Sibling rivalry

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Sibling rivalry

Postby mirjana » Sat Mar 06, 2010 4:40 pm

How much sisters/brothers live in sibling's shadow?


I have a younger brother toward whom I have always been protective. Until later in my life I was not aware of siblings rivalry as it was not my story. But, in my closest surrounding, first between my mother and her sister, and then in many other cases, I became aware how big this problem can be and what are all possible consequences that are not touching only two involved but many other people around them as well. All that happens in spite of love that is also there. Interesting phenomenon!
It is favorite theme in stories for children and adults; like in Dorothy Edwards’ children book series “My Naughty Little Sister” or in Henry Farrell’s horror story “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, which was made into a film starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
Children psychologists say that families tend to divide up roles, labeling one of two siblings. It goes so far that when a chosen one who is then smart, talented or… does something stupid, it’s easy forgotten, what is not the case if the same happens to the labeled on. Most families develop myths and legends in the very early stage. One girl/boy becomes “the pretty or smart one” and such myths last even if the life transforms the chosen one into the opposite and the “inferior” one into the blossoming. This kind of perception can be very painful and can cause that the over-shadowed brother/sister can start feeling and developing jealousy or resentment.
It also happens that parents do the opposite, putting the shadow on the one looked as “good looking”, by over praising the child who is not. But, more often is that the sister or brother who is less blessed by obvious talent or physical charm can feel that, no matter what, s/he will always be living in the shadows.
It seems that the real source for early or later rivalry between siblings is the child’s feeling about the parents. What inflames the passion of rivalry is the fearing that s/he cannot win parents’ love and esteem. Many women express real guilt and sadness at overshadowing their sister. It seems that it is more problem between women than between men. Probably this is the reason why it is more common to talk about sisters’ rivalry than about brothers’ rivalry.
Some people would say that the only way an overshadowed sister/brother can come into her/his own is to see entirely different people, work in a different career and live in a different place.
Experienced psychologists though, advice that the most important thing is not to take sisterly/brotherly rivalry too much to heart. One should know that to everyone else in the world we are an individual in our own right and not that what our family makes or wants us to be.
At the end of this article there are words of the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim:”behind the surface humility of the overshadowed sister/brother lies the conviction of her superiority to her sister/his brother-and an anger that demands the image of the other sibling be tarnished. It’s an anger any sister/brother can feel towards another and its conquest is one of the rarest and most admirable feats I can think of in family life”.
Your thoughts and experiences?

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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Sabina » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:35 am

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The words of Bruno Bettelheim ...
"..behind the surface humility of the overshadowed sister/brother lies the conviction of her superiority to her sister/his brother-and an anger that demands the image of the other sibling be tarnished. It’s an anger any sister/brother can feel towards another and its conquest is one of the rarest and most admirable feats I can think of in family life."

What confused me is the last sentence. Is it referring to the overshadowed sibling or to siblings in general? If in general, then... I don't know.. Wow, what a dark statement to make!
If it is reference to the anger of the overshadowed sibling... Ok, I can imagine that being true.
Actually, all it should take is the realization that the anger is misplaced.
It is not a child's fault if parents and others "favor" it, so it should actually be fairly "simple". The overshadowed sibling needs to get a grip and understand that it is not their brother's or sister's fault. That's all.

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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Randall » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:43 am

for me its relatively simple. The problem exists because we so rarely as a species truly communicate with each other. And rarely are we ever taught to.
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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Sabina » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:47 am

Which problem?
The anger that the overshadowed child feels or the problem that one child was favored over another?

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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Randall » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:59 am

yes.... sibling rivalry in all its forms.

I've seen both issues at work and there are so many things that can go into those "feelings" however the root of the negative feelings always come down to communication in my mind.

Let's say for example that one child feels like another was favored over them. Something is missing. Perhaps the parent wasn't truly favoring the other child, however the other child felt that way for what ever reason. If the child was taught to communicate this feeling, the parent could then address it and work to change that reaction for the child.

Take it further, perhaps there is a real and not imagined favoritism, again clear communication between the children and the parents would go a long way toward releasing mis-placed anger... but if the children are never taught this, if the parents dont understand this, if society doesn't utilize it... how can this child ever learn it unless its through time..understanding.. and acceptance?
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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Sabina » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:04 am

Ok, I understand.
And if the children were taught to communicate and there is still residual anger felt by the child which was overshadowed (according to the child's opinion)?
So, if communication was not only taught, but practiced and very welcome, then what could be the reason for the anger?

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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Randall » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:37 am

Sabina, I really don't know.. if all this were practiced by all parties? then there is something with in the child that is feeling the anger that they havent come to a deeper understanding about with in them selves. I'd ask what they were afraid of.. I'd ask why they chose to hang onto the anger?

If I was the other sibling... I'd ask, will you not let me love you?
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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Ryan » Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:27 am

What if the person was in touch with and understand their anger and they feel they have the right to be angry? Maybe they see it as an emotion just like any other and that it is healthy to have anger. Just as it is healthy to have happiness. Having one and expressing it is just as right as having the other and expressing it.

And... as for letting you love them, their answer could be... sure that's all they expect. But! Love them for who and how they are... don't try to change them... anger and all.
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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Randall » Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:25 pm

It's just that while the anger is held... can the love be truly felt?

I agree Ryan... love them.. anger and all. Its not about trying to change them, only to communicate clearly the choice they have. I'm not sure there is anger in the acceptance of love.
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Re: Sibling rivalry

Postby Sabina » Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:56 pm

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This is interesting.

Randall wrote:It's just that while the anger is held... can the love be truly felt?

The overshadowed child thinks so... that's all that matters, right? Let's say it's a stated fact.

Randall wrote:I agree Ryan... love them.. anger and all. Its not about trying to change them, only to communicate clearly the choice they have.

It's not a problem to just love them.
What if you don't want to change them, but they want to change you and that is a prerequisite for a relationship?

Randall wrote:I'm not sure there is anger in the acceptance of love.

I agree that anger doesn't make a lot of sense if the love is accepted. What may be possible is that the overshadowed child is not "satisfied" with love, because regardless of what the other child does, in the eyes of the overshadowed child the favored child must suffer simply for being the favored child.
It's a theory, a possibility....
And if that is so, then what?

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