Sister Act

Thank you so much for the all the comments and thoughts of support regarding the visit of my SiL and BiL.  Your comments helped me get through the aftermath of dealing with all of it that much easier.  Hugs to you all.

The past few weeks have been difficult.  I sat in shame immediately after the visit.  I had to forget that emotion to get ready for my language exam and thereafter, a holiday break.  When I came back I relived the events, played the tapes.  After some distance it is amazing on what you pick up, what you now see so clearly.  As I peeled the layers of shame I meet anger and grief (for not having a sister within SiL).  I was alone at home (DH was traveling for work) and they were my companions this past week.

Although shame is a more recent emotion for me, I move through it a lot faster than grief and anger.  I don’t know why?  Maybe grief feels more raw to me because I think I have always had shame along side me – I think I have been able to ‘handle’ it because that was a common emotion my mother tried to instil in me.  Grief and anger were not allowed to be expressed at home.

And for me, grief and anger seem to be a more outward emotion.  Whereas shame, although a release, feels more internal and more of an exhale in the end.  Grief, for me, I need to cry, let the tears out and anger, I need to vocalise it, yell a bit (not at anyone) just get the words out of my mouth.

And it was nice to be alone to deal with my shame and grief but anger didn’t erupt until DH came home.  I needed a person in front of me to hear my story, hear my anger.  It came out at once and I was surprised at what came out of me.  Well, as one can imagine, it wasn’t pretty.

Among the name calling, I found myself saying things that really surprised me.  This one, in particular, took me and DH by surprise:

She is so dangerous, she is the danger that you don’t see coming.

Not that danger has signs but there are some dangers that have some warning signs.  And in my SiL’s case she is one that we don’t expect there to be a danger just from her presentation of herself.

DH asked me why I thought she was dangerous.  It would be easy to say that she is dangerous to my emotional well-being but I don’t believe that to be the case, nor do I suspect others reading this do either.  And the danger I meant had everything to do in the physical state of being.

I retold DH about our trip home for MiL’s funeral and when we were visiting with DH’s aunt and uncle and cousins.  We were all in the living room of FiL’s apartment and SiL was sitting in MiL’s chair (ironically) and she found a small pill bottle tucked between the cushion and the arm rest.  She read the medicine label (she’s an MD) and looked at it and said across the room to FiL – what are you taking this for?

I could already tell FiL did not want to get into this discussion in front of the family by his response – He said it was for high blood pressure.  SiL said that this is not the medicine he should be taking and that this has the opposite effect.  FiL asked for the capsule and she brought it over.  He looked at it and put it in his pocket.  SiL continues to tell him he should go talk to his doctor to make sure he is getting the right medication and that he should in no way be taking this medicine if he is having high blood pressure.  FiL just shrugged and didn’t respond.  There was silence and I looked straight at SiL and I saw her eyes look around the room.

I remember the only thing I could do was watch SiL because she was the one behaving in such a way that initially had scared me.  There were many things I am now taking away from this and one of those things is danger.

Kara and CS and in the comments have started insightful discussions in their recent posts on the relationship between emotions and our physical health.  And the emotional distress unhealthy people have on us is not spoken about often in terms of specific physical repercussions or root problems.  I only wonder now, if Ns have more of a direct impact on our physical health when dealing with Dr. Narcissistic SiL.

xxoo TR


19 thoughts on “Sister Act

  1. Maybe part of the reason the shame doesn’t last as long is because it’s not really yours. It’s been pushed on you. It also isn’t very productive. Shame can be good for recognizing having done something wrong, but it’s no good at all if it doesn’t bring change. If no change is needed, then the shame is a lie, usually put on by someone else who should be feeling the shame.

    Wow…. didn’t expect all that to pour out.

    Depression is a great way to handle things short term. It’s suppressed anger. It allows time to think things through. It’s a lousy way to live, doing all kinds of unhealthy things to your body. In truth, if you aren’t stressed in one way or another, you’re dead, but there’s healthy stress and unhealthy stress.

    In Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear,” he talks about how we train ourselves to ignore danger signs from an early age. Being healthy means training ourselves to listen to the inner voice, the one our abusers silenced through punishment to ensure we would cooperate. You’re learning to recognize the warning signs again. Good for you.


