sisters, narcissistic abuse, narcissist, narcissism. dysfunctional families,

Once Were Sisters

Jessie grew up in an enmeshed family.
For as long as she could remember,
her life revolved around her parents and sisters.

sisters, narcissistic abuse, narcissist, narcissism. dysfunctional families,
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Her mother was very protective of them. She rarely let them out of her sight unless they were at school. Jessie and her sisters saw the world as a huge and dangerous place that could only be navigated if they were with their mother.

Jessie’s father believed women should stay home so her mother never worked outside the home. And it wasn’t long before he decided the girls should be homeschooled. Jessie was in the sixth grade when her education was disrupted because mother began to “homeschool” her. The truth was Jessie’s parents never bought any homeschooling books. Her mother never set up a classroom or taught the girls anything more than housework.

For the rest of Jessie’s childhood and teen years, she was refused an education. She never learned to drive because this was not one of her parent’s priorities. Their priorities were for her to cook and clean house. When Jessie got a rare babysitting job, her father reminded her that everything she earned belonged to the rest of the family, because they all shared everything. Jessie’s parents didn’t think about Jessie’s needs at all—they used her to meet their needs.

It was hard for Jessie to leave home because Jessie felt her mother’s feelings before she felt her own. She’d also been sharing everything so long, she didn’t even have her own opinion. To leave, she had to figure out who she was and separate herself from her enmeshed family.

When Jessie finally figured out her own dreams and left home, she wanted to help other people who had been raised like her. She called these homes without boundaries—not because there were no doors, but because everything from to money to opinions had to be shared with the group. When anyone broke out of this circle, they were labeled selfish for choosing to live by their own convictions.

When the sisters were alone together they barely dared to discuss what happened while growing up because it had been taboo for so long, they felt ashamed to mention the past. They’d been programmed to believe any reference to the past meant they had something wrong with them.

One day they were inside the house while they heard their father yelling at the grandkids outside. They all said they felt sick listening to him yell. It reminded them of how he yelled before he belted them, but the only one who would dare to confront him was Jessie. Her sisters said nothing.

One of her sisters confessed to Jessie that she didn’t really love their parents, she just felt sorry for them. Jessie sighed because while she felt love for her parents and she too had often felt sorry for them, but she believed she could still love them while speaking the truth in love. Jessie fully forgave her parents. She wanted nothing from them, but she knew God called her to tell her story.

As Jessie and her sisters matured, Jessie began to tell her story, but she was often accused of lying and making things up by her parents who wanted to cover for themselves. Because her sisters either felt sorry for or wanted to stay on the good side of their parents, they joined and bashed Jessie too.

Pretty soon the whole family was making Jessie out to be a villain. They seem to have forgotten it was Jessie who had often given to her sisters and her parents from paying their electric bills and buying groceries to giving them cribs and dining sets. As a matter of fact, Jessie was never called selfish until she spoke the truth her parents wanted to forget. And it wasn’t just material things, one sister said Jessie was her emotional support through hard times.

One of Jessie’s sisters went on an angry rant publicly about Jessie because she remembered a story Jessie told differently. She said Jessie was a liar and was trying to hurt their whole family. Jessie had no intentions of hurting her family and she was shocked. She never thought it would come to such blatant accusations because of two sisters seeing an event differently forty years ago.

When Jessie read this she wasn’t sure what to think. The lies, putdowns, and accusations were all there on social media. A mutual friend had pointed them out to her because she felt it misrepresented Jessie. Jessie’s sister questioned her salvation and said she hoped Jessie was mentally ill because that was the only hope she had of seeing her in heaven.

Jessie knew the truth. She knew those lies and insults came from her parents. Whenever her dad was upset with a church member or relative or even Jessie herself while she was growing up, he called them mentally ill. Jessie knew she wasn’t mentally ill and neither was her aunt or pastor or grandmother.

The last time she’d spoken to her mother, her mom worried that some of her children were not going to make it to heaven. Jessie found it ironic that her sister said Jessie was lying about being spiritually abused, while in the same rant as assuming Jessie was eternally lost for disagreeing with her. She knew declaring someone lost because you disagree with them is just another form of spiritual abuse and creating God in your own image. No matter what her family members have done, Jessie would not dare to suppose she knew the outcome of their salvation.

