Are you entangled in stressful relationships or painful emotions
with a sibling?
Do you suffer from childhood emotions associated with a
brother or a sister?
We help people to untangle and improve difficult
Continued from Part 1:
Problems between Brothers & Sisters
I wanted to write about the consequences of birth order ... yet the existence
(living, dead, aborted or missing), vanishing twins and parental behavior
create complex patterns of family dynamics. (If two families with children
everything I mention here will likely be more complicated - see
If the birth order is changed, for example if an older child dies, a younger
child may try to adopt the responsibilities of the older child. If a stronger
child takes the duties of a weaker child, this often results in role confusion,
with emotional displays and perhaps fights. Then, sibling rivalry is common.
The children's fighting will probably reflect family issues, not just
Younger children who try to adopt the responsibilities
of a dead or missing first child may experience emotional problems that can vanish if birth order is re-established.
I was diagnosed with depression
shortly after my older brother emigrated.
During our sessions I realized that I tried to take his place and
hold my crazy
family together ... I couldn't ... and I paid a very high price for
Parents often reward compliant children, and chastise children
who are not so obedient. Such favoritism can result in angry children, who show
their anger by bullying siblings or tormenting each other. Later in life this
childish anger, if not assimilated, may lead to conflicts with family members.
Siblings may fight to communicate emotions, to establish
dominance or to gain parental attention. The most
intense fights seem to be about inheritance issues.
Few parents teach children how to express or deal with anger.
More likely, parents punish their children for daring to be
angry. The result - most children learn
to hide their anger. The common consequences of hiding emotions
appear to be emotional explosions, split-off parts (inner
conflict), self-criticism and psychosomatic symptoms. Other consequences
include depression, paranoia and mental disorders.
Adults who feel irrational anger towards adult siblings may
attempt to justify their anger by listing all possible reasons for it,
including early childhood irritations and disappointments. If an adult
sibling is blamed for childish behaviors, that sibling
may sever connections with some or all family members.
If a sibling dies or is given for adoption, the fact that the
sibling ever existed will likely influence the lives of the other
siblings. If a pregnancy is ended by miscarriage,
stillbirth or abortion, the subsequent
children will deal with this loss (even if they are not told about
it!). Another potential loss may occur when a multiple pregnancy
results in one living child
(see vanishing twin).
Sometimes, a family member may convince a child to reject or alienate
a sibling. If the child later discovers that the sibling is OK -
the child may then reject the interfering family member.
My older brother was the first son and first grandson in
our family. He bullied me yet was always proclaimed right and blameless by
our parents. I competed with him to gain our parents’ attention, of course
unsuccessfully. Failing that, I became the black sheep and, in time, found a
When my brother, the golden child, failed to fulfill his
(and the family’s) immense expectations, he became a black sheep
and continued to gain maximum attention from the family, albeit negative. He
tried to commit suicide, gave up ambition, rejected contact with the family
and now seems only able to form lasting bonds with pets. He will not seek help
as he believes himself smarter than any coach or therapist.
Since my brother's failure, I got positive attention (for a change) from my
family: they suddenly started to see me, but placed their immense
expectations on me, the ‘last one standing’. Fortunately, I was mature
enough to laugh their expectations away and keep good relations with them.
I confess a strange satisfaction when my brother failed, a sense of, “I told
you he was wrong” – something I longed our parents to recognize during our
childhood. Also, “I too exist”, a confirmation that I give myself now but as
a child I needed from my parents.
Children from chaotic homes who do not feel loved, may feel
dissociated or out of control. They may feel disconnected
from their parents and from other siblings. Children who cannot tolerate
their family chaos may feel an urgent, existential need to
leave their homes. Some will never return.
When family members are entangled and in conflict with each
other, one or more family members may experience symptoms of
mental stress or psychosomatic illness.
Superficially solving a problem in one part of the family may
trigger a problem in another part of the family!
My father was bipolar and my
mother was chronically ill. My sister and I looked after them ...
and we fought about how to care for them. Our fights included
slapping and shouting. You showed us how we were repeating our parents
patterns (I had become father!) Since our sessions we can cooperate
Family stress can be increased by
perceptions that a sibling is someone else. While prejudice and cruelty may play their part,
more often the underlying issue is some wild
transference or identification. I may ask, "Do you want to change your emotions and habits - or do you only
want to complain?"
A father often bonds to the youngest daughter,
while a mother often bonds to the oldest son.
This can lead to jealousy amongst siblings - irritations that may continue
during their adult lives. An adult child who feels unable to participate in life, except as a caretaker to
a dysfunctional parent, may bitterly resent freer siblings.
Some parents seem to favor children who are like themselves
(this favoritism may override the birth order of the children).
parents manipulate their children's emotions and beliefs for gain
and/or to cause their partners to suffer.
Children under family stress may cling to each other for
support or survival. Emotional incest
between siblings can result in relationship bonds that limit future
partnership. A person who is emotionally bonded to a sibling may not
seek a real partner - or may only seek potential partners who have
qualities similar to that sibling.
As a girl I was fascinated with my
older brother. As an adult I searched for men
like him, but after a month or so I couldn't stand to be intimate with them and
left. Since our coaching, my life has changed. I want a man, not a
A similar situation may
arise if a sibling died or was miscarried or (especially) aborted. Many people
who appear to seek a soul mate, may fantasize
a missing person's qualities and seek a partner with those qualities - as
a replacement for a dead brother or sister! Such people may fall in love
(and out of love) often. See Vanishing Twins.
My mother had an abortion, but I never
thought about it. During couple coaching, I realized that I didn't really
want a male partner - I wanted an elder brother! I married a man whose sister
had died - he wanted me to replace his sister! Since our couple
counseling we see each other wonderfully differently. Ljubljana
Exceptional, Sick & Abnormal Children
Siblings of children who are seen as exceptionally bright or talented
might feel lost in their shadow, and do things to gain
attention - even unpleasant attention may feel better than no
attention at all.
Siblings may feel jealous of a sick child who gets
more attention and gifts than they do. These children may complain of feeling ill themselves, or
become preoccupied with their health. Some children feel guilty for being healthy.
(I find that children of helping professionals
and teachers seem to show more medical or emotional problems
(especially ADD/ADHD for children of teachers). This may gain the attention of parents who
give their time and love to other children).
Contact us to clarify your relationships
and transform negative emotions
as you solve relationship problems.
Back to Part 1:
Brothers & Sisters
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