Workshop Review: The Sibling Crucible
May 24, 2019 | Last month, Council for Relationships’ Professional Development Program offered a workshop titled The Sibling Crucible. Sisters and psychotherapists Michele Southworth and Suzanne Southworth presented insights into the sibling relationship peppered with personal anecdotes.
One participant commented: “It was wonderful to have two siblings with expertise and lived experience present the information in a very open and informative manner. The content was excellent.”
Another reported: “Outstanding workshop! I liked the balance of knowledge and anecdotes, and enjoyed the dynamic between Michele and Suzanne, too.”
Sibling relationships are often the longest lasting relationships in a lifetime. In the sibling relationship, a person learns to tolerate strong conflicting emotions towards another person. Siblings are important to development of an individual’s identity as they figure out who they are in the family and the world.
Challenges for siblings include comparison or favoritism, familiarity (which can be hurtful or supportive), and mutual projection between siblings. Siblings learn to resolve conflict and express emotion through their relationships. Same sex dyads, or pairs born within three years of each other, often experience particularly intense relationships due to competition and power dynamics.
The workshop also examined how parents contribute to difficult sibling relationships through their treatment of their children. Comparison, labeling and type-casting, favoritism, insecure attachment, birth order, and unresolved traumas and emotional issues will all play a role. In adulthood, siblings may have the opportunity to retell their story, corrected with context of family dynamics. The concept of stolen birthright suggests that a family’s tragedy or parents’ desertion prevented a loving sibling relationship from flourishing. An adult can recognize that it was the parent’s, not the sibling’s fault, and move past the family mythology.
We look forward to having Michele and Suzanne back for another workshop. Thank you to all who attended and made this opportunity possible.
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