    • Hi Judy,
      I have been reading a lot about shame since it was a common feeling during my childhood and that is interesting that I could work through maybe easily since someone else was trying to ‘shame’ me on purpose. I hadn’t looked at it like that before. And it is a point to consider when I go through it next time.

      Yeah, it came out eventually. I’m, in the end, glad it did. I really, really feel she is very dangerous to be around. She has the ability to misuse her status as an MD and that is terrible.

      I looked at the book and it sounds interesting – I’ll have to add it to the read list. Thanks!


      • You’re welcome.

        Yes, I’ve too often seen those who are well educated use their knowledge as a weapon, a stick with which to beat those less knowledgeable or those they think aren’t as knowledgeable. I know quite a few know-it-alls, and I’ve learned to do my own homework, over and over and over. 🙂 A quote that makes me laugh: “Those who think they know everything annoy those of us who do.”


  2. You bring up a good point. I struggle with how my narcissistic mother put my sister in serious health danger in her obsession about dieting and food. There is real danger and I used to feel that I must be paranoid. I like the Will Smith movie that poses the question, “If they really are out to get you are you still paranoid?” Hurray for DH letting you express your anger. Expressing anger was not allowed in my childhood home either. I am still struggling with sharing what I feel.


    • Hi Ruth,
      I agree, there are more direct dangers to our health when dealing with unhealthy relationships. Some misuse knowledge and can lead to others determent. My mother was a dietician and what she taught me about food and health is not necessarily true. I’m in fact trying to learn this on my own now.

      DH is getting used to my need to vent vocally. I think it was hard for him to hear some things that I said about people we both knew. It is great actually for both us; I have someone to share my story with face to face and he can begin to understand that anger can be a healthy expression. He, too, was taught that anger was a ‘bad’ emotion.

      That is understandable. Until recently and even now I struggle. I numb really well. The only way I could realise I had to deal with a repressed feeling was by a numbing behaviour. I had to start at the beginning. Hugs, TR


  3. Hi TR I think your SiL obviously needs to feel superior to everyone around her, including your FiL’s physician. What a shame that your brother is enabling that by catering to her every whim. I do think it’s really good that you are able to start expressing anger w/o your husband feeling threatened by it. Anger-phobias just drive everything underground, into depression, or as Kitty describes, numbness.


    • Hi CS,

      With some distance from it and some discussions with DH, I think she is behaving in a way that creates her in a light of saviour to the family. I’m connecting her behaviours and even the small things she says that seem ridiculous seem to point to the fact that she wants to be as the one that solves everything – close to being a martyr. I don’t know what everyone else’s thoughts were – DH and I thought a few things – 1. they could have been MiL’s pills since it was her chair 2. as an MD she should know that this discussion should happen one on one and if she genuinely cared about his health – had an in depth conversation with him. Our guess is that FiL just shouted out something and they were actually MiL’s pills since he didn’t bother to do anything with them.

      DH has helped a lot with allowing me to express anger :). It’s an emotion that I can’t express through writing – the release isn’t the same.

      Hugs, TR


  4. Hi TR,

    I think it’s great that you’re so aware of your process as you move through your feelings. That is something I envy, as I usually see my feelings only in retrospect (although I have gotten better at this). I also think think it’s phenomenally insightful that you heard yourself say something that surprised you, and really paid attention to it. All our lives we have been taught to ignore our inner voice, our inner radar, all the things that can (and are supposed to) protect us from danger. Here, you’ve let it out, and you’ve listened to it. And you’re processing it. This is all huge, huge stuff, I think. I wrote a post about this years ago called “Hearing Ourselves Talk” which is about this. The gist is that all our answers lie within, and we need only to trust that and learn how to listen to ourselves. I think this is exactly what you’re doing here.

    I have no doubt this woman is dangerous. She is controlling, narcissistic, and rude. As an ACoN, you are going to have not only an emotional reaction to this, but a physical one. And, since this is all tied into your NFOO, you may even have some PTSD in being around her. Physically dangerous? Yes, absolutely. I agree a thousand percent. So in a very real way you need to take steps to protect yourself from her. As you’re doing here. You are recognizing the warning signs, and that is sooooo terrific.

