Sibling Dynamics – Hidden reasons for our feelings

Sibling Dynamics – Hidden reasons for our feelings

Siblings are our first friends in life and they lay the blueprint for our social well-being. Whether you have a sibling and where you are in relation to a sibling age-wise has a lot to do with how you feel on a day-to-day basis. The position we hold within our family shapes our sense of self and belief system. How our parents responded to sibling disputes also informed what we believed was possible for us in life. 

Sibling relationships are inherently comparisons. A first-born sibling quickly discovers that they are faster and more experienced than their younger playmates who have not yet arrived at the same motor skills. This can easily create a sense of positive reinforcement for the more advanced sibling while causing a frustrating dynamic for the younger one. 

Older siblings are the leaders of all the siblings and their temperament sets the tone and flow of communication. It is a great honor to be the first born of a family but that honor also comes with responsibility which is rarely explained to a child growing up. Younger siblings have less energetic pressure to uphold a social order and often find themselves to be the ones who bring wit and humor to family gatherings. The younger sibling often operates in an energy of “nothing to lose.” and can struggle with feeling needed.

On a soul level, the older sibling is invited to develop patience and understanding for those not at their skill level. The younger sibling is invited to locate a sense of self that is not connected to a comparison with the more proficient companion. 

Because of their lead in the maturity process, older siblings are often considered more grown up than they really are and are not given sufficient time to be children themselves in relation to the younger siblings who are often considered children long after that condition is applicable. Older siblings are often given tasks by their parents that are not appropriate for their age and younger siblings are often denied permission to do something because they are viewed as less competent. This view of a younger sibling can unconsciously persist in a family well into a person’s 30s. Such oppressive hidden dynamics need a ceremony or a rite of passage that tells a younger born that they have entered adulthood and can consider themselves equals to their siblings.

These are basic descriptions of the usual social dynamics that occur in family systems. There are of course dozens of variations which are always fascinating to investigate. Sometimes an older sibling is denied their proper energetic place in a family because one or both parents wanted that firstborn to be a different gender. Sometimes a couple will have several children before arriving finally at the preferred gender of one or both of the parents. All those older siblings often have an unconscious feeling of being a disappointment to one or both parents which makes it hard for the older one to feel secure in holding their proper place of leadership in the sibling dynamic.

Another challenging sibling dynamic that causes strain in a family is when a mother has lost a child before giving birth to their firstborn. Or when a child dies young and then the next child born is considered the oldest sibling.  We all have a very clear, unspoken awareness of our place in the family. If a child was lost before one’s own birth, we feel the loss of that sibling in subtle ways and have a constant need for a guide in our own lives. It can be experienced as someone missing, or an inexplicable resentment of having to take on responsibilities that we feel were not supposed to be ours.

The resolutions to these energetic struggles are often found in Constellation’s work. Locating missing family members and acknowledging the proper order of sibling authority is a powerful and simple process I have seen unfold time and again in Constellation’s work. Relief is inevitable when everyone is given their proper place. Love is able to flow and help is able to be received when the orders of arrival are put into place.

The dynamics we experienced as children with siblings usually determine how we will later experience every social dynamic. In a relationship, we will either feel inclined to be the leader or the follower depending on where we are in our sibling order of birth.  And usually in a group of three or more, we will eventually begin to feel the same way we felt as children, projecting onto others the assigned roles we knew so well. I will see this person as my older sister, have an expectation of them in the leader position or perhaps I will see them as the younger sibling and feel compeled to protect and take charge.  

What can help expand our life experience with people is to clarify that no one in the world will be your sister, brother, mother, or father except those specific people. Everyone else we meet in life will be people we really do not know at all. Projecting a role onto the people we meet in the world happens fast and can limit what the relationship can become. Releasing the impulse to project our childhood experience and expectations begins with first taking a sober, truthful look at it. 

What about the psychological foundation of an only child? Or an adopted child? These are also very real situations that shape a person’s sense of self and social willingness.

Whatever was expected of you as a child need not continue to be felt. Frustration and resentment is usually unacknowledged injustices in a family system. Making peace with the battles you fought and survived is a process we can’t just think ourselves through. Humans need interactive experiential shifts. That is what a Constellation workshop enables. The opportunity to discover a hidden dynamic and to discover the pathway that will release the old belief patterns and guide us to an entirely new awareness of who we really are and why we are here.