My brother’s behavior can be just about unbearable

Published 8:50 am Monday, January 28, 2013

Dear Abbie,


Question: My brother has always been a person who tells everybody “like it is” and does so with a harsh approach.

I told him it hurts when he speaks to me that way, but he gets mad and says “sorry but obviously you have problems you need to deal with so don’t blame me for anything just because you don’t want to hear the truth about yourself. It’s not my fault.”

“I will not accept the blame for just trying to help. If I can’t talk to my sister, what kind of relationship is that? You must not love or respect me.”

It’s gotten hard to be around him even at family gatherings. He is still my brother, but I don’t know what to do.


Answer: You recently adopted the most loving, yet pitifully neglected and in desperate need of a good home, dog from the animal shelter. On the way home you were so excited and wanted to introduce the newest member of your family to your brother whose immediate response was “That is the ugliest mutt I have ever seen.”

You would be reacting as normal to feel hurt by his harsh response. A more easily accepted, spoken out of love and caring necessity, version of the truth would have been “There sure is a sweet set of eyes waiting to be revealed once we work together to get his coat back to a more manageable condition.”

Your brother’s obvious choice of rudeness over consideration may seem like the major obstacle, but more likely you are dealing with the effects of a deeper seeded issue.

Does your brother refuse to consider the pain he may inflict on others? Does he refuse to give credence to others’ perceptions? Is he always right and twisting the truth to blame anyone other than himself?

Does the following quote by the famous French author Andre’ Maurois fit your brother perfectly? “Everything that is in agreement with our personal desires seems true. Everything that is not puts us in a rage.”

If you answered “yes” to these questions, your brother is displaying a lack of empathy.

In severe cases, this lack of concern for others’ feelings and opinions can be a result of either Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder. NPD shows a total lack of concern for others while BPD displays a more Jekyll and Hyde effect of no concern followed by episodes of apparent compassion and understanding.

The official causes of both are unknown, but often attributed to a dysfunctional childhood of either excessive pampering or emotional neglect. Even if your brother is never diagnosed, he is obviously too occupied with his own insecurities to be able to listen, validate, understand or support another person.

He is a closed system. This fact makes even the slightest form of communication with him impossible.

Any person who persistently tries to have a meaningful and loving relationship with a person who represents a closed system stands to suffer from the effects of emotional abuse and should limit his contact with the non-empathetic individual to avoid the hurtful consequences.

When you have to be around your brother, remain gracious and courteous toward him. Prepare for his attacks by telling yourself “I am not going to let any of his words penetrate to my core, nor am I going to let him rob one more second of my valuable time.”

Once the attack comes a simple “thank you for your opinion” is all you need to say. The fewer words you use the better. Remember, it is not your fault even though he will try to convince you otherwise.

Despite lacking the ability to change your brother, you certainly can control your reaction to him.

Often a person suffering from a personality disorder finds himself facing an ultimatum within his work or home environment where if he doesn’t change, his entire career or family will be taken away.

Desperate circumstances stand the best chance to elicit change within a person. Any lasting change is not likely to happen a minute before.

Make today the first day you stop trying to use your resources to help your brother see the light and start using them instead to reveal the pathway of your future that currently remains darkened by cloud of your brothers own issues.