By | February 4, 2011 21 Comments

BOOK REVIEW: A Mind of Its Own

By Ox Drover

I recently read A Mind of Its Own—How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, by Cordelia Fine, Ph.D. Dr. Fine was awarded a degree in experimental psychology from Oxford University, an M.Phil. in criminology from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. in psychology from University College in London. She is currently a research associate at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

This book is very entertaining and as the book jacket says,

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about the extraordinary workings of our hundred-billion-celled brain: its amazing capacities to regulate sensation, perception, thinking, and feeling, its ability to shape all experience and define our identity. But there is a brain we don’t generally hear about, a brain we might not want to hear about, a brain with a mind of its own.

Exposing the mind’s deceptions and exploring how the mind defends and glorifies the ego, Dr. Cordelia Fine illustrates the brain’s tendency toward self delusion. Unbeknownst to us, our brain—vain, emotional, immoral, deluded, pigheaded, secretive, weak-willed, and bigoted—pushes, pulls, twists, and warps our perceptions. Each of us has a slew of prejudices that prevent us from seeing the truth about the world, the people around us, and ourselves. With fascinating studies to support her arguments, Dr. Fine takes us on an insightful, rip-roaringly funny tour through the brain you never knew you had.

While we all, I think, want to “know the truth,” the biggest hazard to our knowledge of the truth of what is around us and of ourselves, according to Dr. Fine, is our own brain, protecting our ego’s perceptions.

“Memory is often the overzealous secretary who assists ”¦ by hiding or destroying files that harbor unwanted information,” she says. “It is like a smart lawyer searching for evidence to bolster his client’s case, rather than a jury searching for truth.”

With a psychopath trying to con us, we tend to believe more than disbelieve because “belief” seems to be the default judgment of the brain. Since more often than not, belief is true, it is easier for us to believe something than to disbelieve.

Also, Dr. Fine says, “If your brain is distracted or under pressure, you will tend to believe statements that you would normally find rather dubious. In fact, you may even find yourself believing things you were explicitly told were untrue.”

When we are involved with someone who is deliberately conniving, deliberately misleading and false, such as a psychopath, we need every element of our logical, truth-seeking brain to function at maximum capacity.

This book is an excellent guide to how we can watch for our false beliefs and prejudices to surface, and how we can rethink our opinions and prejudices.

Dr. Fine says, “It’s our irresistible urge to play amateur psychologist that makes us so vulnerable to our initial beliefs, no matter how bluntly the facts they were based on may be discredited. It’s human nature to try to explain everything that happens around us, perhaps as a way to make life seem less capricious.

“We are credulous creatures who find it easy to believe, but difficult to doubt. The problem is that we believe things to be true as a matter of course.”

Psychopaths understand this about us and use the “love bomb” approach when they first encounter us, to overcome our natural caution in interacting with new individuals. Once they have “conned” us into believing that we can trust them, our own brains distort and deceive us into continuing with that opinion.

This is a great book for opening our eyes to how our own brains deceive us.

A Mind of Its Own is available on

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Thanks for this book review. I am always amazed at the power of our minds. We can really delude ourselves. But the good news is, we can also use our minds for healing. I’m reading a fascinating book now about how this works, and I’ll be doing a review of it when I’m done.


God is Great. Beer is Good. People are Crazy.


I read this book too. Loved it. Thanks for doing that review.
The psychopath takes our gullibility to new levels by telling lies so audacious that no one would doubt their veracity, because you think, “who would lie like that?”. And the truth is so unbelievable that you can’t bring yourself to believe it. The problem is we think we know the world, and truth is, we don’t know the half of it.

Someone posted a link earlier on another thread, that is so full of information:
here’s a quote from it:
“At some point, a local reporter suddenly had the idea to check up on the guy – to see if his credentials were real. What the reporter found out was that the only thing that was true about this up and coming politician’s “faked bio” was the place and date of birth. Everything else was fictitious. Not only was the man a complete impostor, he had a long history of antisocial behavior, fraud, impersonation, and imprisonment. His only contact with a university was a series of extension courses by mail that he took while in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. What is even more amazing is the fact that before he was a con-man, he was a “con-boy.” For two decades he had dodged his way across America one step ahead of those he had hoodwinked. Along the way he had married three women and had four children, and he didn’t even know what had happened to them. And now, he was on a roll! But darn that pesky reporter!

