I have a sister who is very difficult to deal with. She has decided that my parents and I treat her badly and are terrible people. She talks about us behind our backs and tells people how horrible we are. The thing is, we haven’t done any of the things she says we did. She has created a reality in her mind that never happened. We have tried to reason with her but she says we are just trying to manipulate her. She is the manipulative one, but refuses to see it. Do you have any advice on this situation?
The human mind is truly an amazing and frustrating thing. It can literally alter reality so we can see things the way we want to see them.
Dealing with someone who has created their own reality is tricky. Once the mind creates these alternative realities, it becomes absolutely committed to being right about them. It must believe its perception is accurate and cannot be wrong. For a person who has done this, it may feel like their very existence depends on their reality being the truth.
The more insecure or fragile one’s self esteem is, the more the ego works to protect itself by believing the reality it created. It is important to understand how these thought processes work so you can see your sister and this situation accurately.
Your sister is a scared, fragile person who has created an alternative reality that makes her feel superior or better than you — because that is the only way she feels safe and good.
Being wrong about the story she created is not an option for her right now. Her victim story is giving her a sense of identity and value.
Those who are comfortable with who they are aren’t worried about protecting themselves, nor do they need to be superior to others. They don’t need to create an alternative reality to feel safe. They don’t need to be right about their perceptions in order to feel of value.
They understand that being wrong does not diminish them. This vulnerability actually makes them powerful,that because they know nothing can take away from who they are. Being OK with vulnerability actually makes a confident person stronger.
Confident people understand we are all infinitely valuable, unique, irreplaceable human beings in process, doing the best we can with what we know at the time. They have a sense of self-worth that allows them to be human and fallible, and still have value. In this frame of mind it is easy to forgive other people and have compassion for faults and weaknesses. This is where real emotional strength and maturity come from.
Those with a fragile self-worth must make others wrong or bad in order to feel good. If they construct a story where you are the bad guy, they can assume the role of the victim or good guy.
This is one of the most prevalent and dangerous tendencies of thinking in our society today. This “Us (the good guys) vs. Them (the bad guys)” mentality is behind every war, hate crime and marriage problem in existence.
Now that you understand the problem and see it accurately, let me give you some advice for dealing with it.
Love is the answer. It always is. Because this person's problem is based in low self worth, we know they are starving for validation and love; all bad behavior is a request for love.
Behaving this way is not a good way to request love, but it is the only way some people know how to cope with their low self-esteem and get attention.
When children behave badly they are trying to get attention, which to them means love. If you could see the situation accurately you could give the validation they really need in that moment.
Unconditional love and kindness while completely ignoring the bad behavior as much as possible is the only way to deal with someone who has lost touch with reality and reason. Just because they believe the stories they have created doesn’t make them true. Just smile and send love and blessings their way.
If you need to stand your ground (which you will on occasion), don’t be a door mat, though — speak your truth, say no, enforce your boundaries but do it with a smile on your face and love for them in your heart, even though they are confused. They can’t help it — they can’t see it.
Do not get defensive. There is nothing to defend, because no one can hurt you. You cannot be diminished. No one can change you or take away from your value. You are bulletproof. You cannot experience pain from their bad behavior unless you decide to let it sting.
Avoid them altogether. George Bernard Shaw said, ”I learned long ago, never wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty, and the pig likes it.”
It is perfectly fine and mature to avoid toxic people as much as possible, but don’t avoid them because you are scared of being hurt. Stay firmly rooted in the knowledge no one can’t hurt you or diminish who you are.
If you decide to be bulletproof, then you are.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.