Writings from Christine

The Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse Among Siblings

by on May 29, 2018

narcissistic abuse cycle

As sisters, Nicole and Sofi grew up in a two-parent, middle-class family. From the outside looking in, things appeared normal and healthy. But for Sofi, life was very difficult. Her sister bullied her, stole prized possessions, would lie and blame Sofi for things that went wrong, physically hit her, and destroyed some of Sofi’s things. Yet, Nicole seemed to charm their parents, constantly making Sofi out to look like the dangerous one.

Finally, after Sofi left the household, she began to research her sister’s behaviors. She came to believe that Nicole had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Nicole’s need to be superior, right, or in charge all the time-limited the possibility of any real reconciliation between them.

Instead, Sofi desperately tried to appease Nicole to keep the peace while Nicole played the victim in front of their parents. This switchback tactic emboldens the narcissistic behavior, even more, further convincing Nicole of her faultlessness. Any threat to Nicole’s authority only repeated the cycle again.

Here are the four narcissistic cycles of abuse:

Feels Threatened.

An upsetting event occurs and Nicole feels threatened. It could be rejection, disapproval, an embarrassment in a social setting, jealousy of her sister’s success, feelings of abandonment, neglect, or disrespect. Sofi, aware of the potential threat, immediately becomes nervous. She knows something is about to happen and begins to walk on eggshells around her sister. Most narcissists repeatedly get upset over the same underlying issues — whether the issue is real or imagined. They also have a tendency to obsess over the threat over and over.

Abuses Others.

After feeling threatened, Nicole engages in some sort of abusive behavior. The abuse can be physical, mental, verbal, sexual, financial, spiritual, or emotional. The abuse is customized to intimidate Sofi in an area of weakness especially if that area is one of strength for the narcissist. The abuse can last for a few short minutes or as long as several hours. Sometimes a combination of two types of abuse is used. For instance, Nicole would begin with verbal belittling to wear out Sofi. Followed by a projection of Nicole’s lying about an event as if Sofi did it. Finally tired of the assault, Sofi defensively fights back.

Becomes the Victim.

This is when the switchback occurs. Nicole uses Sofi’s behavior as further evidence that Nicole is the one being abused. Worse yet, Nicole believes her own twisted victimization by bringing up past defensive behaviors that Sofi has done as Sofi initiated the abuse. Because Sofi has feelings of remorse and guilt, she readily accepts this warped perception and tries to rescue Nicole. This might include giving into what Nicole wants, accepting unnecessary responsibility, placating Nicole to keep the peace, and agreeing to the narcissistic lies.

Feels Empowered.

Once Sofi has given in or up, Nicole feels empowered. This is all the justification Nicole needs to demonstrate her rightness or superiority. By contrast, Sofi has unknowingly fed the narcissistic ego and only to make it stronger and bolder than before. But every narcissist has an Achilles heel and the power they feel now will only last till the next threat to their ego appears.

Once the narcissistic cycle of abuse is understood, Sofi was able to escape the cycle at any point. She began by coming up with strategies for future confrontations, knowing the limitations of her sister, and having an escape plan in place. This cycle does not need to continue forward.

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Posted under: abuse Narcissism Writings from Christine

6 comment on The Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse Among Siblings


    What kind of strategies and escape plans are there for future confrontations?


    I have a sister with NPD. It is not possible to have a conversation without conflict. Recently we had not spoken in a months and then, out of no where I received “hate texts” for about 6 hours. I finally learned from my 20 y:/o niece that she told her mom she wanted to come down for a visit. She is making rules for her family not to talk to my family. Her primary target is me.

    There are no peaceful moments. The only reason I stay in contact with her at all is because our kids are close.

    I would like to stop talking to her completely and just have our husbands talk (her husband and 2/3 kids have moved out). She forbids them from seeing me and blames me for her divorce and her daughters desire not to live with her.

    I just don’t want to make things harder on her kids. I know she gets very angry when they see me (there are 6 teenagers, 3 mine and 3 hers). They love being together, whether I’m there or not doesn’t matter, except to her. She imagines that I have turned her adult kids against her. She doesn’t realize it’s her behavior that makes them avoid her. I know that having a manageable relationship with her is not possible. I just don’t know how to manage the rest of the family. Is it ok if I just cut off all contact?


      While it is OK to cut off contact, it might not be advisable. It sounds like there are just a couple of years left (the kids are teenagers) and it would harm them if contact was elimated.


    Andy Andersa, I so empathize with your situation. My jaw was hanging open as I read your story because it sounds so identical to mine. I just wanted you to know that there is someone out there who experiences this too and didn’t realize it until way late in life. It took years of therapy for me to understand that I had been abused in some way. Mentally and emotionally demolished by my sister and my mother but never put a label to it never knew about or understood narcissism until 3 years ago when I turned 40. I wish you the best in your situation!


    Oops. I see an immediate typo already lol and there’s no way to edit!!! My apologies, Andy ANDERS.

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