Sibling emotional abuse

There are as many types of emotionally abusive relationships as there are types of abuse. Parent to child, partners, friends, work colleagues, but one that doesn’t get a lot of attention is between siblings.

These can be full, half or step siblings involved and while it’s usually the older siblings abusing the younger it isn’t always the case.

Name calling and belittling, being excluded, being made to feel worthless. All this things will have long lasting consequences to the victim. Low self esteem, a need to put others first, a need to never make mistakes.

What doesn’t get noticed though is quite often the underlying message of not feeling loveable. After all, if your own siblings hate you and treat you so badly there must be something wrong with you? The child experiencing this is going to internalise this sort of message very young. They are being abused by siblings they love and look up to.  They don’t have the ability to rationalise that the problem isn’t them.

So they will grow up with this message embedded deep inside as a self concept, even if they never name it.

There is a good chance they will never even realise that their experiences were abusive. After all everyone knows siblings can be difficult and sibling rivalry is normal.So it may well be downplayed and minimised by other members of the family whilst the low self esteem it created has a lifelong impact.

So what can be done to help? The first step is to really reflect on where you are? Do you find yourself always trying to put others needs before your own? Do you find it difficult to be with your siblings or have lost contact completely? Do you jokingly say my sibling always hated me and try and pretend that didn’t hurt!

Starting to explore that relationship can help you look at the current and past situations from a different perspective and give you the insights to change things in the future. It may be a painful experience but hopefully it will be worthwhile.

Unacknowledged suffering

I came across the image below and I found it incredibly powerful.

While it applies to any form of suffering, it is very common for the abuse between siblings to be ignored or dismissed. Society tends to downplay problems between siblings and categorise them as normal family dynamics. They are not always normal though.

Emotional, physical and sexual abuse all have long term impacts on the victim and when people around you act as if nothing bad happened it can be devastating. On top of that you are also expected to remain in a relationship with your abuser by family and friends.

This adds another layer of violence to what has already been suffered.