Letter to my sister

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Oscen

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Letter to my sister
« on: April 12, 2019, 01:24:32 PM »
I've been thinking a lot about when my sister came to stay with me, ever since she left. I had wanted to be a good sister and give her a place to stay, and I really wanted to look good in her eyes. She had controlled me so much in our childhood by using disapproval, and without realising, I was desperate for her approval, even a part of me wanted to flip our relationship so I was the one in the one-up position and she was the one in the one-down position. So we clashed a bit, there was invalidation and subtle criticism on both sides. She pushed a lot of my buttons and we had a fight at the very last moment, before she got on a train. I felt ambushed, even like she had engineered this so that she could feel like an innocent victim and paint me as a villain. I am ashamed of my behaviour, but I'm also really upset with how she treated me as I feel used and discarded. I just can't seem to figure out how I feel about it all - if it's just my bad behaviour, I can apologise and get on with it. But I feel really badly treated. Is it true, or am I too attempting to play the victim?

Well, here's the email. It's probably far too long and repetitive. Please tell me what you think guys; please be honest, because I need it, I need to move forward. But please also be gentle, because I need that too. I'm so confused.

Hi S2,

I hope you're well. This is going to be a difficult read, so please read it when you have some time and feel up to it. I don't want to upset you during the middle of a busy day.

I'm writing this email because I'm quite upset about how things went when you were in CityA, particularly how we left things on the last day. I feel like I owe it to myself to address this with you. I feel like I was treated unfairly in some ways by you and I want to see if you can understand my point of view. I understand that you will have an alternative point of view, no doubt with things that I haven't considered, so I do urge you - you have a right to reply; please use it.

The thing that really upsets me was the argument we had in our last few minutes of our time together in CityA, because I felt ambushed by the conversation. You had waited until the very last moment of our time together to discuss our issues. It had been a long day, I was flustered from walking, we were standing on the pavement next to a metro station, I felt rushed, and it gave me the impression that by allowing so little time for my response, it was unimportant to hear my side of the story. I had had no warning that we would discuss this and the setting felt hurried and stressful, not relaxed and unthreatening.

I'm disappointed in myself for allowing my feelings to bubble over at that time. I said some things that I was justified in expressing, but the way I said them - an angry outburst - was obviously difficult to listen to. I regret expressing things in an accusatory, reactive way rather than a constructive, responsive way, and I also regret venting lots of negative emotions rather than focusing on key points that we could actually work on together. Up until that point, I had been finding it difficult having you in my life again and I had done my best to contain my feelings, express what was needed to to maintain my boundaries, and I tried to help you where I could without giving more than I could afford to. Overall, I didn't get this balance right during your stay with me, and I found myself feeling frustrated  and at times resentful towards you. This was quite new and unexpected for me, and so I was avoiding addressing these issues directly with you because I needed time to come to terms with my emotions and process them. I have realised some difficult truths about what was going on between us at a deeper level, and also some areas I needed to work on, like assertiveness and connecting with my emotions.

I do feel that you could have been more considerate of my feelings in orchestrating the time, place, and context of that conversation. I am able to see and respect that honouring your own needs and expressing your hurt and disappointment was important but difficult for you, and that was probably why you delayed speaking about it until the last minute. But leaving it till the last minute was not ideal and provoked a more hostile reaction than would otherwise have been the case because it took me by surprise and I was completely off-guard. I would have communicated differently with fair warning in a better setting. It's ok that you were not perfect, but please show me the same understanding towards my imperfect behaviour. I am sorry that I said things that I know I expressed in a way to intentionally hurt your feelings. I lashed out and that's not ok. I surprised myself. I'm sorry. Please understand that am capable of better communication, but in that situation, I felt under attack and my feelings got the better of me, so I responded aggressively. If we do talk again, with an agreed time and topic, it will be a more productive conversation.

