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spittingblaze's avatar

What can I do to improve my ability to be less defensive?

Asked by spittingblaze (258points) December 27th, 2010

I have gotten very angry at my brother lately at how he treats me. I have been having a hard go of his behavior, not knowing how to deal with it and taking care of my handicapped dad at the same time. Are there some ways I can choose how I react to his insults, nakedness and other creative ways to utterly annoy me? I know laughter, laughing at someone and creative comebacks are one. But is there way I can not get so angry?

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27 Answers

spittingblaze's avatar

“You pathetic doormat.” “You self-pitying bit-” These are good insults. They do not hurt coming from myself though. Or “your spelling sucks! Improve your grammar.” Or something like that.

woodcutter's avatar

i just can’t do it. sorry.

spittingblaze's avatar

Well at least you are not arguementive.

marinelife's avatar

You are in an emotional hell.

You need to get out of the house and live somewhere else and get a job. Perhaps you can send some money to help pay for your father’s care, but you should not be a slave, which is what you are.

It does not sound very healthy for you to be living with your brother and mother. They do not respect your emotional boundaries. You do not need a tougher skin, you need to get out of there.

spittingblaze's avatar

Hearing the perceptive of a outside person is refreshing. It is hell emotionally. I love my mother very much but everytime I try and tell her- It is just. Maybe I need some space for a little from my family. If I get a job, live somewhere else it will be easier emotionally maybe. Your suggestions sound very good and it is something I would like to do. It is possible a slight challenge, but I guess my life will be significantly easier.

Often I have been told if I get my own place and my own job, those things combined- Something like ‘running away does not solve anything.’ or ‘When you run away from your problems they just get worse.’ That may or may not be true.

I will think of what you said, I do not disagree exactly, it is something I need to think about.

Edit: I guess I just thought if I chose or thickened my skin how I reacted to the various things I have told the readers, it would be emotionally easier and I would feel as if my life sucked. I guess I was wrong.
When deciding two years ago two years ago to take care of my dad, it was because my dad could be around my mom, brother all the time, there would not have be any money paid for him to go a home and I would get spend time with him all the time. He has improved somewhat over the course of two years when it comes to recovery, tis’ very slow recovery.

My family do not make taking care of dad easy. I get breaks on the weekends. Sometimes mom helps out with dad and doing chores. I have to do most of it though.

Pandora's avatar

I agree with @marinelife. You need to leave and make your own life.You are only given one life and your not living it. Your living for others. Your brother sounds very abusive. You owe it to yourself to move away and move on. I would suggest they grow a thicker skin. Your mother should at least defend you for all you do and your brother needs to grow up.

spittingblaze's avatar

My mother says that she will talk to me and let me vent about anything except when it comes to her children. She does not want to be involved in our arguing. She gets insanely stressed whenever we do so. She is almost like Sheldon off Big Bang Thoery when Leonard and Penny fight. I am of your opinion, I wish she would back me up sometimes or at least just tell him to fu*k off seeing as I have had to handle this for two years. But as you observe Pandora (your name reminds me of the Pandora off Avatar) my brother is very abusive, I do not know why, he has had a difficult life but so have we both.

A lot of shit as happened, but what other readers have said including you are right. I am living for my family and not myself. My brother is three or four years older than me. I think he should grow up to and he is not going to. Ideally it would be nice if my family respected my emotional boundaries- but it does not seem like that shall happen.

Move on. Hum. If things do not get easier anytime soon I might as well I am not super human. I am mildly afraid things would be even worse in another situation but I am just being paranoid perhaps.

Pandora's avatar

If she wants peace in the home than she must demand it from those who create the most distrubance. She needs to let your brother know that his behavior will not be tolerated. If a man of 24 cannot understand that it is not proper for him to walk around naked, than something is severely wrong. He can do that all he wants in his own home where he pays for his home and paid for his own things or in a nudist colony setting, or nudist beach. But to do it to only upset you is another thing.
You could try to let him know that for a man his age that his stuff is really tiny. He may get super concious about it and decide to at least wear underwear. It may not work the first time or so but say it enough times and he will develop a complex. :D
Good luck.

YARNLADY's avatar

Anyone with half a brain can find dozens of insult websites on the internet.

spittingblaze's avatar

But would the insults found by other people, or created by other people in real life, thrown at me be more painful, if I give them to myself they would hurt less would they not? I think if other people insult me, I can practice, laughing saying comebacks or whatever. It disturbs people when I laugh at their stupidity. Ah I get it were you trying to insult me Yarnlady? Ah I am half-brained, ha, ha.

And Pandora lol, you made me laugh, I do not disagree, my mother could demand peace if she wanted it so badly. ha, ha. I wonder how he would react to having his penis being called super small? Ha, ha

flutherother's avatar

I’m not going to insult you and I don’t think that being sensitive is a bad thing. It is good that you are looking after your Dad and maybe your brother feels guilty that he isn’t helping out more. Maybe he feels that you are getting closer to your Dan and he is being left out and that is why he is insulting you. You have also got to consider your own life which is a kind of on hold at the moment. How about calling a family meeting where you all get together to discuss these things.

spittingblaze's avatar

Well my life has been hold for the past two years, you are right however that my life is kind of on hold at the moment. Thank you though :) often I have been told that sensitivity is not a good thing because it makes you more defensive.

My brother might feel guilty about some of the things he has done in the past, it is not healthy to lash out at me on a consistent basis though but there is nothing I can do to change him. Perhaps he might consider my feelings if we had a family discussion. I am not confident about it but a person never knows. I have tried to discuss our issues with each other many times over the past few years but it has been tricky to do. I wonder if he would talk about it together as a family. Maybe.

Most of the readers’ feedback has been thought provoking thank you.

spittingblaze's avatar

I had to edit. Just in case anyone was wondering.

Cruiser's avatar

The more you acknowledge it the more it verifies to him it bothers you. I would be very clear and state just how unnecessary and yes annoying his behavior is. If he refuses to change his behavior I would just ignore it as best you can.

spittingblaze's avatar

Putting earphones in your ears in one’s ears, blasting it away whenever he is near would be much easier to ignore him then.

aprilsimnel's avatar

And remember a couple of things: 1) Whatever anyone says or does, it’s about them, not you, no matter how they try to spin it, because whatever they say or do, it’s a reflection of their own perceptions, which could be wrong (and in this case, sounds like your brother is either seriously warped or having a guilt reaction he doesn’t want to deal with).

2) When we’re hurt that someone calls us names, upon examination it’s because some part of us, however tiny, believes that insult about ourselves and the belief becomes a way of hurting ourselves. While you ignore him, you’ll probably have to do some inner soul searching on why you believe his insults enough that they hurt you. If he called you a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater, you’d laugh, because you clearly aren’t. So if he calls you a bitch and you’re hurt, then part of you thinks that you really are a bitch and you don’t want to be one, so it hurts to see yourself that way. Thus, even our own self-perceptions can be warped. The pain is there to cause you to ask yourself: What is true about me? Do my values line up with my self-perceptions? If they do, then he can piss off. If they don’t, well… Do you see what I’m getting at? Don’t give him any more power over your sense of self than he deserves, which is to say: NONE!

I’d try to get the heck out of there, and in the meantime, you know what he’s going to say and do, so you’re free to ignore it.

Coloma's avatar

The best reaction is NO reaction.

Easier said than done at times, but, highly effective.

Remember..‘the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.’

I agree also a 100% with @aprilsimnel

Pay attention to #2 on her list.

I once had a now ex -friend, react violently to me complimenting her on being intelligent.

I was taken aback by her reaction until I realized she had to rebuff the compliment because she did not believe it to be true about herself!

Do your best to not react and give your brother what he wants, a reaction that pushes your buttons and makes him feel superior at being able to make you ‘dance’ on commad like a trained seal.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve been really confused reading this. It seems like everyone is thinking in terms of retaliation, not reducing defensiveness. Is there something I’m missing? Is there secret information people are talking about that was taken out in edits?

At last I come to @Coloma‘s answer, which is the only one that makes sense to me—and is advice you should follow. Do not reaction. Your brother only does this to you because he knows he can get a reaction. That gives him power over you. It makes him feel good that he can ruin your day.

Remember, he’s a useless, powerless twit. Do not say that to him. Just remember it. He is doing nothing. He doesn’t help your father or your mother. For God’s sake, he walks around nude in front of everyone! He can’t be bothered to put clothes on or to make himself presentable. How much more do you need to know to realize you should be ignoring him. There is no reason on earth that you have given us so far to pay any attention to him at all, as far as I can tell.

I mean, do you owe him money? Is he threatening your girl friend? Does he know where you hid the loot? I mean what can possibly give him power over you? Oh, yeah. One thing: your own mind.

You, and only you have the power to let him have power over you. You are the only one who let him get your goat. You are the only one who can let him tease you.

He doesn’t matter. Really, he’s nothing. His behavior proves it. He’s not worth paying attention to. He has nothing useful to offer. He’s only destructive. The best thing to do is to ignore him. If you don’t ignore him, then you are buying into his view of the world—the stupid view of the world. You know better. You know how to fulfill obligations. You know how to get what you want. Do it. Pay no more attention to him than you would to a leaf on the sidewalk.

spittingblaze's avatar

Well the information I deleted- I had to change the title and summery of this question because I was asked to edit it. The information I deleted was that I left grade school in grade nine, I have moved to many different cities in the same country, for ten years my parents have not- well- not has been sick due to multiple back accidents and back surgies because of injury on the job. My dad had to stay at home and he was still independent even though he could not work, he was rendered very disabled two years ago when all at once he had two heart attacks, brain seizures, a stroke, a month long coma and he had to take a long time to get power back in his limbs. He had to get surgury on his left eye so he could see. The only limb that does not work is his right eye. Even though his left eye works well, he is not totally alert with it.

Two years ago he was at the point where everyone thought he might- he was in the very early stages of stroke recovery and did not move perfectly. My mom and brother could not take care of him and go to the hospital everyday anymore like they had been doing. My mother was torn with the decision of putting him in a home, my brother did not want to take care of him.

I wanted to see daddy, all the time, I thought I would make life easier for everyone by taking care of dad. My dad has bathroom problems during the night, he has weird sleep patterns so I have to stay up 24/7 as much as I can to feed him, cook for him, bathe him and sometimes teach him things. I have to exercise excellent patience because he is not always easy. I love dad but he is like a big man-child. Dad often wakes me up during the night to help him..

Over the past year my brother has called me an ‘lazy girl dog’, complained that I was unemployed, walked around naked just to bother me a lot, ‘yelled at me constantly’, criticized how I spoke, how I should speak, when I was using big words, my vocabulary, when I retaliate, how I speak, my combacks, my laughing, my woes, my subject topics with my mother in the car, my abilities, what I bring up and everything about me quite frequently. My mother is like Sheldon Cooper of the Big Bang Theory and whenever I try to talk to her about my problems regarding my brother she will not hear of it and she freaks out. She will not hear of any problems I have with anyone even though she often uses me as her personal therapist.

A lot is required of me new posters and readers. I have to take care of my dad, the house, be my mom’s personal therapists and sometimes I am- I have to maintain a perfect emotional calmness and if I react to anything I am critized. I often am sarcastic back to my brother, have clever comebacks that annoy him or laugh at him.

I have been taking care of my dad since I was eighteen. I have put a lot of myself into this and taking care of dad. My original intention to take care of dad was to make it easier on the my family including him. My brother is or has not been easy on me. I cannot be my dad’s caretaker and have a job at the same time.

It is just I am not perfect. I cannot be perfectly emotionally strong all the time. I am going to get offended. I do not agree with some said above. My brother has accused me of being a lazy girl dog. I think I work hard, I do a lot for my family and take care of dad. I do not think I am a lazy person or the insult he calls me.

Anyway I like some of the posts above.

Edit: It is not as easy not reacting, my brother does a lot more than- Never mind. I will just reflect on some of the comments that I like, some of them have been thought provoking. Thank you readers.

I wanted suggestions on how to thicken my skin, no one was willing to in- also I found out that telling people to insult you on fluther was self-destructive and not allowed. I am not encouraging such things now.

Coloma's avatar


I think that maybe you do not fully realize that you do have a choice.

You do not ‘have to’ do anything.

I think it is time to unburden yourself from all of the emotional and verbal abuse.

Maybe start making plans to leave, do what you need to do, for YOURSELF.

There is no heroism in being a martyr, martyrs almost always get burned at the stake.

Tune out your psycho family and tune IN to your own wants, needs and desires.

It’s the only way.

Best wishes to you! :-)

spittingblaze's avatar

Thank you :) I do need to focus on myself a little more and my own desires. I agree with that advice. My parents and brother have gone through a lot these past ten years. They are probably just grieving but it wise advice to focus on myself more. I have focused mostly on other people.

lemming's avatar

I agree with @marinelife, and nine great answers ain’t bad. Good luck.

snowberry's avatar

And in the meantime you can refuse to be your mom’s therapist. If she objects, or ask you why, don’t answer. If you give a reason or answer, that’s giving her permission to try to talk you back into playing therapist, and once again you are in the power struggle

The whole thing is one giant power struggle. If you remove yourself from it, there are other ways to help Dad. One way is to keep an eye on things, and let the authorities know what’s happening. Specifically, look for signs that Dad isn’t getting his medication, has bruises, is losing weight, etc. You didn’t say what country you are in, but in many countries, there are specific laws regarding care of the elderly. In the USA they are quite strict, and there are even social workers specially trained to deal with your situation.

spittingblaze's avatar

My dad is not being physically, emotionally or physically abused at all. There are not bruises on him, he is spoiled by all three of us all the time. My mom is my friend, and like a friend sometimes they tell you too much of their problems.

My brother is not that bad. I do not mind taking care of my dad. There is no physical abuse going on in my family or anything like that. I am just finding the constant verbal squabbling with my brother a bit annoying. I do not fight with my mother. The only verbal fighting is what happens between my brother and I.

My brother probably is only temperamental and a bit bitchy because he is in grief. Dad is always getting enough meds and everything that the doctors tell us to help him with. We are good to my dad I think.

The only problem is the way my brother treats me, it gets tiresome after a while. My mother has been trying to tell me less of her problems the last few weeks. I should not have mentioned my mother.

It is mostly my brother that is giving me the hard time. I only meant is that while I am taking care of my dad, having constant verbal spats with my brother is not fun, we usually do it when dad is not around.

Thank you though.

We all spoil my father maybe a little too much, we give him what he needs and what the doctor tells us to give him. He has all the help and kindness he needs and we give him plenty of it.

My brother is just a bit verbally bitchy only towards me, kind and awesome to everyone else. He seems to only like having verbal spats with me. We have gone through a lot the past while, he is probably just stressed with work.

I do need to focus more on myself yes. My brother and I only have spats once a week. Most of the time it is okay. I will focus more on myself. Things are going alright. We all love dad so much.

spittingblaze's avatar

But yeah if I am not in the mood to listen to someone’s problems it is not like I have to. That is very true.

snowberry's avatar

@spittingblaze What I meant is that as you described it, you were responsible for pretty much of all your dad’s well being. Maybe I missed something there, but that was my understanding. As such, if you move out, someone else (your brother, your mom, someone would be doing those things you are doing now, or not doing them, depending. That’s why I would recommend you watching for signs of neglect or abuse. That’s also why a social worker for seniors (many doctors who specialize in senior health care have them) is a good idea. Our family has benefited from their use.

wunerful's avatar

Hi—I’m brand new to Fluther and your description of your situation captivated me. Your devotion to family is really impressive.

Some things to consider about family dynamics: you have become the man of the house. Your father now has the status more of a child. Your mom now relies on you as her confidante and protector, so you’ve essentially traded places with your dad.

Where does this leave your brother? Roles have all become subverted, and his behaviors probably are rooted, as you or someone said, in grief/stress of losing the family as he knew it. Considering your emotional maturity in dealing with this big pile that life has handed you, you are the go-to person for family members dumping their stress at your feet, because you clearly can handle it.

Only you can’t, past a point. Your sensitivity is both an asset and a weakness.

Also, family members often treat each other poorly because they’re so certain of the fundamental love that they end up abusing it. Find a way to draw some boundaries, because once your empathy is exhausted, you’ll be in a bad place. Save some for later!

A lot of your story clicks with me because I see pieces of it in my life, too, as my siblings and I care for my aging folks. My mom leans on us kids way too much and gets nasty with everyone as Dad keeps declining. She should have developed close friendships years ago for support, but instead dumps on us. Consider that for all of you: you need plenty of time away from each other in order to keep doing what you’re doing for your dad.

My one all-purpose saying to irritants is “Grow up.” It’s calm, mature, truthful and direct, as long as you don’t scream it :) That’s the short-term fix, besides recognizing your role as family leader. Beyond that, you, your mother and brother need enough outside support via friendships, hobbies or anything fun, diverting and interesting if you all are to stay this course in caring for your dad at home. You’ll get relief, your mom can have other shoulders to cry on, and your brother might stay out of your hair more.

Misbehavior is always about wanting attention. Maybe you can figure out whose attention he really wants, and why, and go from there. Maybe he’s jealous that your mom leans on you so much, and he wants more attention from her?

Hope some of this helps. You sound like a wonderful family.

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