Help me love my jerk brother
October 28, 2011 10:04 AM Subscribe
My brother is kind of an arse, and not very empathetic. Can you help me to not overreact to this, and get less wound up by him?
posted by La chaussette, c'est moi to human relations (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My brother and I are quite different people. He is a professional musician, and still lives with my parents. I am five years older than him, and have had my own place for a very long time now. I work in healthcare IT. My younger sister is five years younger than him, and also still lives at home. He frustrates me a lot. Some (miscellaneous, disorganised) examples:
- He has always been very self-obsessed. He talks about himself and his feelings a lot. Because of this, his needs have often dominated the agenda in our family.
- He has a real sense of entitlement, and as a result has an odd combination of quite right-wing views on welfare and taxation and also beliefs that e.g. the government and the record industry are not doing enough to support young musicians.
- He thinks less of me because I have chosen a career that doesn't pay particularly well and carries very little glory with it. (I like my job very much, and find it personally satisfying) He dismisses my opinions, saying that I have 'no desire to succeed at all'.
- He is always talking about his 'depression', but when my little sister got actually, clinically depressed last year, he dismissed it and said that she 'wasn't depressed, she was just lazy', and told her not to take the antidepressants she was prescribed. She was definitely depressed, but didn't take the antidepressants. She's improved with therapy, but is still not great.
- At the same time, I know he has given her drugs on multiple occasions.
- When we have disagreements, and I try to make a reasoned case for my position, he tells me that I am too 'logical', and that if I had taken more drugs I would be able to 'loosen up a bit'.
- Growing up, he was a very stressful child who threw tantrums several times a day until he was quite old. From when he was small, he had a habit of hitting and biting other children, including my little sister. He still has regular, screaming rows with people (including my parents and sister) in which he swears at them and calls them various unpleasant things.
- We give my parents lots of Christmas presents all together (it's supposed to be a kind of reverse Father Christmas). He won't join me and my sister when we go shopping, always spends much less than us on gifts, and gets them 'joke presents' that are funny to him but that he knows they won't actually enjoy.
Basically he is a bit of a jerk. But at the same time, it would be good for me and my family as a whole if I could not let him get quite so far under my skin. Sometimes, for example, I worry that he's so narcissistic that his capacity for empathy is substantially impaired. Sometimes he frightens me. I get really worried about the effect he has on my sister. Basically I am finding it very difficult to like, let alone love him at the moment, and sometimes I feel pretty resentful at the idea that I have to keep on giving affection to someone who is so fundamentally selfish. I'd like it if I could stop feeling this way. Ultimately, it isn't particularly helpful. I think I need some more common sense and a bit of perspective on this. Are there things I could read? Ways I could think about it?
(I have tried meeting up with him on neutral ground/doing fun things together. It always starts OK, and then he comes out with something like the line about my sister's depression. I try to be diplomatic, then go home to my friends and rant for a few hours about it)