Violent Sister


I am 45 years old, my older sister is 47. We live a great distance apart and last saw one another four years ago. My younger sister is celebrating a big deal this spring–my older sister will attend. She has asked me to be there, too and to spend some alone time with her. The last time we saw one another we got into a fist fight in front of my siblings, their families and my mother and her husband. I am so mortified by my own behavior that I really can’t think of getting into that group situation again. I love my older sister but she’s an angry, aggressive, hostile person. I am generally the quiet one but something just snapped last time we were together. She has been violent with every member of the family–this was my first outburst. In short, I’d love to see her, to wish her well, to wish my younger sister well and to show my family that I’m really not that insane. The trouble is that I don’t trust the situtation, my sister or myself. What shall I do? Thank you so much and best regards.

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There doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut right thing to do in this situation. Based on what you have said, it seems likely that older sister will pick a fight (litterally) when you next have the opportunity to see her. As to who she will pick a fight with and when, that is anyone’s guess. Given this potential, if you do go to the gathering, you should be prepared to be threatened, and have a plan for how you will react. I don’t think it is a good idea to fist-fight with your sister, so maybe a better plan is to simply retreat, take a time-out, remove yourself from the gathering if things get too hot. Who needs to lose a tooth over some stupid argument? Now – part of your wanting to go to this thing is about wanting to see people, and part of it seems to be about you wanting people to see you – specifically – that they see you not act crazy. In effect, you are feeling ashamed of yourself for having lost control last time and you have something to prove. If I’m right in identifying your feeling of shame, let me tell you: 1) that you have little to feel ashamed about (we all lose it sometimes – it’s only human), and 2) that if you go to the gathering looking to vindicate yourself, you are more likely than not to put yourself into harm’s way (seeking to demonstrate your self-control) and might be more likely to lose control again than would otherwise be the case (if you just went to the gathering in order to have a good time). In summary, don’t go to the party if you can’t first let go of the shame first. The only good reason to go will be to just enjoy the company of your family. If you do go and things heat up, get out of the way as fast as you can!

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