What Is It Like To Have A Narcissistic Sibling ?
I have written lots on what it is like to be a child, lover or work colleague of someone who has NPD, but what is it like being a brother or sister ? Every behaviour a narcissist commonly displays in the wider world: a need for attention, fragile ego, raging and manipulation, are all there but up close, loud and very personal. During childhood, it is very difficult to escape the effects of a narcissistic sibling but as an adult some distance may be achieved, but that comes at a price, a broken, disjointed family and difficult family gatherings.
Joe and Bob are now in their 70’s but Bob remembers with pain what it’s like to have an older brother who is a narcissist. At every family gathering, Joe likes to hold court and when everyone has a drink in their hands he dominates the conversation tells the same stories over again. How the young Robbie, as he was known in the family wet his trousers at school and the older Joe had to take him home; how he would have to communicate for Robbie who was a late talker and who had a speech impediment and how he and the rest of the family never thought he would ever marry, let alone have two lovely daughters one of whom became a doctor and the other a librarian. Jo would never let anyone change the subject when he was “on a roll” and would completely ignore any attempt to but in until he had completely embarrassed his younger brother who was taller, better looking and smarter.
This ritual had been enacted many times over and will probably continue until one of them dies. Quiet by nature, Bob would never challenge his brother in such gatherings nor let on how much it hurt. At home however he like to smile and tell the story of 7-year-old Joe, some two years older than, walking along the riverbank, boasting of how he could swim. After several days of this Bob had had enough and pushed Joe in saying “Let’s see how you do it then !”Joe, who could not swim, nearly drowned and a neighbour heard his cries and pulled him out. Bob said the good hiding he got was worth it…
The problem is for a sibling of a narcissist, there is no escape and the sibling may never realise that the problems they have experienced in their lives are not of their own making but that of their sibling and possibly their parents too. So what are the signs that your sibling is a narcissist ?
1. You must hide your successes
It is normal to want to share any success with your family. Passing an exam with a good grade, being picked for a team, orchestra or college production are all normal things to be proud of. But if you are the sibling of a narcissist, you dare not share. Your sibling will rage against you, belittling your achievement in comparison to something of his own. In some cases, the narcissistic sibling may even steal or damage any award but do it in such a sneaky way that their crime is undetectable to anyone but you.
2. They tell your parents (and anyone else) about every mistake you make
For example if you were at the same school and you sibling noticed that you were reprimanded for a bad behaviour not serious enough for home contact, the sibling would let parents know and even helpfully suggest an appropriate sanction. Similarly, if you went about with undesirable people, kissed a girl, did anything embarrassing, your parents would find out and you would never be allowed to forget it. In the same circumstances you probably said nothing, or if you did, you would be labelled as a tale tell or petty. There would be no way of winning this battle.
3. They steal your friends or your girl/boy friend
A narcissistic sibling would not be able to allow you to have independent friends or leave you alone when your friends called around. In fact, an older narcissist would design the pretend game, cast himself in the lead role and make up all the rules. In team sports, he or his team would have to win. If the narcissistic sibling was older one of two things might happen. Friends would either look up to him and perhaps swap allegiances or, more likely stop coming around because he cramped their style. Parents may be manipulated to order you to include your brother or sister with your friends
In later years, your narcissistic sibling might try to steal your love interest. This could be by playing a seemingly innocent gooseberry, just happening to be around and join in. Or more malevolently, undermine you in their eyes and then do something noble to try to gain favour. Once again, criticising a sibling for their seemingly innocent behaviour could seem churlish.
4. They are overly competitive
They will challenge you to feats to prove who is stronger, better or smarter, but only if they have a clear advantage. For example, challenging you to a feat of physical endurance whilst you are recovering from a bout of lurgy. At another occasion, they might train furiously behind the scenes to ensure victory.
In a test of intelligence or ability, they will frankly cheat!
In terms of family love, they will out manoeuvre you at every turn. Even if you are seriously ill, they will manage somehow to be needier than you, either via a competing illness or making your parent choose between you.
5. You have been their stooge or the but of their jokes
Like Joe and Bob, they will use every bit of knowledge they have, to make you look small. Nothing will be kept private if it can earn them attention and feed their narcissistic supply.
Indeed, we have already established that a narcissist needs their supply – adulation, attention, compliments, devotion or even the fear of what they may do. Siblings are a ke6y source of narcissistic supply, during childhood at least. This is especially so if they are older than you.
It is important that you recover as you grow. You may need some counselling to help you realise the degree of abuse you may have suffered. Put a distance between you, preferably physically, but if circumstances don’t allow it, cast yourself free emotionally. Practicing any mindfulness technique which works for you but seeking treatment, where necessary for the trauma of your childhood.