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          Getting Over Sibling Rivalry

          October 16, 2004

          Is a childhood rivalry preventing you from having a genuine relationship with your brother or sister? Dr. Phil has advice for siblings who want to put the past behind them and reconnect:

          • Recognize that anger is nothing more than an outward expression of hurt, fear and frustration. If you had to take anger out of your vocabulary when discussing your relationship with your sibling and replace it with “It hurts me…,” what would you say?
          • If you are afraid to trust your sibling or be open with him/her, ask yourself if the problem could be with you. The question might not be whether you can trust your sibling, but whether you can trust yourself to deal with whatever he/she does. Trust yourself to come out from behind your wall, deal with what happens, and love them through it.
          • If you miss having a relationship with your sibling, tell them ” even though that means allowing yourself to be vulnerable. You might be afraid of getting hurt, but doesn’t it hurt to withhold your feelings and remain in conflict?
          • Remember that if you have a life strategy that is competitive with those whom you love, you are competing with people who are on your own team! Your family members should be a part of your support system, not the people with whom you are at odds.
          • Don’t assume that the bitterness and guardedness you have with your sibling is relationship specific. Anger, hatred and mistrust are emotions that are so powerful, they spill over into your other relationships. You can’t be one kind of sibling and another kind of mother, wife or friend. You can’t have this kind of wall around you and create the types of relationships you want.
          • If you have feelings of jealousy toward your sibling, ask yourself if you’re really resentful of his/her success — or whether you just have a need that isn’t being met. If you need your sibling to acknowledge, explain or apologize for something, tell him/her.
          • Accept your differences with your sibling, and love him/her anyway. “You don’t have to be the same, and you don’t have to like everything that the other one does in order to love each other or to have a relationship,” Dr. Phil tells his guests. “You can love her around and through the things you don’t like, and you don’t need to feel required to tell her about them every time you see her … It isn’t what you do, it’s who you are.”
          • If you have to compete, compete to see who is the “bigger” one. You can take the higher ground and say, “I’m going to love you, whether you like it or not.” If that’s how you both approach it, something good has to come out of it.
          • Whatever your justifications are for the conflict, they aren’t worth it. If you lost your sibling today, how significant would your complaints about them be? Would you be proud that you wasted this time? Don’t let another day go by without letting your sibling know what’s in your heart.
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