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Family Connections | by Linda Sherby, PhD, ABPP

05/31/2016 5:49 PM | Anonymous

“I’m kind of in a state of shock,” Sheila begins. “My sister was arrested for shoplifting. A lipstick for heaven sakes! She could have bought a million lipsticks! I don’t get it. And she doesn’t seem to be able to explain it. At least not to me.”


“You’ve never talked much about your sister,” I say to Sheila. “What’s your relationship like?”


Sheila sighs. “Pat’s two years younger than me, 36. I guess we’ve never been close. Not as kids, not now when we live less than a half hour apart. She was always difficult, always getting into trouble, creating some drama in the house. She’s very pretty. My father liked that. I guess I was jealous of her. I was the good girl, the one who always did well in school, the one who obeyed the rules. I got points for that, but her looks made her popular with the “in” girls and always got her dates with the most desirable boys. And then she married Cliff, married into all that wealth. She calmed down after that. I thought she was happy. Who knew?”


“Do you still feel jealous of your sister?”


“I guess. It seemed she was always creating problems, but still got everyone to love her. But I don’t know about this time. My parents are definitely not happy. And I can only imagine how Cliff’s family will react.”


“Does that bring you some satisfaction?”


“I wouldn’t say that to anyone but you, but yes, it does. Except she’ll probably get out of this too. And I really shouldn’t complain. I have a great career, a wonderful husband and a lovely daughter. You can’t ask for much more than that.”


“Do you feel less than your sister?”


“That’s a good question. It’s like if I think about my adult self and my adult life, I have absolutely no reason to feel less than Pat – except for her money, but that’s really not the issue for me. It’s these feelings from the past that creep in and suddenly I’m the one who gets to stay home on Saturday night, who watches my father look adoringly at my sister and, yes, I feel less than. Silly, right?”


“Not silly at all, Sheila. Our unconscious is timeless and the experiences and feelings we had at five and ten and fifteen, are as much with us, as our present day experiences and feelings.”


“Makes sense.”


“You haven’t talked at all about your mother’s feelings about you or your sister.”


“I guess that’s because I never knew how my mother felt. About anything. She was always efficient and proper and did the things she needed to do, including taking care of us, and I suppose loving us, but there was a shallowness to her feelings. Or maybe it’s that feelings were too messy. She did what she needed to do, her feelings on the shelf.”


“So in relation to your mother, your sister and you were equal, neither of you getting very much.”


“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I mean we may have been equal, but it’s not that we didn’t get very much.”


“Emotionally?”


“Are you saying you think we were emotionally deprived?”


“You were the good girl, your sister acted out. Maybe you were both trying to get more love and attention.”


Pause.


“I wonder if that’s why I sometimes get depressed out of the blue. It’s like everything is going along fine and suddenly there’s this black cloud.”


“That a great insight, Sheila. What you’re saying is that those childhood feelings we were talking about earlier catch up with you and suddenly you’re a kid again feeling needy and ungiven to and depressed.”


“That’s exactly right!” She pauses. “You know, that also makes me feel more sympathy towards my sister. I like that. It’s a new feeling.” Another pause. “Do you think she shoplifted because she felt needy and thought the lipstick would make her feel better?”


“You’re saying she was trying to nurture herself with a material object, because she didn’t feel given to emotionally. That’s certainly a possibility. And I imagine there’s some anger thrown in there as well. Probably for both of you.”


“Hmm. I’ve never seen myself as an angry person, but I guess we’ll have to talk about that next time.”


“Okay. We will.”


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