Unexpressed Potential

A friend of mine recently asked me to preside over her wedding ceremony. I was very touched at this request, and plan to do my best in honouring her wishes and contributing to bringing this all together. This is in stark contrast to my sister that not only refused for me speak at the podium on her wedding day (thus marginalizing me), but also made fun of me in front of all her wedding guests by showing an embarrassing picture. In her eyes, I guess it’s OK to shame me, but not have me give her words of praise. This leads me to my next subject, which is what I call unexpressed potential. 

This is a common situation we’re all faced with regarding the sense of unfulfillment at bringing out the qualities of appreciation and warmth that we know ourselves to have, because our estranged sibling can’t or won’t have a healthy relationship with us. This sense of being stifled is a leading symptom of the grief of sibling estrangement. We can get the sense that we’re being held back, and may feel as if this dysfunction in the relationship is something we’re forced to carry every time we think back on our sibling dynamic. Having to put the brakes on what comes natural for us is counter-intuitive. Even if it’s done for the right reasons of safety and boundaries. And yet, the need to nurture and be nurtured is fundamental for us.

We know that from a very young age, this type of validation is necessary for us to thrive. Fern Schumer Chapman, author of “Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the road to reconciliation”, did something very important with unexpressed potential. In her book, she relates how she was able to channel that same unfulfilled energy within her, in a direction that brought her purpose, for the time of her estrangement. 

It’s been mentioned before that estrangement can have a detrimental effect on one’s physical health. But it needn’t be that way for us, provided we do something along the way. And this is where our ability to choose becomes important. Just where can we channel that sense of nurturing? Some seniors opt to buy a pet, to break isolation. Others compensate into other relationships with friends or other members of their extended family who are more giving and accepting. Also, others get involved in volunteering. In fact, the latter has been shown to help reduce rumination, in that you are focusing on external elements rather than your own personal situation.

A good question to ask is how can you express this nurturing quality? 

If you’re not sure yet, sit with it. Commit to keeping your eyes open for an opportunity that arises. And when it does, you’ll find a way, big or small, to give you that possibility. To help you find answers, don’t be afraid to revisit this question at different times in your day. Doing something different enables us to think differently. What would someone I admire do to nurture is also a good way to give us a hint. In time, expressing nurturing can help us to create an alternate space within ourselves that is within our control or our choosing. This can help to balance out the grief of a sibling relationship by knowing that we’re answering the call within us to nurture. So, are you ready to put this into practice towards your journey of empowerment? 

I’d love to hear from you, and how you’re doing. Let me know in the comments section.

Best of luck to you.

Ali-John Chaudhary is a Registered Psychotherapist with offices in Ontario and Quebec. He helps clients going through sibling estrangement issues, and produces YouTube videos on the same subject, with author Fern Schumer Chapman. He also hosts an online support group on zoom for those looking to empower themselves with this rarely discussed subject.

One thought on “Unexpressed Potential

  1. Thank you Ali-John. I used to think (subconsciously at the time) that I had to prove to my estranged sister, just what a good person I was, contra to what she seemed to think of me. So, when I would volunteer, take on family projects, send gifts to her and her kids, etc etc, tho done for valiant motives too, I would carry the question “are you noticing me and have you changed your mind about thinking I’m a bad messed up person?” But in reality I was trying to love to MYSELF that I was a good person, because her opinion of me had such power over my self-image. I give her far less power these days, tho I carry the grief always. My acts of nurturing are more pure, so there’s progress. And it truly does help to lift me out of rumination, to connect with and freely love and care for others. It’s a practice tho!

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