- Mental Health
Rivalry for a Status Within Family
When Addition in Family Hurts
Rivalry within family members is only one in the variety of soap-opera-type relationships that people may create for themselves out of a blinded slavery to their emotionality. When it's between two siblings, it usually starts very early in childhood, as they suddenly develop intolerance for one another's very presence.
Almost as a rule, it's bound to escalate into constant arguments over the most insignificant things. There seems to be nothing that parents can do, while every attempt of intervention merely adds oil to fire; so that at one point they just give up after being forced into developing a thick skin. All awhile asking themselves that well familiar question: "Where did we go wrong with these two?"
So, what's the answer to their question? While it could be a few things, the most frequent seems to be the event of the second baby being introduced into the family life. The elder one, let's assume it to be a boy could be of a delicate emotionality with an extra need for attention.
And he was getting it just fine, all until that "little screaming monster" showed up, robbing the most of that attention away from him. At that moment his whole world went crushing down, as he kept collecting more and more evidence of him becoming "the second" by importance.
His hate went three ways: beside hating his little sister, he also hated his mom and dad for "betraying" him; and then he also hated himself for "not being enough" to satisfy their hearts. Well, not that he wished any of them any harm---although the textbooks of psycho-pathology could give us exactly those examples---but he got tormented by mixed feelings of hate and love, which he will take with him into his adulthood.
Jealousy---a Constant Shadow
Years ahead won't change much, except triggers for the same emotions being new and more up to their age. She is still a "princess", and in his young heart he is still a sort of a male Cinderella, even if parents don't really show any favoritism. To him, every little token of attention that she got looks exaggerated as a special treatment.
Much later in life when he is old enough to drop the childish version of jealousy, it turns into a rivalry over possessions and professional achievements. More often than not, such a man is likely to bring into his marriage an unconscious grudge towards female gender.
Crazy as it may sound, he may feel as "never good enough" to please her expectations. Or, if there is a competitive bone in him, he may actually compete with her for the status of the one who calls the shots in every aspect of running the household.
If he gets a female boss, he is bound to find all kind of reasons to despise her; and then he'll work himself to the bone to prove that he is a better employee than she is a boss. Those feelings of rivalry are practically running his life without him noticing it.
That initial feeling of love deprivation, imaginary as it usually is, may turn him into overachiever, oftentimes a victim of heart or digestion problems. Sometimes it gets worse than that. Out of a desperation over being unable to "prove himself to deserve that love" he may turn to gambling, or other risky investments. All in all, it's incredible what one strong negative emotion can do so that we take a string of wrong moves in life.
A Better Looking Sister
After giving a due space to that main pattern of jealousy between siblings, let's now taper it down over some other participants in that game of "important status" in the family. This one may seem a little "juicier" and more entertaining, as it involves two sisters---one better looking than the other.
You must have seen or heard of those cases where the joke was going popular about the "questionable father" of the good looking one who didn't look one bit like anyone in the immediate family. I remember a case where such a girl took after her grand aunt.
When jealousy is about the physique, women are known to develop it on the job, and so often among friends---no matter how well concealed it may be; but having to look at a better looking one at home all the time may be just too much for them.
Again, it depends on the nature of that "less pretty one" how she may emotionally handle it. So, assuming that she is not an introvert going through the similar life-long crisis like that boy from the previous case---she may think of the ways to outdo her sister in other fields.
Namely, she may excel at school and later on professionally; or in sports, or she may suddenly get very ambitious and persistent at learning to play piano. Interestingly, in many such cases, those pretty ones seem to be happy enough with their looks and not make much of themselves in life.
Sometimes you may meet them and hear them laugh it off as a "silly competition of childhood"---and yet, at a better look you may notice how they actually never stopped playing that game, now doing it only in a more subtle way.
A Matter of an "Alpha" in Family
Not very common among these examples of rivalry within family, but still worth mentioning are those cases of sons trying hard to outdo their fathers after spending their young years under their iron controlling hand.
Now we may be talking about a father with a macho bone in him, successful in a business and habitually looking at his son in a way which the son simply hated. Namely, sometimes it boils down to a very deeply brewing competition between two male elements in family, with father giving his son subliminal signals of his "alpha status" which had better not ever be challenged.
Living in the shadow of his "bigger-than-life" father, son's life mission becomes to do better and to show his old man what metal he is made of. The final score may even turn out in his favor, except that he never really wins, because it was all along an ill-motivated effort, whereas the father was coming from a genuine drive to succeed. It's just crazy how people may pick a totally wrong reason to advance themselves in life.
In an opposite case I have seen a father who was jealous of his son's good marriage, after having left his mother for another woman---which turned out to be a bad move. His new woman's grownup daughter was a heavy alcoholic, and it just bothered the old man that his son's wife didn't drink at all.
So, he would tease her, "explaining" her occasional headaches by her "drinking too much". There were other examples of his intolerance of the son's more organized and harmonious life. Well, he felt that his romantic fiasco was obvious to everyone, so he was putting down his son, as if that might make them even.
Indeed, you would never believe that rivalry could take such ugly displays, and if I hadn't witnessed it personally, I would have thought it was fictional.
In a few words let us see the last of the combinations on this list. Here we have a mother and a daughter in a little feud of their own. It could have started out of that old, classic case of "Oedipus complex"---father and daughter developing that strong bond due to opposite genders but with obvious restrictions strongly dictated by morality---as Papa Freud might explain it.
So there we have two female elements subconsciously fighting over the attention of a man, while never aware of it. Then comes the time of the "daddy's princess" turning into a young woman, and while she is already eyeing those young guys around and giving her daddy only a rushing kiss on her way to see some of them---that feeling between the two women is already forged into a competition.
Times have greatly changed since mother was dating, and now she is witnessing all the advantages of her daughter's freedoms and some favorable technicalities that came with modern living. How is that making her feel? Whether she wants it that way or not, in a sense her daughter becomes merely "another woman having it better than she had it"---and she is jealous.
So, without having a slightest clue about the real reasons, the two women get into frequent clashes over just about anything---well, the medical term must be---they are pissing one another off with passion.
At the bottom of all this feuding between the family members is insecurity, or fear of a loss---in this case a loss of love or status of a certain importance. Fear, in all of its forms can cripple more than our healthy relationship, because of its intensity, and often because of its subtle ways of affecting us that we are never aware of.
Thus, maybe the time it is for many of us to understand and forgive the weakness of our family members who just couldn't think straight while contaminated with fear of a loss, and succumbing to the overwhelming need to regain at least some security by putting us down in a way.
Years are going, folks, and maybe we can't afford more of that separation from those who don't know how to make that first move towards us. For, separation it is, even if not physical---if it exists in our hearts while making each of those birthday hugs and greeting cards phony.
They say: "A broken bone is the strongest at the place where it heals". Maybe the same is true for mending broken family ties.