Friday, February 10, 2017

Sibling Rivalry: A Subconscious Programming Approach

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Got siblings? Got kids?

Yes? Then you’ll want to keep reading, because understanding these relationships is a potential treasure trove of goodies waiting to be unearthed.

Yes, I said “goodies.” Like those thing buried somewhere in the subconscious that are typically avoided or unknown yet we know on some level must be faced if we ever wish to heal, to experience lasting peace and joy (among about a million or so other benefits).

Ready to dig in?

The New Kid in Town

Into this world comes a family’s first child, and—oh!—how she is treated like royalty. So long have the parents wanted a child and the extended family looked forward to nieces, nephews, cousins, and grandkids.

Soooo much attention on the newborn. Always being held and warmed and pampered and talked to and played with and given gifts and loved and attended to and on and on.

Nice. Sooo nice.

Until #2 is born.

Whoosh! goes the attention of everybody. “Oh, my God! He’s so cute!”

And so departs a massive chunk of others’ attentive energy—the very energy that endlessly reminded child #1 of how important she is. Early on she’s too young to grasp language, but she surely notices the severe drop in active support of her by others—especially her parents—as well as the feel-good energy paired with that support.

In consequence, she may feel abandoned, unworthy, perhaps guilty as if she’d done something terribly wrong, though she knows not what. Her newborn brother she comes to see as a threat, as competition. How dare he steal my love and approval, she thinks wordlessly. Then I will prove my worthiness.

Enter #3 Stage Left.

Lifelong Distortions

You can see probably where this is heading, whether there are 2 children or 17.

It’s important to grasp this groundwork because it’s the same story that runs in nearly every family. Even when some level of sibling rivalry is recognized, rarely is it recognized for its sheer magnitude.

Due to sibling birth issues, what comes into creation in a child are energetic blockages and traumas that become lost in the deepest recesses of the child’s body-mind. Left unhealed (which happens in most cases), these distortions play out throughout whole lives. Even worse is that the programming doesn’t remain limited to familial interaction. This is for the reason that so many life experiences are then taken on not in integrity but in an attempt to achieve whatever is perceived to bring attention, love, validation, etc.

For instance, maybe child #1 chooses to be an overachiever because he/she feels an unconscious worth-related threat that child #2 is somehow "better." Or, #1 could learn to behave like a victim—How could life do this to me? I must be an unworthy victim to experience such loss. Child #1 might then constantly tease and one-up #2 in attempt to prove himself as "better." As I will elaborate on shortly, the possibilities go on, and they are no small part of an individual's personality, even through adulthood.

The General Theme

As I’ve mentioned, there’s a general theme to the mechanisms of sibling rivalry.

Child #1 is born and—assuming steady parental care and a healthy environment—early-childhood development goes well because all of the child’s needs are met.

However, when #2 comes along, suddenly child #1 experiences a dramatic loss of much that the child had identified with as “me” and “mine.” This can be quite traumatic and can drive negative core issues such as unworthiness, abandonment, inferiority, anger, jealousy, and so on.

Which is interesting in its own way because it’s not uncommon for #2 to actually look up to #1, #2 feeling as if his/her older brother/sister is some great being to model his-/her-self after.

If a #3 is born, what occured between #1 and #2 then occurs between #2 and #3 as well as between #1 and #3 but to somewhat of a lesser extent. Also, #2 can potentially become stuck between a rock and a hard place, where the “rock” signifies working hard to prove he/she is as good as #1, while the “hard place” is the experience of repeatedly self-sabotaging under beliefs such as “I’m not good enough,” and, “I don’t deserve love,” as picked up with the birth of #3.

The more siblings in a family, the more intense child-to-child and child-to-parent competition becomes.

Examples of Sibling Rivalry Manifestation

Very early on this competition may be seen in children fighting, teasing, and arguing. While some level of these will occur due to egoic human nature, plenty of it arises as a result of, metaphorically, mirror reflections of arrogance taking advantage of unworthiness (the arrogance of which itself is just a forcefully overt means of trying to deny one’s own perceived unworthiness).

As children grow into adults, the aforementioned will continue, sometimes blatantly but often in ways more refined—read: crafty—due to their more developed minds. Also, each child will find different ways to go about gaining attention and validation from each other and the parents, of trying to prove why they deserve love more because they are “superior,” a “victim,” or a situation-dependent combination of the two.

Maybe child #1, after 6 other children are born, takes on a chronic illness in attempt to get back the parents’ attention and pull in more from his/her siblings. Maybe child #2 talks loudly and exaggerates all the time to prove he’s worth being heard. Maybe #3 wears all sorts of make-up and goes tanning in order to gain attention for being “so attractive,” something for which she assumes she’d lost when #4 and #5, two sisters, were born and everyone “forgot” about her and began raving about the newborns’ cuteness.

Then there’s the heap of other issues such as work, school, social interactions, and so on. For parental approval, child #1 may earn a degree and get a high-paying job. Child #2 may do this as well for parental approval but also in attempt to say, “Look at me #1. I’m just like you. Now I’m worthy of your validation.” Then again, perhaps #2 can’t attain the goal because, like stated earlier, he came to feel inferior after #3 came along. As a means of upliftment, maybe he compensates for this perceived lack by picking on others who seem to him even more worthless then he.

The larger families get and especially if the oldest kids have been successful by familial standards and thus gotten all sorts of approval, competition can get intense. The fear of failure, of being “the family outcast,” can become a child’s major driving force, even to the complete rejection of personal needs, good health, and sound reasoning.