When he was exposed, he was completely unconcerned. “These trusting people will stand behind me. A good liar is a good judge of people,” he said. Amazingly, he was right. Far from being outraged at the fact that they had all been completely deceived and lied to from top to bottom, the local community he had conned so completely to accrue benefits and honors to himself that he had not earned, rushed to his support!”

Ox Drover

I am actually RE-reading this book, there is just so much information in it that there is no way to rush through it or to get it all even if you read it slowly and carefully. It is one of those books that you must read a while and then ponder a while.

I am still also rereading the 48 laws of power, which I think could be a 2 year college study in itse.f there is so much information in there.

2 bcopo, get you a copy of that book “the 48 laws of power” and the n ext time you have a situation come up like this you will be prepared in advance!

Taking in all the information that is available, even just the good stuff and not the nut job stuff, and putting it all to work is a big job, and hard work, but you don’t have to get through it all before it starts to benefit you and how you feel.

Well, I’m going to bed, I think I will go outside and play in the snow tomorrow! sleep tight everyone! Love Oxy


The “love bomb” approach is common with many religions.
It’s a clever way to get the new comer to “feel at home”.

I sat across from an Asian girl in the subway who
was wearing a short dress and kept opening and
closing her legs while looking at my crotch
and pretending to read her prayer book.
I, of course, fell for it. She invited me to her
church service the name of which I hadn’t heard
of before. I asked if she followed Rev Moon.
She acted frightened and said she was afraid of him.

She was, of course, doing a con. Her come-on was
something she had been taught to do probably
from an early age, her church was probably a
Moon spin-off, Moon was not after her, he probably
already was in control of her and I didn’t go to that

In many parts of the world, including the US, this is
considered the upright and moral thing as long as it brings
$ into the collection plate (and glory to God, of course).
Some ppl will say yes to any manipulation w/o question.
I was very much into what she was doing and was
surprised to see my other half not cooperating.
It must have seen the unstated contradiction between
the prayer book and her open display of affection.-)


Hello great book and review. My situation is very unique. I am an aunt to a 5 year old girl, my brother’s daughter. My sister-in-law is emotionally abusing the child. She will not allow the child to bond freely with family members. She never leaves the child alone with family. She gets extremely enraged if the child has a good time with a family member. She is always observing the child even when doing other chores. If she tells the child not to eat, the child obeys her and goes hungry. If she says she cant go to grandma’s room, the child will not step into grandma’s room. If the child likes a vanilla shake she gives her chocolate shakes and makes her say it is her favorite. She controls the child’s tastebuds, bladder/bowel habits, emotions, forming relationships etc. My niece is very intelligent and is in 1st grade, but her mother has enrolled her in 5 activities. The mother always keeps the child away from home, comes home to sleep or in the master bedroom with the child. She is teaching the child to act, lie, hurt people and not be compassionate. I asked to take the child out for 2 hrs she said no problem, but the child refused to get in the car. She looked very scared and her mother must have threatened her. But my Sister-in-law asked her colleagues at work about the child’s beahvior and souded very puzzled when in fact she had manipulated the child against getting in the car. She has the neighbors fooled, volunteers in school. She uses the neighbors kids to keep the child away from home & family.My sister in law is so toxic, such a good actress and nobody would even know who she really is. My brother is totally given up, still married to her, has no relationship with his own child. He allows her to do whatever she wants. She is ruining a beautiful intelligent child. Being the paternal aunt I wonder if there is something I can do. I am so worried about my niece’s well being. Any advice from Donna/ Ox or anybody?


Educate yourself on how narcissists act. Read, read, read as much as you can about narcissists and sociopaths. Read online, but also read books. You won’t be able to protect the child very much but you will be able to protect yourself and you will also be able to see opportunities to help the child, when they present themselves.

If you had hoped to contribute to the child’s college education, instead, start a therapy fund. Once she is 18 she may decide she needs therapy and hopefully you can help her then.

As bad as the mother is, there’s a chance that the daughter may NOT turn out to be a spath due to temperment and genetics. If that’s the case, she may be damaged but not beyond repair. The right therapist may be able to help after she is an adult.

