Blood is thicker than water, but it is also more slippery.
Looking back at that previous post got me wondering the same thing my therapist asked me: Where were my parents in all of this? I mean, how could they not have heard the screaming and shouting? But they did … I think … sometimes. Trying to remember. When they did catch us (yes, catch is the right term) they would sit us both down and give us a stern talking to. I don’t remember ever being asked for our side of the story. I don’t remember ever being encouraged to open up. Being caught arguing was just that: It led to us being punished without any real attempts to hear us out. The punishments ranged from having to sit passively for hours (no joke – I remember occasions where we sat for five or six hours without moving, and that includes going to the bathroom and eating) while they lectured (well, actually, just he – while he lectured) at us, to being made to sit by myself in a dark room (er … solitary confinement, anyone?). From stern talkings-to like Don’t point the finger, Don’t deflect blame, Don’t argue, to things like You’ve only got one sister, you shouldn’t argue to … oh, I don’t even remember the half of it. It’s kinda hard for a child to focus on words being spoken at them non-stop for many many hours. I zoned out a lot, or I tried to anyway. He would even go into his own shitty childhood, comparing it to our privileged one, and how we should be so lucky to have a loving and reasonable father, a loving family, a loving sister. A lot of it was all about himself! He did all the talking, lecturing, scolding, setting the rules. Even mum had to sit and listen passively most of the time. He lectured us on how to behave, how not to behave, what to think, how to feel! How we need to love each other, not argue with each other. But they never tried to get to the bottom of why we were arguing (or rather, why my sister was screaming at me) or what the disagreement was about, or how either of us felt. Then they would tell my sister off for shouting, for how she was the older sister and needed to be a good example to her younger sister, how she needs to be the responsible one, which of course made her resent me even more. And then they would tell me off for being stubborn, how I need to be a good little sister and listen to my responsible big sister, which of course made me resent her even more.
So when I said earlier about being caught arguing, I guess we also somehow learned to argue out of their earshot. We somehow mastered the art of conflict without being caught. It didn’t always work, of course. It’s not as if we were criminal masterminds. We were children. But the more we kept it “underground”, as it were, the more toxic it became. My sister started telling me how I should feel – like the way my dad told us how we should feel. Despite her resentment at being made the responsible one, she took it to heart. If we had a disagreement or an argument, she would alternate between shouting at me and lecturing me on how I was to feel. She would make me apologise, but if I didn’t sound like I meant it (which I usually didn’t) she would go off on another round of verbal eruption. She had to be right, and I had to be wrong. Not only did I have to be wrong, I had to admit it … and mean it. But she was never satisfied, because I never meant it!
Oh … remember in the previous post when I said I wouldn’t let her see me cry? Well, she didn’t seem to have any problems letting me see her cry. In fact, that was part of her strategy. In addition to the shouts, she would also usually cry at the same time. You see, I was always being painted as the cold-hearted little bitch that was cruel and selfish. Her crying made her the victim. My stone-faced silence made me the villain. She was good. I was bad. That was what I was to believe too, and if I felt any guilt at all or any sense of decency at all then I would atone by letting her have her way. But often I would let her have her way just to make it stop – the seemingly endless cycle of verbal hacking and slashing. If it ended up with her not getting her way, somehow, we would spend days not talking to each other. And then my parents would sometimes notice. And then if they noticed we weren’t speaking to each other for whatever reason, that was us getting caught. And it was back to the punishments.
The thing is, though, I wasn’t an emotionless cold-hearted bitch devoid of feeling. I started to question my worth. Maybe I was truly a horrible person. Maybe I was a damaged fruit. So much confusion and feelings were starting to build up. Did my not crying in front of her make me cold? But I wasn’t gonna give her the satisfaction. She wants to accuse me of being cold? Fine. I will be.
At one point, I guess because she couldn’t force me to willingly admit to being wrong, she made me write it down! No, not just some pen on some paper … oh no, that would be too kind, wouldn’t it? She made me use the fountain pen my parents gave me to write it down in the leather diary my parents gave me. My fancy pen in my personal diary. She dictated the words for me to write down in my diary, using I sentences for me to copy out her dictation, as if I actually felt that way. Stuff like I was wrong. I am sorry I was stubborn. How fucking fucked up is that? She was violating my private, personal space (diaries were a sacred thing, you know), forcing me to accede to her demand. She was demonstrating her ultimate power over me, she was showing me that she could control not only my actions but my thoughts. The act of my writing her words into my diary was the very representative of thought control. But even though she bullied me into writing down her words as though they were my own feelings, they were not my feelings. I wrote them, mentally resisting every step of the way. She was trying to control my thoughts and feelings, but I would not let her. It was totally messed up. I was so angry – still am. How could she do this to me? How could I let her? Quite!
Why did you let her? Another thing my therapist asked. I don’t know! I don’t fucking know! I was a bloody child! I don’t know why I let her make me. But I did. I did and it still pisses me off to this day. It pisses me off on so many levels. It was the ultimate power stamp. And it would happen over and over again. I would “agree” to something or let her have her way just to shut her up. But that was it, wasn’t it? It would lead to her getting her way. But she would still be pissed off because even though she managed to get her way through force, deep down she new I didn’t mean it. She knew I didn’t willingly give it to her. Because that’s what she really wanted: her way and for me to have given in to her willingly. But she would never get it because she used screams and verbal torrents to get it. So she would never be truly satisfied. And I would be dissatisfied. I would be left wondering why the fuck I let her … again. But it happened. As children. She learned to scream and shout at me. I learned to stay silent. If she kept on screaming and shouting, I would keep on staying silent. But then she would demand something of me. If I refused, she would start screaming and shouting at me again. Then she would go off on the many many reasons I was wrong, and selfish, and stubborn. Then she would demand of me again. If I continued to refuse, she would start at the beginning of the cycle of screaming and shouting. If I tried to argue back, she would alternate between the screaming and shouting, and listing all my horrible faults and qualities of being a selfish and horrible person, or all of those at the same time. She never seemed to tire. More often than not, eventually she got her way. It happened. When we were children. But then it happened again. We were still children. Then it happened again. We were teenagers. And again. Teenagers. And again. Adults. It was a cycle that started somewhere in the long past when we were children and suddenly, we were adults. And it was still happening. But we didn’t live in the same house anymore. I am an adult now, have been for more than half my life now. I can’t let her have power over me. But it’s been happening for so long. I still don’t know how to deal with it. You’d think it would be easier to deal with as an adult, but no. If anything, it’s harder. It’s so entrenched, fossilised.
There were no boundaries. Our parents had no idea what was happening between us. When I was a child, I didn’t have any power. Nobody told me how to set boundaries. Now as adults, because boundaries were never set, when we have serious disagreements we seem to revert back to being children. She still thinks she can use the same strategies as when we were children, and sometimes it even works. But she can’t sit me down and dictate words for me to write in my diary anymore. But I still don’t know how to fight back. She still tries the same scream tactics, and I default to silence. But now adays, I mostly just avoid her and have as few interactions with her as I can. I’m trying to work through it with my therapist, but it’s hard. It’s really fucking hard, and most of the time I feel like I just don’t have the time or the energy to put up with her. When I don’t interact with her, my life seems so much more peaceful.