed to make you out to be the family scapegoat (check). You are expected to act like the parent and take on responsibility that is out of line for your role (check). Poor and inappropriate boundaries – intrusiveness, having abuse normalized, externalization of the issues onto you for pointing things out (check). Ongoing scapegoating, criticism, attacks, blaming, shaming, and shunning used as methods of control by the narcissist and their allies (check). Pressure on you to make the family look good to outsiders (check). Your accomplishments ignored, minimized or even criticized unless they make the narcissist or family look good (check). You are made to feel crazy, as only you (victim/scapegoat) can often see who the narcissist truly is – they are charming to others outside of the family. You are ostracized, accused, punished and criticized for the narcissists behaviour (triple check).
My brother is a narcissist. I am a victim, a scapegoat. More importantly I’m starting to believe because of what I’m reading that this can’t be changed – that I can’t change him and despite what I was told I never would be able to and it’s not my responsibility to. That the reason we can’t have a meaningful relationship isn’t on me – a loving and balanced relationship serves no purpose to him, and he simply cannot love me. His lack of love for me isn’t personal. But he is never going to hear what I have to say. I am always going to be the bad guy to him – our inability to form a healthy relationship will always be my fault in his eyes.
I was always a part of a competition I never signed up for.
No matter how much he tries to make me feel responsible for his actions, I am not. Choosing self control and refusing to act in an abusive manner is an adult responsibility. It was always framed to me that he had to try so hard to be normal outside of the home that we had to let him be himself when he was at home – no matter what form that took. When really, family deserves to have the best of you, not the worst of you.
So keeping in line with these most recent revelations, is today’s email. He sent it to me (he can’t text me anymore, I blocked his number, I refuse to be afraid of my phone). It accuses me of using my niece to get Instagram likes. That I am using her. And told me I have to go through him to get to her. And that I can’t even wish them a Merry Christmas but I can post on Instagram (9 days ago, by the way). For the record, I have always been allowed to post photos of her. I’ve checked with her mother and have never been told otherwise. I spoke to my SIL last week, after the photo, and she said nothing about it.
Reaction One was the same as normal – freak out. I did something wrong. Feel guilty, get defensive. Write an email back. Say things like “she’s as much my niece as she is your daughter, which is not at all” (he’s not her bio Dad). Draft hurtful things and defensive things and put my SIL in the middle by saying I ran all this by her (which is true). I wished them a Merry Christmas but not him. Why would I? He asked me to stay out of his life. This was followed quickly by a ‘where is the alcohol’ moment.
Reaction Two was to delete the email draft, take a few breaths, and run it by three people I trust. Dave made me laugh. He’s in Vietnam and texted me about it. My husband is simply done with this shit. And my bff was like “wtf” and made me laugh too. At this point I’m thinking about taking an Ativan. Ultimately I round out to my own conclusion.
Reaction Three is that this is textbook narcissistic behaviour. First, he isn’t a groomsman and doesn’t get what he feels he is owed by his birthright. So he punishes me, by cutting me off. He then tries to go through my mom (his flying monkey/ally) to get to me, multiple times. I hear how sad he is and how I need to be less stubborn. I don’t bite. I continue to ignore him. But now, I’m still not doing what he wants me to do. I haven’t begged for access to his life. I haven’t apologized. So instead of maintaining the no contact that he asked for and requested he continues to email me. What does he want? A response. What am I going to give him? Nothing.
I am not going to be petty but I am also not going to be bowled over. I will post pictures I want to post when I want to post them unless my SIL takes issue with it. I have so much written evidence of his assholery it isn’t even funny, and all he has from me is the one text asking him to leave me alone. I ask myself after every interaction or not interaction with him if I can be proud of my choices. And I can here. I can.
It’s a long road to untangling this, but there is 355 days before I need to see him again, and in that time I will practice the best ways to respond to a narcissist. I have a name for it. I have a name for it.
He’s back – and that’s fine. But I’m not playing this time. I’m done with games. I’m done with people who cannot respect me.
I’m putting up my mother fucking boundaries.