Ox Drover

Dear CariingAunt,

That is part of the problem with disordered people is that they are so CONTROLLING and OPPOSITIONAL.

Getting the other parent to see and act is very difficult. If they were to admit that there is a problem, they would be compelled to ACT and they don’t want to confront the disordered person, they have “given up.”

A very good friend of mine raised her own granddaughter for the first 8 years of the child’s life, then the P-father of the child remarried and would not let his daughter even see the person who had been her primary caregiver for the first 8 years of her life. My friend was pretty well powerless, she actually had to go volunteer at her granddaughter’s school to even see the child for several years. As the girl got to be into her teens SHE insisted on seeing her grandmother and the rest of the family, even her non-custodial mother (who has “problems” of her own) would let the girl’s grandmother see her on her own every-other weekend visits.

The girl has turned out very well, and now sees her grandmother regularly, but has no real relationship with her father or with her step-mother either.

When you have no “legal right” to see the child, all you can do is to “be there” for the child as much as possible and hope that the child will come to you later. It is very difficult. We have several grandmothers and aunts on this site who have posted about some of the same things you are talking about. It is heartbreaking to be so “powerless” but just be with the child as much as you can be and keep from irritating the controlling mother as much as you can.

That and pray are about all I can suggest. I wish I had more positive feed back for you or better suggestions.

Maintaining a relationship with the mother as much as possible even if it sets your teeth on edge may be the best way for now. God bless. Oh, and learning as much as you can about how Psychopaths operate, so that you are armed. Knowledge is power. Hopefully your brother will see the light and reengage with the child even if he has to cross swords with the mother.


Such great advice from Ox & Skylar!!! Great to know someone understands my situation and had such insight into it. Thank You for your time and intelligent advice.
My sister in law also has told my niece that she should die for her mother. So one day recently my niece asked me if she is going to die and she is scared. She told me in front of my sister in law one time that mommy yells at me all the time. Next time I saw her she said mommy is the best and I asked her about the yelling. She told me she never yells, she cannot talk about it anymore. So my niece now has become very protective of her mother. Her mom made her run 7 laps in the park the other day and she was just watching her in really hot weather. I asked the child if she had fun doing it, she said she DID NOT like it but had fun. The child is confused. Sometimes she makes her sit outside the house while she is doing chores just to keep her away from daddy & grandma in the living room. I am really shocked at how obedient my niece is and is learning to tolerate torture silently. My niece is not a pyschopath in any way, she is very loving, tells me she loves me, misses me, but lately her mommy has told her not to show any emotion. She is afraid to feel joy with us, is tolerating physcial hardships, acting numb and indifferent. When I tell her I loved her she used to feel so happy, now she is not responsive and acts indifferent. Her mom has taught her not to feel happy. I saw a neighborhood kid run over her foot with his bicycle, I made him apologize, and she complained to her mom & dad. Her dad told her dont play with him if he is mean. My sister in law pushes her to play with him and she cannot complain anymore and my niece even now acts like she is happy to play with him and if this kid ignores her she is constantly running after him and talking to him please her mommy. My niece at age 5 (will be 6 in NOV) has become the biggest mommy pleaser. It seems to me like my sister in law wants to destroy all her inhibitions, her fear and make her into a machine. Seems like an identity theft, and I worry my niece may hurt herself to please her mom and go to extremes. I am afraid one day my Sister in law out of some rage may ask her to do something dangerous to her life. I am so stressed, I do pray, talk to my husband & my best friend but it really is not helping my niece. My sister in law is most comfortable leaving my niece with someone who would not get too close to her, or know her true colors. So any family member who loves my niece is totally off limits. I talked to my Sister in law a few months ago asking if she was ok with my niece having aloving relationship with me. She told me that she is very insecure, that if her kid got close to other family members that she will not come back to her. So she asked me to give her more time. But she uses the time to think of more tricks, turn my own brother against me and she does not want me visiting them. But she would always tell me you are welcome anytime and have my brother lash out at me have him do the dirty job for her and stand an watch as an innocent bystander!!! I have known her for 8 years and very convinced she is sociopath. I am thinking of having a talk with her again, offering her help for her anxiety(when the kid has a good time with family) and suggest parenting classes, in a cordial helpful way and tell her maybe she does not realize what she is doing. (This is not true she is completely aware and plans everything to perfection but I dont want to anger her and lose my visits with my niece). Is this a good idea to talk to her directly and offer help or seek help and act like she is unaware of the harm she is inflicting on this child? I am sorry for my brother too, tolerating abuse from her is like second nature for him now, but atleast he is an adult and made this choice, but the child is what concerns me the most. Again thanks for reading and your valuable input.I will educate myself as you suggested, and also try to maintain a friendship with my Sister in law for as long as I can without losing my own sanity!!! Do you think I should seek counseling, I never really thought about it. But maybe someone professional documenting this may help if she decides to blame me for anything? My Sister In Law already hates me because she knows I am suspicious and ask questions and I care about my niece very much, she cannot fool me. Thank You again!!!