She was surprised to see her younger sister joining the conversation and saying Jessie just had fantasies of writing her childhood story like Laura Ingalls Wilder. She went so far in her contempt to say Jessie’s story was 5% true and 95% made up, but Jessie knows there are a few facts that even the group delusion of scapegoating can’t change. These facts remain a part of her life and her sisters’ lives regardless of what they say:

  • They moved every year during their childhood
  • They were refused an education
  • They were beaten with the belt
  • They had to give their money to the family
  • They were accused of being selfish when they didn’t do as they were told

Because they’d been discouraged from talking about these things, her sisters were uncomfortable because Jessie had begun to speak the truth. It’s like her sisters were still little girls stuck at home agreeing with their parents under the fear of the belt.

Because they want to protect themselves, her narcissistic parents will probably continue to play the victim until the day they die. What a sad legacy they will have left. These parents have damaged their children once in childhood and twice in adulthood because they’ve torn their own family apart by denying their own mistakes and playing the victim and blaming the messenger.

As Jessie read her sisters’ contempt, she made a mental note to ask God to “forgive them for they know not what they do” because they were once victims too. The bottom line is Jessie’s siblings feel so sorry for their parents, they would rather hate on their sister than admit the truth to themselves. And while they might be using Jessie as the family scapegoat, she is the lucky one who got away from the toxic narcissist and flying monkeys.

Jessie is sad. She still loves her sisters, but their own short memories have allowed them to forget that it was she who taught them to read as children. It was she who showered them with love and gifts with every baby they had in adulthood. Sadly, no amount of love and friendship can make up for contempt. Where there is contempt, there is no love.

The friend who showed her the posts apologized, but Jessie was grateful to recognize her sisters for who they are. This knowledge showed her it was time to let go and close the door on this chapter of her life. In the future, she will give her time to chosen sisters worthy of her friendship and love.

How about you? Are you dealing with flying monkeys or narcissistic family? Have you gone no contact? Was it hard to walk away? What gave you the tip off or courage to leave?

Please feel free to share in the comments, but if you are still in a volatile situation or relationship, remember to mask your identity.

*Jessie has chosen to not use her real name.


  1. Hi Cherylin,
    Thanks for this very moving post. I felt sad and frustrated reading this, as it is a typical bouqet of barbed wire that is among the mangle and damage and hurt that is so typical of narcissitic families. The casualties are very plain to see, or another word is victims. Jess felt God had called her to speak her story, and the contemptuous abuse she suffered as a result of doing so makes me think of Jesus words “a prophet is only without honour in his own family and among his/her own kin”. I personally think there comes a time when “enough is enough”. It’s really a gut feeling. I often think about Jesus before Pilate, who after bearing witness to the truth eventually refused even to speak to Pilate. So sometimes we need to take to heart that Christ was sometimes silent and that people are no longer worthy of our words, they have lost the privilege. There is always hope for a way back, but at this stage the abusers or those who turn a blind eye or “wash their hands like Pilate did” even after they know the truth, the next move must definitely come from them and if it doesn’t, pray for them and move on completely. Enjoy and relish your freedom and the fact that you survived so much hurt and suffering.

    Kindest regards,
    Caroline xx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Caroline!

    So many have survived this type of abuse and lived to tell about it.

    Thank you for bringing up the example of Jesus. So many times what Jesus did and how Jesus spoke is in contrast to our Christian families today.

    I am also reminded of Jesus asking, “Who are my mother and my brothers? Those who do the will of my Father in heaven.”

    It seems really sad to think of all the so-called Christian parents who infer their grown children won’t be saved because they don’t do what the parents want. These parents have pretty limited God picture. They are the ones who lose out on all of us ACoNs who finally get to know what Jesus is like and follow his voice. His sheep know his voice. (I’m listening Jesus!)

    Here a couple of verses that might help people:

    If you reason with an arrogant cynic,
    you’ll get slapped in the face;
    confront bad behavior
    and get a kick in the shins.
    So don’t waste your time on a scoffer;
    all you’ll get for your pains is abuse.
    But if you correct those who care about life,
    that’s different—they’ll love you for it!
    Save your breath for the wise—
    they’ll be wiser for it;
    tell good people what you know—
    they’ll profit from it.
    -Prov. 9:7-12, MSG

    Clear my name, God;
    I’ve kept an honest shop.
    I’ve thrown in my lot with you, God,
    and I’m not budging…

    I don’t hang out with tricksters,
    I don’t pal around with thugs;
    I hate that pack of gangsters,
    I don’t deal with double-dealers.