Even though it really bothered me, I have avoided dealing with this for a long time because I felt like I couldn't reach out unless to was to apologise, but something inside me said no; I can't take this entire matter upon myself. I can apologise for saying hurtful things, and I am sorry. However, the situation is much more complicated; we have both allowed our relationship to wither and so both must take responsibility. I would like to know whether you actually want a relationship with me, to know if it is worth exploring and resolving some issues.

(I feel like you used me, and then discarded me so easily, when I no longer had anything to offer that you wanted.)

From Oscen.


I'm not sure if I should include the last line in brackets - well, obviously I shouldn't; it's mean. But I also feel it's true. I'm not sure what my motivation is in sending this email - do I want to try having a better relationship? Is it to take responsibility and move on with my life? Do I want to look good in her eyes? Do I want to hurt her? I do feel like I've been misunderstood, been used, and been unappreciated and that doesn't feel good. Hmm. But I'm still stumped as to why it keeps spinning in my head and is so tangled up with my emotions.

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notalone

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Re: Letter to my sister
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2019, 02:19:13 PM »
"I'm not sure what my motivation is in sending this email"

There is a lot in the letter you wrote. I think it is important to figure out what you are hoping to do or get out of sending the letter. My guess is that you have several different motivations. Maybe that means sending different letters. In another post you talked about wanting to apologize. If I were the recipient of this letter, I don't think that I would hear the apology amongst the other feelings and statements. Everything you are thinking and feeling are important. What are you hoping to accomplish in yourself? What response are you hoping to receive from your sister? You have time. No need to rush this process.

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Blueberry

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Re: Letter to my sister
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2019, 12:28:23 AM »
Hello Oscen,

As a Recovery Letter  :thumbup: but I wouldn't send it in this form to your sister. I agree with notalone: you can take your time on this. With difficult family letters, most of which I wrote on here and never sent in that form, it was more about what it moved in me than what it might say to FOO member(s).

my first impressions: you're caring towards your sister - you warn her it might be difficult and she shouldn't read in the middle of a busy day. And you're fair - you realise she may see some things differently.

It sounds like a good analysis of the situation for yourself, a good exploration of your feelings and how things evolved. I don't think I'd write that bit to your S though. It seems fairly typical for us with cptsd to hope that our FOO will finally understand and be empathetic towards us if we explain enough. I was stuck in that trap for years. So I'm asking you - has your S shown changes in her behaviour towards you from her childhood to now? Is she in any form of T or counselling herself, or working on herself in any way?

Ha! I just remembered from way, way back in therapy a T saying to me "Good you wrote that letter (to parents), but don't send it, you're making yourself way too vulnerable" and a number of other patients in the group sitting there nodding. Usually now when I send something to a FOO member, it's a one-liner, approved by my present T in advance. My T will approve, saying "Clearly expressed boundary, you can send that."

I know that these days you're 'meant' to use "I feel" statements but there are families or individuals where that just makes you vulnerable. So I wouldn't say something like "I do feel you could have been more...." but express that as a clear boundary "Next time we talk, x and y" or possibly don't even include it, but wait to see if you do talk again and set that up in advance as a boundary.

I hope you get some more responses. I'm still not very good at all this :fallingbricks:.  I can't remember if you have a T or not? Mine has helped me use these situations (where I wrote a letter I didn't send) to grow and to realise that there's little growth forthcoming in my FOO. I also spent quite a lot of time reading over at our sister website Out of the Fog on navigating relationships with personality-disordered people. https://outofthefog.website/what-not-to-do/ or the forum: https://www.outofthefog.net/forum/index.php#c2


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Oscen

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Re: Letter to my sister
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2019, 05:41:12 PM »
Thanks for the replies, guys. Yes, I don't actually know what I want out of this. I was hoping people may be able to give me some insight! In particular, does it seem that my sister's behaviour is consistent with abuse? Is asking me about our relationship at the last possible moment, in a very uncomfortable location, a possible set-up? I feel like it is. But I doubt myself very much.

