Depression Relationship Therapy
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by Karen A. Solomon, LCSW, BCD, CGP, CHt

Adult sibling relationships are often overlooked in psychotherapy. As therapists, our focus is usually on historic and current parent/child issues, with little attention paid to sibling relationships. Even in couple counseling, we tend to look for possible connections to early childhood issues with parents rather than with sibs. The impact our brothers and or sisters have on our lives is enormous and warrants exploration.

After the September 11th attacks I had the opportunity to lead bereavement groups for those who lost siblings. Their grief was profound and complicated by the lack of attention they received for their losses. The parents, spouses and children of those who were killed appeared to receive enormous attention, support and even financial benefits. Sibs felt their role was to comfort their parents, nephews and nieces with little regard for their own emotional state. Decisions regarding memorials, etc. were rarely made by brothers and sisters leaving them distraught and even more powerless. In some cases, a girlfriend or boyfriend of the deceased were given more say than a sibling who had spent their entire life with those who were killed.

Siblings are our best friends, worst enemies, greatest supporters, biggest critics, most loved and most detested relatives. Siblings are our first and fiercest competitors. Those without siblings often long for the unique connection siblings share and feel that being an only child is a lonely experience. We may want to “kill” our sibs, but watch out if anyone else tries to hurt them. Our protective instincts toward our sibs emerge with surprising intensity.

Sibling rivalry is a fact of life. No matter how fairly children are treated, most youngsters struggle with sharing their parent’s attention and love as well as striving for their special place in the family. Often it is the parents who provide a unique identity for each child, for example, the smart one, the pretty one, etc. with mixed reactions from the children. Sibs are also our role models. Whether we choose to follow their lead or not, they are what we grow up observing with more scrutiny than any friend or classmate. Even older children look at their younger siblings as role models or as students to be led and directed.

As adults, our siblings serve as witnesses to our history. Usually they have shared in many of the traumas, celebrations, highs and lows of our lives. Naturally, each person has their own perceptions, reactions, memories and feelings about these events, however there is a commonality in our life story.

Often the psychodynamics of our sibling relationships are replayed in the ways we relate to our friends, colleagues, spouses and children. Competitive strivings may be replayed with these significant others much to our dismay and or confusion. We may inadvertently confuse our children’s issues with one another with our own unresolved sibling struggles. It seems advisable that we take our sibling relationships into serious consideration as we work on improving all our interpersonal connections as they are key players in our lives and are usually with us far longer than our parents.

Karen A. Solomon
Office : 631 - 543 - 2050

Commack, New York 11725

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