    I could say volumes about shame. It is such a huge part of my FOO background. I love what Judy said, that if no change is needed then that shame is a lie. So true.

    Also, your writing about your N SiL has gotten me thinking about doing a post about “the argument from authority.” So many people in authority are just wrong so often. I also think people who go into authoritative lines of work are often narcissists, because they have a need to feel superior…I think it goes back to the inner voice thing. When we trust ourselves, the argument from authority becomes just another possibility, which we can study and decide for ourselves whether or not we agree. It loses a lot of power, and that is, IMO, as it should be.

    Love and hugs,



    • Hi Kitty,

      I have to chuckle a bit cause I don’t think I’m actually aware of it until after I’ve expressed / felt it. I think I’m getting better at allowing feelings to come up and surface and then identifying later.

      Even though I don’t feel like I addressed her behaviours towards me effectively I am seeing that I am beginning to hear my inner voice (which is huge progress). It was so weird how it just came out. I think DH and I were taken aback by it. I’ll check out the post, thank you.

      I think I need to find out more about PTSD – I’ve read your’s, Kara’s posts about it and I need to learn more about it.

      That post would be so relevant; I did read in the book ‘I Thought it Was Me, but it isn’t’ by Brené Brown a chapter on debunking credentials. Thanks for reminding me of that point – I’ll have to re-visit; it would be great to hear your thoughts.

      Love, TR


      • Credentials are NO magic bullet for anything (unless you need brain surgery. then a credential definitely helps). Your SiL does sound like a grandiose type narcissist to me. They often are very high achievers, and by God they want everyone to know it ALL the time, in matters large and miniscule. xo CS


      • I’d go along with the brain surgery thing, too. This goes for a few other things as well, like attorney, accountant, and mechanic (hee hee).

        I read somewhere not too long ago that a doctor is about the worst person you can ask about diet and nutrition because most doctors get less than 20 hours of training on this in medical school. But they hate to admit that (there’s that narcissism again!) so they will tell you their opinion as though it were fact. You have to wonder how much other medical advice fits this category, too, don’t you?


  5. Hi TR,
    I’ve been thinking about this post over the weekend and that the conclusion that your SIL is dangerous is right. She might not be dangerous in the “traditional” sense, but she’s dangerous all-right. It made me think of how I feel with certain narcs and I can see that I also felt they were dangerous, even if I wasn’t consciously aware of it, my body was. Hence the amygdala hijack reactions that we get. CZ is spot on in calling Narcissism a continuum because there’s definitively different levels of narcs. Your SIL is definitely a high level narc. Here’s a interesting connection, when I think back to the time when my dog allergy and hayfever started, in both instances I was around high level narcs. I suspect this is far from being a coincidence. So yes the wreckage they can do on our bodies without even “touching” us is not to be underestimated.

    Kara xxoo


      • Hi Kara,
        I can see that she has had an effect on me that is too much – a very potent N dose. In the story about the pills regarding my FiL I actually believe she is dangerous in the traditional sense. She is an oncologist and my FiL has diabetes and is going through dialysis. Her remarks about the medication were said without trying to understand – trying to understand if the pills were actually his or MiLs and without trying to understand more before jumping to assumptions like that. I don’t think most people would react to her because if they are in consultation with their own medical specialist they would know what they are taking and why. I just think that she was playing with his health in such a cavalier way that that is very dangerous in a traditional way. She was doing this purely for her image because she had a big audience – ‘I’m the saviour’. She could have easily waited until everyone left and had a private discussion with him – as I imagine that doctors and patients have private discussions.

        In the non-traditional way, I can only imagine the impact she is having on my body (slowly but deadly). I am trying too figure out how to protect myself and prepare for the next visit – in 1 month!

        Hugs, TR


      • Do you think that’s where your saying “she’s the danger that you don’t see coming” came from? I mean, dialysis is a very serious condition, for her to play with his health in such a flippant way it is, like you say, very dangerous in the traditional way.


  6. Hi Kara,

    I couldn’t reply, so writing response here. Yes I do think that is what I meant because I brought up that story and I had said to DH that it isn’t the emotional stuff but also how see plays with her knowledge to people’s physical well-being. She scares me and after writing about her I am beginning to see how she has played this in very subtle ways.



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