Ox Drover

Dear Caring aunt,

Your sister in law (SIL) is not going to be receptive to your suggestion for a “parenting class”—because it would unmask her.

The things you are adding to this story make me think your SIL let her “mask slip” for a minute when she told you that she was afraid if the child bonded with other family members she would not “come back” to her. Your SIL sounds more like a Borderline Personality Disorder to me than a psychopath. The manipulations are the same but the BPD is a person who is very insecure and must have ONE best friend that their entire world depends on. If that ONE person pulls away it sends the BPD into a tail spin. There is some evidence that BPD is the “female version” of psychopathic PD. The BPD will have a push/pull relationship with the victim of their “love” and if that person tries to pull away will be severely punished. It is most difficult when that object of their control/affection is a child.

She is using the child and the child’s affection in the most cruel way possible. She is trying to make the child RESPONSIBLE for her happiness, and of course she is NEVER going to be happy, because she must constantly be on the alert that the child might be having an “affiar” with another family member and she must prevent that at all costs.

This is a VERY VERY sick and dangerous situation with EMOTIONAL ABUSE IN SPADES. Your take on the situation I think is very astute and clear, but it is the kind of thing that is ALMOST impossible to prove until DISASTER strikes. Sitting by and watching this kind of abuse must be horrible.

Especially since your brother doesn’t see/believe or take action, and looks like he will not take action. YOu, even though you love the child are in fact powerless because at any time your SIL can “disown” you and keep you away from the child COMPLETELY if you pith her off.

You are walking a delicate line….and I think from past experience that you SIL will absolutely NOT receive “help” becaqse the very idea that she is not the IDEAL parent would throw her into a tail spin and she would be angry at you for suggesting she is not perfect.

Go to Dr. Liane Leedom’s website “parenting the at risk child” your niece obviously has the genetic inheritance from her mother, whether her mother is PPD or BPD doesn’t matter it is somewhat genetic, as well as your niece is being raised by an emotionally abusive woman. Possibly dr. Leedom’s insight may help you some on how to proceed as the child gets older. God bless you and I pray that God keeps your niece safe from her mother.


Thanks again for your insight Ox. On a personal note, how do you know so much? You have a lot of knowledge on a lot of these issues….

Yeah I feel quite helpless, and sitting and watching is really stressful. But prayers dont go unanswered and thanks for yours, and I do keep hope alive.

I will look up the suggested website, read on borderline PD and will do what I can. Thanks for the input and suggesting a different diagnosis, maybe I will now have more compassion for my SIL.

Ox Drover

Dear Caringaunt,

Save your compassion for your niece, she’s the one who really needs it.

I’ve been here at LF for about 4+ years now, but am a retired registered nurse practitioner with some psych experience—as well as I have a son who is a psychopath (he’s in prison for murder) and quite a bit of “life experience” dealing with the personality disordered.

Borderline personality disorder is more often found in females and psychopathy in males, but there is a GREAT DEAL OF OVERLAP in the fact that they are BOTH PERSONALITY DISORDERS and people with BPD tend also to be very manipulative. Keep in mind too that an EXACT DIAGNOSIS is still just someone’s OPINION about someone. It is IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME (or anyone) TO DIAGNOSE YOUR SIL over the internet by your description.

It really doesn’t make any difference if I call her a BPD or a PPD, the woman is TOXIC to her child and is unlikely to make major changes in her life or thinking.