When people respond to my posts discussing boundaries, I just have to chuckle. They don't know my family. My immediate family all live on literally the other side of the planet to me, and basically don't even email me, except for M. I've already been well and truly discarded. How do you set boundaries with people you never communicate with, you effectively don't have a relationship with at all? I have unconsciously grey-rocked them, probably even since before I was a teen, as a survival instinct. I just think about them all the time, because of the trauma bond, I guess. And some kind of love for them still inside me, I hope. When my sister visited me, that was the most contact I'd had with anyone in the family for ages, but I was so early on in my recovery, I didn't have the assertiveness to deal with her, or even to recognise what was going on. It actually prompted a lot of growth, self examination, and reviewing of my family relationships, so a lot of positives came out of it, even though it was emotionally very difficult.

I agree that "I think" and "I feel" statements are not always the best way to communicate. It can only be used on the assumption that the other person really cares about you and your feelings and is willing to listen; they just need the edge softened so they can take in what you're saying. My family have never cared about what I think or feel, so why would they start now? Why would using these phrases be the magic elixir that changes their personality and makes them caring, compassionate human beings? If anything, in their eyes, it invalidates what I'm saying because it highlights that it's just coming from me, and my opinions and emotions are already worthless in their eyes. Revealing my emotions has almost always been used against me, to shame and invalidate me.

If I were to contact any member of the family, it's difficult not only because of trying to figure out what to say and how to say it, but there is that added layer of the fact that we just have had little to no communication for years on end.

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Oscen

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Re: Letter to my sister
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2019, 08:04:28 AM »
I have been reading and reading online and have a little more insight into what's going in with me and my sister, and what was driving me when I wrote this letter.

I have been on the receiving end of narcissistic abuse from my sister since childhood - moving away stopped it externally for the most part, except for her visit to me, but unfortunately it was so conditioned into me as a child that I've been carrying it with me in my mind everywhere I go. S2 was like M's lieutenant, her enforcer, because part of M's abuse was that she barely bothered paying attention to me. My older two sisters rained down her judgment on me in her stead. I had a vague sense of my M's control and S1 and S2 enforcing it, but I really had no idea how unhealthy my relationship with S2 was until she stayed with me.

I have been conditioned to see myself through S2's eyes - and also M's, and to a lesser extent, S1's - and so I couldn't handle myself identifying S2 as a N without her own approval of the term. The letter that I wrote is an example of trauma bonding - I am reaching out for comfort from the person who hurt me. I want my sister to know that she hurt me and I want her to acknowledge that hurt, because if she doesn't, I've been programmed by her to doubt it even happened. However, sending it would be a mistake for so many reasons -
1) It does not reflect the values that I intend to live by - kindness, integrity, etc. Truthfulness is paramount but must be tempered with compassion (and common sense).
2) It would be like sending my enemy a list of my weaknesses and telling them how well they're doing destroying me - one way or another, consciously or not, that letter would be used against me.

It is understandable that I want justice and acknowledgement of the damage she has caused, particularly when I see her playing a perfect, virtuous victim of M; but it is unreasonable to expect that I'll get that understanding from her. I know that she has been truly damaged by M, and it is probable that she cannot handle seeing herself as a co-perpetrator in someone else's abuse; I doubt she has the emotional apparatus to process that. Heck, I'm struggling with processing my bad behaviour towards her and that was nothing like as bad as what she did - she categorically dismantled my sense of self every time it reared its unwelcome head, through mocking, criticism, and veiled passive aggressive comments.

I need to continue to bolster my sense of self, valuing my internal perceptions and judgments over others', and continue to improve my interpersonal and interpersonal skills so that I can live by my values, not another's.

It is important that I remain apart from my family's toxic dynamics at this time.

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Blueberry

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Re: Letter to my sister
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2019, 09:28:19 AM »
 :cheer: on your realisations and progress, Oscen!

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notalone

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Re: Letter to my sister
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2019, 03:17:16 PM »
Big insights.  :applause:

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Three Roses

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Re: Letter to my sister
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2019, 02:24:04 AM »
 :cheer: