I Feel Anxious When My Sister Insults Me

A young woman (let’s call her Katie) in her early forties sought my help for anxiety. After explaining in detail her problem, Katie told me that her major source of anxiety was her relationship with her sister. For the last several years, her older sister didn’t respect her and whenever she had a chance she insulted her. No matter what Katie did, her sister would belittle her with negative comments. As a result, Katie would go home and cry.

Katie had done everything to stop her sister’s negative behaviour. She had remained silent and tried to ignore her sister insulting her. At times she would argue with her defending herself that her older sister didn’t have the right to speak with her with disrespect. At some occasions, contrary to her character, Katie even had fought back by shouting and insulting. However, none of these strategies worked for Katie to stop her older sister’s verbal abuse.

As I talked to Katie I found out that she used to go to her mother’s coffee shop every day. Later in the afternoon her three children would also go to the coffee shop to see their grandmother and their aunt (Katie’s older sister) and have some snacks. Two details draw my attention. First of all Katie’s mother didn’t let her pay for her coffee and for children’s snacks. Secondly, the coffee shop was co-owned by Katie’s older sister.  These two important details gave me the information about how to stop her older sister’s verbal abuse.

I asked Katie to add up the costs of her coffees and her kids’ snacks for one month. She realized that it was an important sum of money. I told her that she could go to visit her mom as usual for coffee and chatting. She could also let her children drop by for snacks. However, from now on, she should pay for her coffees and the snacks. If her mom said that she was part of the family and didn’t have to pay, Katie had insist saying that she would not have coffee nor let her children have snacks unless she paid for them. When her mother saw that Katie was determined, accepted to get paid.

That day Katie’s older sister was not in the coffee shop. However, her mother must have told her the news because the next day Katie’s older sister stopped her verbal abuse. Katie told me that she was amazed because it was like magic. Without saying a word about the rude behaviour of her older sister or confronting her in any way, she stopped insulting Katie. This was a major breakthrough for Katie’s anxiety. We dedicated three more sessions to address other sources of anxiety in her life.