By keeping her daughter from bonding to anyone besides herself, and “the five year old would DIE for mommy???” OMG how SICK is that????? A parent might think “I would die for my child” (I think most good and loving parents would feel that way,) but for a parent to even verbalize that my child would/should die for me???? NO WAY!!!! That woman is using her child as a pawn to meet her own emotional needs for connection rather than being a parent and meeting the developmental needs of the child.


Thanks for your time and help. Yeah the best nurses and doctors are the ones with personal experiences and the formal education like yourself. Sorry to hear about your son. That must have been really hard. I understand your motivation to seek knowledge and help others like me. Not everyone in your situation will give their time & advice freely!!!

Yeah my SIL is using the child as a pawn. She is also pushing her to strenous activities, starvation, forceful overfeeding, silent treatment, etc. What concerns me the most is “my child will die for me” she brags. What does this mean? If the child is having a good time with somebody else, having fun,(taboo according to mommy) will the child punish herself/hurt herself to obey her mother??? Will the child endanger her own life to obey her mother because she is being groomed and numbed??? If the child hurts herself in a compulsive way to obey her mother, the mother will plan it such that she is nowhere near the kid at that time and make it look like??? accident? blame someone else? SIL is full of rage and jealousy, I am very surprised she has those emotions, but have never seen any other positive/warm emotions. This situation is very sick and very concerning. This is the reason I do not want to talk to her or send her in a tailspin (no matter how calm I am) because I am afraid of how she might lash out and take it out on the child. If she cant have it her way there is no telling what she will do.

Ox Drover

Dear Caringaunt,

I think you summed it up pretty well. Your SIL sounds like a very dangerous person, and the worst emotional abuse that can be to a child….trying to meet the needs of the parent who is disordered.

It really doesn’t matter what the “title” to her DISORDER is, BPD or PPD, the manipulation and the control and the rage are all the SAME in each of them. Some more so than others, but there are degrees in everything.

Truthfully, there isn’t a lot YOU can do except just be friendly to the child and hope that she will at some point in her life turn to you. Who knows, she may. I hope your brother will see the light, but that, too, is up to him. God bless.


Any affection you show the SIL, is going to be taken out on the little girl. Your best bet is to be standoffish to her and nice to the SIL. With time, the SIL may think you are coldhearted enough to let you interact with the little girl. I’m talking years. Then do your best to not get noticed.

Primary thing to remember: if the SIL decides you are a problem, she could coach the daughter to accuse you of child abuse or worse. These people have no limits. You can’t imagine the things that they can imagine and actually do. Protect YOURSELF first. You are no use to anyone if you don’t do that.


Hi caringaunt,
I’m so very very sorry to read what you’ve written – it is a very tragic story for both you and your niece.

Your SIL sends very much like my mother, so I have some perspective from the other side of this equation. I agree with almost everything Oxy says, but I have to disagree with the suggestion that your SIL is BPD. From what you’ve described, in my opinion she is not only a fully-fledged psychopath, but is a thorough sadist using your niece, tragically, as her primarly target. I do believe there is hope for your niece, but she is in a truly precarious and dangerous position. For a better description of sadism you can look at recent comments in the “Guestbook” section of the website wwww(dot)female-offenders(dot)com (there is a link on the left side of this webpage). The site’s owner has links there to some articles on sadism. ****Trigger Warning **** it’s not for the faint of heart and I wouldn’t read it, or the linked articles, unless you have some serious support yourself. I’ve barely been able to speak, or even read online (let alone post) since I read it, but it’s really started to put some of the things I’ve been dealing with in perspective. And your niece has it so much worse than I did, for which I’m very very sorry.

There is another article here – a story very much like your own which might be of help. It is titled “When relatives suspect child abuse” and it’s listed under the “Female Sociopaths” category. Come to think of it, that article really freaked me out, and I literally wasn’t able to talk about my own situation for at least a year after I read it. But, from the sounds of it, you’ve faced the reality of the situation, so perhaps those articles and comments won’t be so much of a shock for you.

This may sound totally crazy, so take what I say with a very big grain of salt, but the psychological abuse (terrorizing) you’re describing is absolutely the worst thing – far far worse than any physical torture. I believe that that’s because there is no validation and no chance of safety and rescue with that type of abuse, which is the essence of the description of sadism from the female-offenders website – total control and domination over another person **especially in the presence of others who can’t intervene because society can’t (or won’t) recognize malevolent behaviour if they don’t see overt violence. You are absolutely correct when you describe it as personality annhilation.

There are things you can do though. One is, and I believe this is the most important – to let your niece see the truth and the full truth of her mother’s behaviour, and that evil truly exists. Young children can survive all kinds of physical abuse and torture but young minds are not equipped to live through the mindf***k. And the biggest mindf***k for a child is not that they’re going through this, but that no-one else seems to see or care, and that ‘they’re imagining things’. That belief is where hope and sanity die.

Another thing you can do is to ‘immunize’ her with lessons in normal moral behaviour and personal courage: knowing and naming right from wrong – including for herself. Books, movies, old-fashioned stories with characters who are clearly evil (her mother) being battled by heroic characters (her) who need to fight that evil to make the world a better place.

Most importantly, let her know that you are there for her and love her, no matter what happens. That is probably the biggest immunizer of all.

****Big trigger warning here *****

Lastly, and I realize this is controversial, it may be best for all concerned to escalate/provoke this into physical violence. As I said, the physical torture I endured was the only thing that truly validated my situation and, I believe, prevented me from going insane. She is undergoing the most extreme kind of subjugation (akin to what serial killers do to the victims they keep alive for a period of time) and there is nothing anyone can do without physical evidence. Not that there isn’t physical evidence – it’s just not the kind that society is prepared to acknowledge. There is a post on a blog by a woman with the screen name Faith Allen titled “Is it better to die than to survive child abuse?” For some readers the answer was yes. But what most people needed was rescue. So just remember that rescue comes in all kinds of forms, and you can be creative with it.

Bless you, and I wish you luck and courage.


Another tip: with a sadist NEVER SHOW WEAKNESS, BUT NEVER SHOW DOMINANCE AND AGRESSION EITHER. You can butter her up, as skylar says, but never do it from a position where she might be tempted to view you as an inferior kissing ass for position or advantage on them. They just go in for the long kill on anyone who does that.

Ox Drover

Annie, this woman’s abuse of her daughter is apparently under the legal limits and that is what is so darned FRUSTRATING about it, proving it to a court or a case worker is almost if not impossible! BTW some Borderlines on the extreme ends are just as manipulative and LETHAL as “psychopaths”—it is unfortunate that the psychology community can’t get their sheet together to come up with a true definition of the various personality disorders and there is so much overlap in the “diagnosis” of these disorders. The bottom line though is that the “name” is not as important as recognizing that this person is DISORDERED, And DANGEROUS to be around. Especially if they have you under their thumb or in their power.

To be a child under the power and control of a psychopath,, as you seem to have been, is one of the worst things I can imagine for any human being. I actually do not know what “diagnosis” to hang on to my own egg donor, she actually would score very low on the PCL-R, but she has many of the control, rage, and manipulation issues. I know that she ended up being a “psychopath by proxy” by enabling my psychopathic son and his friends to try to kill me. So whatever the name of her disorder is, she is DANGEROUS and TOXIC to me. Maybe ONLY to me, but that doesn’t even matter, the point is that I ESCAPED, finally, from her control.

“Snakes in Suits” by Dr. Robert Hare and one of his associates is a good book for Caring Aunt, I think, showing the various ways that “successful” psychopaths back stab others and still remain “above the law” and in positions of “honor” and “power” in the corner offices.

Ps I agree about never showing dominance or aggression either, or fear. They are like a dog, they will try to remain on top, and they respond to fear by attacking.


