Dear Dr. Darcy:
My entire life, I’ve been the favorite child. I have an older brother and a younger sister, and both my parents have found endless fault in them and none in me. This has been particularly difficult for my older brother who to a great extent has lived in my shadow. His every failure has seemed to coincide with one of my achievements. Our parents always found blame in his failures – he was lazy, always looking for the easy way out, never willing to work as hard as I did.
The point is, I bought into it all and for many years, I believed what my parents told me about myself and about my siblings. As a result, I often echoed my parents’ judgments, blaming my siblings when they’d hit hard times, offering help with a sense of superiority. When the second of my siblings stopped speaking to me I entered therapy and that’s where I’ve been for more than a year. I’ve learned how our parents’ favoritism of me set me up to become narcissistic. I really want to try and fix things with my brother and sister. How do I begin?
Are you sure we’re not related? Actually, strike that. No brother of mine would deign to engage in his own therapy.
To begin repairing these relationships, you must stop blaming your personality disorder on your parents. Yes, I know, you were just giving me context - an explanation of how you came to be this way. Practice not explaining. Because regardless of the sincerity of your intentions, it sounds like you’re deflecting responsibility for being a grandiose asshole.
The next step is for you to take a fiercely honest inventory of how you’ve hurt your siblings. Make a list, go into great detail, and give absolutely no explanations for why you hurt them. Remember: explanations read as excuses. They will enflame the situation. If you’re incapable of taking responsibility without giving your side of things, work on this in therapy and don’t reach out to your siblings until you’re able to.
I’ve rarely seen a narcissist rehabilitate himself. You, however, sound as though you’re onto something. Keep doing what you’re doing. And remember: It took you decades to become the man who first walked into therapy. Stay there long enough to give yourself a shot at change.
Writer’s Stats: Male, Straight.