Timing and Attention

Another cause of sibling rivalry is the result of too short of a time period between births paired with inadequate parental attention.

If 3 kids are born within a span of 3 years, for instance, there’s a lot of potential for sibling tension. A child’s earliest years are the most developmentally crucial for the healthy unfoldment of the child’s whole life. The early years are pivotal for building and reinforcing a solid, positive foundation. When multiple children are born in quick succession, there’s often a deficit of immediate parental care preventing a foundation from setting firmly.

Think of parent work schedules and other activities. Even if we use a “best-case” scenario where the mother doesn’t work and watches the kids while the father works full-time, there’s still only 1 person to tend to 3 kids. Even if all the children are in the same room with the mother all the time (which is unrealistic), the mother simply can’t be everywhere at once to take care of each child’s needs appropriately and equally.

Compare this to an alternate scenario in which 3 children are born but each with 4 to 5 years’ separation between them. Yes, sibling rivalry issues may still arise. The adversity will be far less, however, since the time and space has been provided for a far healthier foundation to be instilled within each.

For sure, families with 5, 6, 7, and, who knows, maybe even 10 or 12 children are going to be increasingly rife with inadequacy struggles. (Don’t forget: Even “tough guy” and arrogance personas and such are signs of perceived inadequacy.) Bad enough is the incessant change and lack of healthy development time and space, but there are only 2 parents. With one or (almost necessarily) both parents working, how in the world can they possibly sufficiently take care of so many children?

The answer is that they can’t. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible. Maybe it appears they do, maybe the children appear to get along well, yet if one were to examine such a family from a viewpoint of sibling rivalry programming, one would see just how imbalanced things are. Everything must be used to one’s advantage to compensate for a perceived lack of love, approval, worthiness, and so on.

Subtle Parental Teachings

The last major issue to be mentioned regards parental teachings. Much of the way children learn to behave, regardless of sibling count or birth timing, comes from their parents. While this may sound obvious, my sense is that because people generally don’t want to face their own darkness and rarely grasp that our greatest teachings to others are not given through words nor actions but by the very energy signatures we exude, parents usually have great difficulty in understanding why their kids exhibit certain unsettling behaviors.

Before all, parents (and everyone else) must learn to look beyond appearance and verbiage. Everything in this world looks more or less different all the time, yet the energy patterns underlying these things are relatively limited and are repeated over and over again. Anger is anger and joy is joy but both may be expressed in endless ways.

Focus then needs to be placed on the self. The following are suitable questions:
  • “What subconscious sibling rivalry programming am I running that I am unwittingly teaching to my children?”
  • “What sibling rivalry conditioning did I receive from my parents?”

Yes, you’re asking of unconscious issues. But by the very fact of asking you willingly open an inner-doorway through which the answers can be made conscious. You’ll only be able to see what you’ve stored in the basement if you first turn on the light.

In terms of the first question, the answer should be somewhat straightforward. If you see it in your kids, you and/or your partner carry it. How to dig into this and resolve it is a topic for another day. Nonetheless, your seeing and truly being willing to change is going to provide you with a huge step forward out of ignorance. Take the first step first.

As for the second question, consider the following example: As a father you might notice that your father always acts like a tough guy and you, as the firstborn, took on this role to earn his respect. Now you teach it to your kids without a second thought. This could play out such that your firstborn was imprinted with need-to-be-a-tough-guy programming. When #2 was born a few years later, he or she didn’t stand a chance, immediately overwhelmed with a sense of not being good enough. He now feels failed, worthless, helpless, and so on. You might also note that this is the very programming your own younger brother displays.

This is just a brief instance with some basic information to give you the gist of subtle parental teachings. I recommend looking into this further, and I hope you see the sense in doing so. As a parent, clearing out your childhood muck is probably the greatest gift you can “give” to your children. Even better if you work through some of this stuff before having kids.

Closing Words and a Disclaimer

In reading this, I don’t want you to walk away with an inaccurate impression, especially if you have or want to have kids, be it 2 or 6 or 1600. See my words here as a starting point, a generalization.

I’m not trying to offer any “proper” timing of having children. Nor am I trying to suggest what the “right” number of kids is for anyone. Nor, thirdly, am I trying to insinuate that, say, due to the likelihood of sibling rivalry that there’s something skewed in parents wanting to have kids separated by only a year or two so they can all grow up together.

Furthermore, I’m not trying to say that families with lots of kids have to be veritable nightmares. Yes, children in such families will very likely have some strong internal please-see-me-as-worthy programming, but it is by no means meant as a character or familial judgment or anything. Perhaps everyone who has siblings has a hand in this rivalry mess, myself included.

And although general conclusions can be drawn, the reality of it is, in families with only 2 kids born one year apart, the kids could get along amazingly well or behave as arch-enemies—just as it is possible with 2 kids born 6 years apart. There are just so many factors of causation, many of them unstated here. Even with the seemingly best planning and clearest intentions, sibling rivalry will not be fully avoided… Well, unless a couple decides to have only one child—or fewer.

Overall, my intention here is simply to look at an old topic through a less-used lens. Whatever anyone does in terms of family planning is purely up to them, and I place no judgment on it. It’s not my business.

I see only benefit, though, in providing these insights regarding such influential concerns. If just a small bit of this is taken seriously and suffering and unhealthy childhood development decreases even by the tiniest fraction, then my work has served its purpose.

As a parent, parent-to-be, and/or sibling, will you help me fulfill it?

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