Thanks Skylar, Annie, & Ox! Again such good points and great advice from all of you. I have never shown aggression, anger for that matter, dominance, or fear. I am not dependent on my SIL for anything whatsoever (unlike my brother), so I am atleast happy about that. It is just maintaining a diplomatic relationship so I can keep an eye on my niece. Annie, I too don’t believe in kissing feet, you are so right about that. My SIL does not drink coffee and one time she made me a great cappuccino and I complimented her saying for a non coffee drinker that’s a great cup of coffee. So I do give her credit when she deserves it and I don’t go overboard. But my brother is the expert in kissing blank….My SIL is a bank teller works part time and takes the kid to school and comes back home with her. She works 1-2 saturdays a month for 3 hrs. This is the only time we get to have any alone time with the kid. But she tells her exactly what to eat, what to do,(gives her dvds to watch, work out dvds for kids she follows along) each about 40 minutes long and a few of them. Then it is time to make mommy a card and a surprise. So the kid does all this, obeys her every instruction! There is no spontaneous play, talk, fun. It is with great difficulty I get her to dance, play, or have a conversation with me. She told her mom she loved it when I read her stories, so next time she is not allowed to do it. Oh, speaking of my brother (my mom lives with them) here is an example of kissing up to his wife. One day (saturday) my mom fed the kid before my SIL got home. She was furious and must have told my brother. My brother told my mom not to feed the kid even if she is hungry, her mom will come home and do it. When it is close to noon he gets the kid out of any other room in the house, she should be in the living room waiting for mommy or at the door. So my brother will make sure the kid is not in grandma’s room. He told his own kid in front of my SIL (and myself) if she does not eat fruits and vegetables she is going to die, if she eats junk food she is going to get fat and ugly. My niece was so upset and this put a further strain in the daddy-daughter relationship, and my SIL was delighted. He hardly talks to her but when he does says a lot of negative things just to please his wife. I told him not to say that and did somewhat get angry with him that day. I feel sorry for him, I care about him, at the same time I feel very angry he is allowing this to go on and is an accomplice. I have told him he is an accomplice to a crime. He gets very quiet and avoids me sometimes so I too don’t push it. Last week my SIL had an early meeting from 7:30AM. She took the kid with her to the meeting, then dropped her in school, my brother does not leave for work until after 11, but he was not allowed to take her to school. Then at work she would give excuses how nobody could take the kid to school. One time when my niece was in pre school I asked to take her out of school early so I could spend time with her.(I had gone there to drive my mom to a doctor’s appt). My SIL told me no problem, then she called the teacher and told her to tell me aunts are not allowed and she can’t do that it is the school’s policy. The teacher told me this, she told me what my SIL said and that the teacher should tell me it is the last time. The teacher could not believe what was asked of her. So I told my brother this and he thought I was lying and he went to school the next day and asked the teacher. She told him the same story and my brother just said let’s drop it and never talked to my SIL about it. When I asked my SIL she told me it was a big misunderstanding she never said that. My brother is quick to yell at me, my mom, and his kid, but he never blames his wife for anything. We used to be very close, but I don’t even recognize him anymore.

Thanks guys for the reading suggestions by Dr. Hare and also the article when relatives suspect child abuse. And I will teach her morals, right from wrong, in hope of immunizing her. And yes SIL could easily have the child accuse me of hitting her or something so I have to protect myself first. Great pearls guys, and I really appreciate it. Thanks for your time, really helps to know there are people who understand exactly what I am going through.

Ox Drover

Dear Caring aunt,

I’m sorry for your brother, but you are right, he is enabling his wife to abuse his kid, so he is an accompliace. His own saying ugly hurtful things to his daughter about what she eats is also abusive, so he is in my opinion a co-abuser. He may not be as bad as your SIL but he sure is not doing that child any good. He is at the very least standing by while his wife emotionally abuses that child.

I understand your frustration, but I don’t see a lot you can do. The taking her out of her room so she is waiting at the door for mom to come home is SICK SICK SICK and the telling your mom not to feed the child even if she is hungry! WTF????

(Head shaking here) and the worst part is there’s not a lot you can do about it…Sigh My prayers for that child and for you.


Thanks Ox, my thoughts exactly. Thanks for your kind words and support. Initially I was fooled by my SIL many times, before I even suspected some personality problem. However I wonder how my brother can get this way (we are from the same parents), so totally willing to submit to any of her wishes, and I am not vulnerable to the extent that he is. He was more “normal” before and the change initially was gradual, they would fight a lot, now the change is very drastic and he does not question her about anything!!!

And Annie, I hope my niece someday will be in a spot where you are now, knowledgeable, and helping others!!!

Annie, Ox,& Skylar: You have high psych IQ and thanks for those pearls!!!

Annie, if/when you get a chance could you explain the escalate/provoke part? And the article “when relatives suspect child abuse” is very relevant to my situation, I wonder what the situation/update is now after 2 years.

And thanks for all your help, wish I had found this site earlier!

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