Ask: How do I deal with a sister who is constantly sick?

“I am 78 and my sister is 70. Ever since I can remember she has been ill with different conditions. Before I learnt from ACIM that we choose our own sickness I always felt helpless about this. Now I just feel angry! I feel she is using the illnesses to get attention! It really irritates me that her attitude is 'Poor me. I can't do anything because I have just had this fall or I have this or that’...... Now on another level I know that this is my lesson but on a practical level I don't know how to interact with her. We are told to be kind! My reaction to that is that I should try to fix her problems. I seem to have been doing that all my life but I don't want to do this anymore!!!!! Help!” – Anonymous

The choice that A Course in Miracles refers to with regard to what happens to the self in the world is for the entire experience of imperfection and dysfunction that is the human experience. It is the opposite of God (Truth) in every way.  Illness, the vulnerability of the body to injury, and death are just part of the experience of not-God. Of course, sometimes one does make their own dysfunction through their own life choices and that is usually traceable. And sometimes illness or injury happens through other aspects of cause and effect at the level of form (for example, genes) and some use them to get something, like attention, or rest, or to avoid something/someone or to make others guilty. But this is simply a form of faulty problem solving on their part. They believe guilt is real, they are afraid, they don’t feel whole, etc., and this is their attempt to fix that. Unless they demonstrate a real openness (very rare) for the real solution (the awareness of Truth) to their problems all you can do is offer compassion. You are not responsible for others so you do not have to solve their problems. Doing so would be co-dependency, which would only enable them to stay in their dysfunction. And that is not kind. Most people just want to be heard and understood. That is all the love that they can accept so that is all you have to offer them. So the kind way to interact with your sister is to let her know that she is heard and understood:  “That sounds painful. I’m sorry you are hurting.”

Anger is a defensive posture. You are angry when you are afraid. In this case, you are afraid of punishment from God for the guilt in you that you see reflected in your sister. You see dysfunction, in this case illness, as “wrong”; as evidence of guilt. This reminds you of the inevitable dysfunction you experience in identification with a self (body/personality). The ego (personal thought system) in your mind says to deny the guilt you believe is in you by projecting it onto your sister. Of course, this does not get rid of the guilt. It is really the way to hold onto it.

Now that you know the source of your anger, you can deal with your underlying belief in guilt where it is, in your own mind. What you ultimately have to learn is that there is no god that you have defied and that is sitting in judgment on you. You can learn in depth about where guilt comes from, how it shows up, and how to undo it in my e-book, Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace ( or And, of course, finding and releasing the belief in guilt is what I work on to some degree with all of my clients so you can always work with me ( to set up a telephone appointment).

As you work out your belief in guilt you will find that you are not bothered by your sister’s situation. Pain is an inevitable part of the human experience, but suffering is caused by the stories we tell ourselves about the pain. You will feel compassion for your sister’s choice to suffer over her pain because she doesn’t know any better and she is not seeking to know better.

Projection and co-dependency in relationships is what I work on with all of my clients. Relationships are classrooms and it helps to have a teacher to guide you to the lessons. If you want happier relationships email me at to set up an appointment. Learn more at

If you have a question the answer to which you think will help others, email it to me at and indicate that you want it answered in the newsletter/blog.


hannah said…
anonymous, i appreciate your question.

this is so encouraging, and liberating! "As you work out your belief in guilt you will find that you are not bothered by your sister’s situation. Pain is an inevitable part of the human experience, but suffering is caused by the stories we tell ourselves about the pain."

liz.. i felt such relief reading the above quote from you, in relation to myself and to my family. ive spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out which story amongst the contradicting mass of them is least helpful, ie.. what do i work on first, trying to find the king pin. what i think im seeing now, is that the story of trying to untangle a complicated mass is an attempt to avoid pain.. and that is causing me to suffer. the 'complicated mass' is just a smoke screen. if i accept where i, or my family, is (or are believing i/themselves to be) right now.. then the stories are actually very simple. if i dont accpet where i or others are.. then the stories appear very complicated. and from the simple space, its much easier to turn inward to the part of my mind which is not attached to any story. its like.. there seems to be a lot of guilt tied up in the complication. but the acceptance and simplicity of story doesnt have that same feeling. in trying not be 'immature/codependent/have special relationships' etc in my current way of being/thinking/feeling, i am increasing my belief in guilt, and that sacrifice is a helpful approach.

do you think ive reached some clarity here, in relation to our most recent conversations? im thinking this may be a case where im trying to grow quicker in areas of 'spiritual mental and emotional maturity' than i can.. that i have not been content with the fact that i am, nonetheless, growing at the pace i AM. i think maybe this is one of those times where i think im learning about 'x', and focusing on that, whereas 'y' has been the actual lesson of the moment, and 'x' is just where it is right now.
ACIM Mentor said…
Yes, Hannah, you got it. Just accept where you and others are and the lessons will be presented in the moment.

(Remember, acceptance does not mean 'like'. It simply means "this is how it is and I won't resist it").
hannah said…
im experiencing a lot of surprising humour around this! it feels so funny to not like something and yet to be deeply grateful for it!

im grateful for 'it is how it is and i wont resist it!!' its just perfect, its taking a constricted, complicated, judgemental part of my mind, and letting simplicity and innocence wash through it. and it has NOTHING to do with changing anything to feel better!! haha.. such a MIRACLE!

nothing has changed, but my resistance to what is and my desire to try and find peace by being 'better/more likeable than i am'. hmm. thats not accurate really, something is shifting in the idea of 'looking' and 'sorting' but thats in process. its connected though.

but im finally starting to understand what you mean when you say that peace did not come to your personal self.. it IS possible to feel peace while not feeling happy as such! personal happiness is irrelevant! which i must say, is currently making me feel happy ;) go figure!
umar muzammil said…
I can feel your pain. You feel this way because you are also in an age which requires attention and love. Prayers for you both. Take care.
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