EXPLORING SIBLING RIVALRY Understanding brings a deeper connection.
Many of us have felt the twinge of sibling jealousy at some time in our lives, whether these feelings are long past or still tender. But with understanding, our siblings can be a source of mutual support, love and pride, says Xenia Taliotis
“The only time my name was mentioned in the media was as the less successful Minogue sister,” lamented Dannii, when she was yet again asked about sibling rivalry. No matter how vehemently she declared her love for Kylie, the insidious insertion of the word “insists” or “claims” in every article – as in “Dannii insists/claims she feels no resentment,” implied that the journalists were onto her: that they could see past her words to the raging jealousy within.
The Minogues are not the only ones to have their siblinghood scrutinised through the prism of suspicion and assumption. Anyone who has a successful sister or brother will face similar questioning, particularly if they have followed the same career path, and even more so if they are deemed to have done less well. Serena and Venus Williams get it all the time; so do Cara and Poppy Delevingne, psychiatrists Susan and Steven Pinker and David and Ed Miliband, who caused media meltdown when they stood against each other for the Labour Party leadership.
For unfathomable reasons, we like to see siblings at war: in Roman mythology, Romulus kills his twin Remus; in the Bible, Cain murders his brother Abel, and in the book Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, sisters Baby Jane (a former child star) and Blanche (a successful actor in adulthood) destroy both their own lives and each other’s through envy.
Perhaps it is because of these associations that no one will ever admit to being the teeny tiniest bit jealous of a sibling. “The moment we shake hands we’re done with the match, we’re sisters,” says Serena Williams. “I don’t compare myself with my sister. We support each other, we’re both in the industry – that’s the end of the story,” says Dannii Minogue. Yet a little healthy competition is an entirely natural and inbuilt response to having to share. All of us with siblings, no matter how well we get on now, will remember ghting at some point during our childhood. As psychotherapist Phillip Hodson explains: “Siblings ght because one displaces the other. They enter an evolutionary struggle for the milk supply (also known as the love supply) and a contest for endorsement. Underneath this is the fear of parental rejection.”
Although this all sounds rather negative, this rivalry is nothing to be worried about, or to try to prevent. “Competition between siblings is universal and unavoidable,” says clinical psychologist and parenting expert Linda Blair, author of Siblings: How to handle sibling rivalry to create lifelong loving bonds (White Ladder Press, £12.99). “People view it as something dreadful that should be eliminated, when it’s actually bene cial, pushing children to achieve and teaching them invaluable skills.” According to Linda, healthy rivalry between siblings builds emotional intelligence. “When a new child arrives, the older ones have to learn how to negotiate, compromise and share if they are to retain parental approval. These are essential life skills they will need throughout their lives.”
Our sibling relationships are likely to be the most enduring of our lives. Our brothers and sisters share our genes, our history and our memories. As
Je rey Kluger so beautifully put it in his book,