Personalization and Sibling Estrangement

Whenever we experience estrangement, we are often left shocked, dismayed, and can start to experience the sense of an unfinished story in our head. Because our heads don’t like unfinished stories, we can come up with all sorts of explanations to fill that void. The thing is, those reasons can end up playing against us. Is it something we said? something we did? What could have possibly justified a cut off?

Invariably, that can become the problem. Filling our heads and hearts with answers that can have to do with personalizing it on us. And if we’re not careful, guilt, sadness, and other negative emotions can arise. This can cause us to get down on ourselves, and foster rumination about what could have been said or done. In any case, holding a perception that we are not accepted, while even if not our own, can be a painful weight to bear.

So what can we do when we begin to revisit incidences and ruminate? First, recognizing that another’s perception is not our own is paramount. Even if we’re forcibly estranged. In the support group, we sometimes talk about not owning what is another’s inaccurate perception of us. That, itself, is a poor portrayal of who we are, so why take on something that is flawed? A good statement to work with is “that doesn’t belong to me.” The more we repeat this, the more we are short circuiting the process of personalizing to ourselves the outcome of a painful situation. And when you stop a weed from growing at its root, what happens? It dies out. Letting outdated and useless ideas wither away is a step in reclaiming yourself, and, ultimately, an empowering gesture in the face of sibling estrangement.

All the best, and let me know how you do with this!

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

2 thoughts on “Personalization and Sibling Estrangement

  1. Self-talk is always important. “That doesn’t belong to me” is helpful to my situation with a brother who refuses to discuss his accusations, therefore no resolution. I find this statement very protective of my broken heart. Thank you


  2. Yes, we’ve talked about it in the support group, and I seem to have forgotten it, so thank you for the reminder. My ES very recently passed, and the circumstances of her dying/death have given rise to further estrangements, particularly with my one remaining sister, and all 5 of the adult children of my sister that passed. It feels like this negative and false perception and judgment of me, en masse, so that tho I know it’s false, I feel myself caving to the notion that of a majority rule: if 6 are against me, and there’s only one of me, surely they are seeing clearly and I’m not.
    That doesn’t make much sense but on an emotional level it hurts bad and I’m going to try your suggestion for saying “their perception of me/behavior doesn’t belong to me” as often as I need to. I also intend to seek a grief therapist because this often feels overwhelming to sort out by myself, and even with those who know and love me more truly that those who have turned me away.
    Thank you Ali-John.


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