Birth Order: Squabbling Sisters

Squabbling Sisters
Dr. Phil talks to three sisters who say they can't stop arguing with one another.

 

Lisa, Gwen and Wanda
"I'm the oldest of three sisters," says Wanda (far right). "I want to know why even though we're in our forties, my sisters and I cannot stop fighting."

"I'm the middle child," says Lisa (far left). "Having Wanda for a sister was an experience. She likes to take over. She likes to be in charge."

"I'm the baby of the family," says Gwen (center). "Lisa and I were very close as kids. We shared a room, clothes " we shared everything."

"Just thinking about the disagreements makes me want to cry," says Wanda. "It's like a train fixin' to hit the wall. You know it's coming. You know you're getting ready to have a disagreement, but you just can't stop it. In a perfect world my sisters and I would be the closest of friends because they were the first kids that I developed relationships with. Dr. Phil, how can we fix this fighting problem now so we don't have to do this for the rest of our lives?"
Dr. Phil asks the three sisters if they heard what he said earlier in the show to Jackie and her siblings about birth order and roles: "They have been pre-wired into this. Do you agree that that may be a factor here?"

"I think so," says Wanda. "I think it is."

"There's a dynamic here that has set you guys up where the two of you [Lisa and Gwen] have banded together a fair amount [against Wanda], have you not?"

"She was always the older sister," says Gwen. "She was separated from us two almost."

"I'm a strong believer that you can't change what you don't acknowledge. So I want you guys and all families to acknowledge that there is a powerful life chain where we inherit these characteristics. There is a division that is kind of pre-wired in there between the first-born and everybody else. There is something that is there psychologically. It is there time-wise for a period, because you're there with siblings competing for attention and all of those sort of things."
We always say, "Why do we fight so much with each other, the people we're closest to?" It's because the gravity of what they say is so much stronger.

"It's true," says Wanda (pictured).

"When Gwen says something to you, that matters so much more than some clerk at a store says, right?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Yeah," admits Wanda. "Because I really don't care what somebody else says."

"Because this is your family," says Dr. Phil. "This is your sister. Do you realize that what you say has a big impact?

"Understand that you're fighting about everything, aren't you fighting over nothing? I was watching the tape and it's like your fights are generic. What if that's not your fault or her fault. What if it's preordained birth order? Wouldn't it be funny if you were mad at each other for things that weren't your conscious choice?"
"What did you learn from watching the family before you?" asks Dr. Phil. "Did you see yourself as any of the players there?"

"Sure! Absolutely!" exclaim all three sisters.

"So what did you learn?" asks Dr. Phil.

"That the oldest needs to be a sister and not tell you what to do all the time," says Lisa (pictured).

"But your whole life you've been taught to watch after them," explains Wanda.

"We're not 5-years-old anymore," says Lisa.

"Do you guys understand what happened earlier?" asks Dr. Phil. "You grow up with these roles. That's drilled into your head. You have to recognize growth in other people and competencies in other people and take a step back.

"You [can] endeavor to see them differently and recognize that you have been pre-wired in this birth order thing...What if you set some boundaries to change your perception of one another? Set boundaries and follow the rules."