Dear Rhonda & Dr. Cheri: My sister is an angry bully
Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My sister and I are in high school. She’s bossy and angry, just like my parents.
She gets outraged if I don’t do what she says. She says, “You made me so angry that I … couldn’t finish my homework or failed a test because of you.” It never ends.
We don’t do the same things. She dances. I’m on the swim team.
She says she does everything and yells at me to do the dishes, laundry, and cleaning. I already do all that. She exploded, because I took a shower and “used all the hot water,” and that’s not true, either.
I had enough of her accusations and told her off. She got quiet and said in a scary way, that I had better “watch it.” Or what?
My parents tell me to ignore her. But they don’t take their own advice.
I can’t sleep, eat, or pay attention, and this makes my sister happy. Is she a bully or mentally ill?
Bullying is an imbalance of power. Anger can be a part of mental illnesses; however, being a bully isn’t the same as having an anger problem. Bullies look for someone to dominate. It appears your acquiescence to her has made you her punching bag. Stand tall, be calm, and using your eye contact, tell her, “Stop bullying me.” Don’t engage in any other way, ever.
It is not your fault that you’re her victim. Choosing not to stay a victim is difficult, but best for you.
It’s a process we call our Triangle of Triumph.
Step No. 1 — As a victim (first side of the triangle) you’re choosing not to stay one. Learn about the five stages of grieving (denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance) and start working through them in healthy ways: physical gestures, like pressing your fingers together hard, kickboxing, or screaming into a pillow.
Step No. 2 — is survival, which doesn’t mean just existing. Immerse yourself in our 5Cs of Leadership: Civility — no matter what your sister does, be caring, courteous, and considerate of her; Confidence — don’t react to her; Courage — Don’t become a bully-victim, which means revenge bullying; Creativity — practice your own talents; Communication — be brief, don’t explain or defend yourself.
Step No. 3 — become a good leader of yourself and then be an example.
Your sister may have an angry mask on to hide fear, guilt, shame, anxiety, insecurities, sadness, or emotional pain. Have faith. You may break the cycle of anger in your family.
Remember, you aren’t ignoring her, you just won’t banter with her. You can only change you, not your sister, mother, or father.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri
Rhonda Orr is the president and founder of the Prescott-based Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Listen to Rhonda’s podcast: bullyinglifeandstuff.com