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The Impact Siblings Have on Our Life (Part I)


This blog series was inspired by wonderful book “The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling” by Dr. Jeanne Safer.  Dr. Safer, who is a psychotherapist; in an honest, open and insightful manner talks about her struggles with her brother who had a terrible problem with drugs.  She talks about being the favored child, the challenges and heart aches that she experienced due to the impact of her brother’s having an addiction problem.

Below are four personality traits that evolved as a result of  her having a brother with a significant drug problem:

1.     Premature maturity which shows itself by being impatient with other people’s immaturity

2.   Survivor guilt which made her feel badly because her accomplishments only highlighted her brother’s inadequacies.

3.   Compulsion to achieve is when the “normal” sibling feels they must accomplish a great deal to make up for their siblings deficiencies

4.   Fear of Contagion which can show it self by the “normal’ sibling either removing themselves from their troubled sibling or by being embarrassed by having a brother or sister that has some serious problem.

In the literature and in therapy often the impact siblings have on our emotional lives is over looked.  Also Dr, Safer’s point is that the characteristics that she adapted might also be developed by others in a similar situation.

In my next blog on this subject I will talk about what Dr. Safer suggests in terms of successfully dealing with these issues.  I’ll also discuss my thoughts about the importance of this subject.


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