Navigating Life with a Narcissistic Sibling

Navigating Life with a Narcissistic Sibling narcissistic sibling

When one or some of your siblings display heavy narcissistic tendencies, it can feel like being stuck on a dance floor where you keep getting your toes stepped on but can’t seem to walk away. Why? Because it’s your brother or sister, and that bond runs deep — like, really deep.

You know how they normally say, “You can choose your friends but not your family?” Well, that hits very differently when you’re dealing with a narcissistic sibling. It’s not just some random person you can cut out of your life — it’s someone who’s been there since day one. It’s someone who knows all your childhood secrets, was there on your first day of school, and witnessed your first heartbreak. They know your first… well, almost everything.

Strong Trauma Bond

You may have grown apart over the years, but those memories and those familial ties strengthen that trauma bond. And that’s what makes dealing with a narcissistic sibling so complicated. You’ve got this shared history, these memories that strongly tie you together like an invisible string. It can be that times they stood up for you against that bully at school or when they covered for you when you snuck out of the house for that party. These moments are more like some emotional superglue.

Those are memories of the past, and you somehow feel indebted to them and even responsible for helping them change their behaviors. After all, they’re your brother or sister. But now, in the present moment, they are putting you in an emotional spin and using the fact that they’re your sibling to constantly cross your boundaries, making it hard for you to say no. They may berate you, call you names, try to ruin your relationships or your career, or do many other things just to put you down.

Those memories, which you can’t really erase, are keeping you stuck to them, even when things keep getting uglier and uglier when you’re dealing with them. They’re like superglue, keeping you stuck even when things get ugly.

And it does get really ugly. One minute, you’re laughing about old times, the next, they’re tearing you down and doing whatever it takes to make your life miserable. You even wish they were not family, but because you can’t really ‘choose’ your family, you just endure the suffering.

That back-and-forth emotional blow is not normal. It’s just the trauma bond keeping you entrapped in a familiar cycle that’s hurting you more than you might even realize. So, where do you really start or is it possible to deal with them?

Emotional Detachment

It’s possible to deal with them, but it’s not really about dealing with them — it’s about dealing with yourself through emotional detachment. It may sound cold, as it might seem like you’re turning your back on your family, but it’s not cold; it’s about staying sane.

Think of it like this: If you were allergic to peanuts, you wouldn’t keep eating them and ruin your health because someone in your family told you to, right? The same principle applies here. If your sibling’s behaviour is toxic and ruins your health, you need to protect yourself.

This doesn’t mean you stop caring for them. Actually, by taking in their BS, you’re consciously or unconsciously enabling them and not truly caring about them. When care excludes you, it’s not care at all. But when you care about yourself first, you’re putting on emotional ‘armor.’ It’s about having strong emotional boundaries. When they start with their usual tricks — the guilt trips, the manipulation, the put-downs, the name-calling — instead of letting it sink in, you let it bounce off.

For example, if your brother calls you “the family failure,” instead of internalizing it, think, “That’s his issue, not mine.” You see their verbally abusive ways as more about them and not a reflection of you. You brush it aside and stay rooted in your own reality. Or when your sister tries to guilt-trip you into doing something you don’t want to, you say, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I can’t help you with that.” Just have those solid emotional boundaries and don’t absorb what they say.

When it gets really tough, you can consider cutting them off or limiting communication with them. This way, you take your power back. It’s not easy, and there will be times when you feel like a mean and selfish person, but setting boundaries isn’t selfish — it’s self-care.

Cutting Ties with Them: The Guilt Trips

The greatest challenge when it comes to cutting ties with that narcissistic sibling is them racking those guilt trips. It can be:

· “After all I’ve done for you…”

· “I’m the only sister/brother you’ve got…”

· “Family should always stick together…”

· “I carried you when you were a child…”

Sound familiar? These guilt trips emotionally blackmail you and are carefully designed to make you feel bad for wanting to cut ties with them or for standing up for yourself. Your mind will also hold onto them and recall them anytime you attempt to prioritize yourself.

But here’s the thing — past good deeds don’t excuse present bad behaviour. Just because your sister babysat you when you were young doesn’t give them the leeway to belittle your life choices now. And yeah, your brother might be your only sibling, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with his constant harsh criticism.

It’s time to challenge these guilt trips. Next time they come up, ask yourself: “If this wasn’t my sibling, would I accept this behaviour?” Chances are that the answer will be a big fat NO.

Rising Above Fixed Beliefs

On top of their manipulative ways, there are some deep-rooted beliefs about family that keep us stuck with those hurtful siblings like:

· “Blood is thicker than water.”

· “You only get one family.”

· “Family comes first.”

We’ve heard these so many times, they feel like absolute truths or facts which shouldn’t even challenge. But here’s something for you to think about- what if they’re not?

What if, sometimes, the family you choose (friends, partners) can be more supportive, caring and loving than the family you’re born into? What if putting your toxic family first means putting yourself last?

It’s time for some serious introspection and you can ask yourself this:-

· If family always comes first, why doesn’t my mental wellbeing come first to them?

· If blood is thicker than water, why does interacting with my sibling leave me feeling emotionally drained and hurt?

· If I only get one family, does that mean I have to accept mistreatment for the rest of my life?

Challenging these beliefs is tough, and you may just ‘prefer’ to curl up like a ball and endure the abuse. It might feel like you’re betraying everything you’ve been taught or hardwired to believe, but the fact is you’re being mistreated, and if you don’t take care of yourself, no one will.

Your greatest growth means outgrowing the old ideas that no longer serve you, and that even applies to family.

Conclusion

Here’s the thing: you matter, your peace of mind matters, your happiness matters, and sometimes protecting those things means making hard choices about familial relationships. It may seem harsh and unloving to hold up those boundaries with that sibling you’re so used to, but when you do, it simply means you’re reminding yourself that, “You deserve better.”

Maybe that means limiting contact. Maybe it means walking away entirely. Whatever it means for you, know that it’s okay. You’re not a bad person for protecting yourself. You’re not selfish for wanting peace.

Remember, the courageous thing to do is to break a cycle that’s causing harm in your life, even if it’s your siblings and family. That’s how we’re going to save ourselves and break those generational cycles. It’s not easy, but you’ve got this. Your future self will thank you for it.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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