    I scrub my hands with purest soap,
    then join hands with the others
    in the great circle,
    dancing around your altar, God,
    Singing God-songs
    at the top of my lungs,
    telling God-stories.
    -Psalm 26:1, 4-6, MSG

    You’ve always been right there for me;
    don’t turn your back on me now.
    Don’t throw me out,
    don’t abandon me;
    you’ve always kept the door open.
    My father and mother walked out
    and left me,
    but God took me in.
    -Psalm 27:1-10

    Peace and freedom to you!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. So much of this story is my story. I ended my Facebook account years ago because three of my mother’s flying monkeys — two sisters and a brainwashed teenage niece, whom I had only briefly met once in her life, about ten years before — were scapegoating and on Facebook. Some of their hateful comments were being posted on my wall or sent via private message, but most of their worst comments were being made to each other, and showing up in my newsfeed. Online bullying is what they were doing to me. It hurt me so bad, I almost wanted to die.

    For at least five years after that experience, every time I heard the name “Facebook” or caught a glimpse of the ubiquitous FB logo, my heart HURT. I don’t know if I will ever be able to go back on FB, not even after my memoir is finished and ready to publish. Having an FB page is recommended as a good way to promote a book, but I believe I can do without those additional sales!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Linda Lee,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! You just said something very important–you defined what happened to both of us by relatives on FB as bullying.

    I’m sad that you had this painful experience and have shut yourself off from having good connections on FB. After the latest incidence last summer, I blocked my entire family from my FB. There are many wonderful people I dialog with on a daily basis. I would gladly be your friend if you come back and help you find more healthy friends. Remember you can block anyone who is bullying you. Please don’t let those bullies keep you from finding good connections online and also don’t let them silence your voice. Your story matters and your voice is needed!

    Even if you don’t go back, there are other ways to promote a book. I have not spent much time worrying about promoting a book. My goal is to write a book worthy of sharing. I heard an interview with a book promoter who said that memoirs are usually promoted by word of mouth, if we tell our stories with skill, the readers will naturally want to share it.

    Peace and freedom to you!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. I value your website Cherilyn. Thank you very much for creating this. Your stories are powerful.

    I just started therapy (not that long ago) after a conflict with my remaining family this summer left me in shock. I can relate to Jessie, especially this: “It was hard for Jessie … because Jessie felt her mother’s feelings before she felt her own.” My mom has adopted (I only see it when I show up in person, which is rarely) a victim stance, and sees insult behind innocuous things I say or harmless actions. She once took insult over something I said about a vacuum cleaner! I’m left nonplussed and perplexed at why on earth insult was taken. But then she seems to suffer immensely because of the supposed insult — supposedly because of me. This is what makes it so hard to deal with. I hate to see her suffering — supposedly over me, but I’m also afraid to deal with the situation. I’d appreciate any insight or feedback you might have.

    My dad, a narc, did his best to brainwash her against anyone who might challenge his authority, including me or the few friends she ever made. Even though he passed away 8 years ago, the “borg”-like way of thinking seems to persist. It’s like a cult. Weird!

    (I also get the “you’re mentally ill” suggestions and she and my sister like to complain to other people — about me.)

    I’ll keep returning to read more on your site. Thank you dear Cherilyn. May God bless you richly.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Another Escaping Goat,
    Whenever narcissistic people or insecure people call us mentally ill, we should laugh. They do it out of desperation for anything intelligent to say because they have no specific explanation for their complaint and simply want to insult us. It reminds me of that saying by Desmond Tutu, “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
    Feeling your mother’s feelings before your own, seems to happen in enmeshed family relationships, but it could be more complicated. There are books about emotional incest you might want to check out and discuss with your therapist.
    It’s sad when family members in enmeshed families cannot seem to see outside of the circle or relate to other options in life, so they try to bully the one person who is trying to be whole. If you have been able to see things others haven’t, remember Karyl McBride’s illustration of a giraffe. She says we ACoNs who wake up first are like giraffes, we can see above all the drama. I like to think we can see better things on the horizon.
    The vacuum cleaner thing is weird. I am not sure what to think about that. But maybe she can’t handle you disagreeing with her?

    Thank you for your kind words. It gives me great joy to know I am able to help others despite my own pain.

    Peace and Freedom to you!



  7. I think you are so right about narcs and the different ways they use to control or manipulate others, especially children. When I married my wife, “we met at a tent revival” and within 3 months we were married. I didn’t know that she was very much a co dependent and alot of church people are dysfunctional, since, I have learned. I knew absolutely nothing about her mind or emotions that that began to come out later.and I didn’t understand what was wrong with her. She is a wonderful person and very kind and respectful, loves the teaching of Jesus and always reads her bible every morning. Since we have been married I have read and researched everything on the market about codependent and narcissistic people and it really opened my mind and eyes. I have helped her to get rid of the past trauma baggage and be her true self and she has came a long way since. You are doing a great service in your emails and many many people are being freed from the prison of low self-esteem, shame,guilt, and feeling unworthy. Thank you for all you are doing, God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

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