The Benefits of Curiosity with Sibling Estrangement

A few years ago, Back when my sister and I were talking more, I phoned her just to see how she was doing. I was immediately met with the assumption that I was phoning because I was bored, and that she didn’t want to be used to relieve my boredom. I was left flabbergasted, as that was not my intention. Rather, it was to connect with her at a time in the day when I was most available. This led me to think how many of us are judged and condemned for simply being true to ourselves, and ascribed negative intentions, as opposed to having our siblings demonstrate curiosity towards us. 

It’s this very issue that creates so many problems in our sibling estrangement situation. Once there’s a lack of curiosity, then that means someone closes themselves up with only their own point of view. They refuse to look at any other perception, and thus, buy exclusively into their own fixed ideas, which make them conclude, with falsehood, that we are somehow responsible for how they feel, or about the unfolding of a situation. 

And yet, we’ve spoken before about the importance of making room for each other’s personality. By doing so, we enable an authentic dialogue based on mutual respect, but most of all, based on the idea of being curious about the other person’s point of view, which enables them to go further in their analysis, and maybe correct their perceptions because they are actually verifying them as opposed to concluding that it must be only a certain way based on their initial assumptions.

I find that this is one of the major elements that I’ve shown to some of my clients that help in de-escalating and actually managing feelings in a more proactive and less adversarial way.  How many times have we actually said to ourselves if only they asked about why I felt that way? 

The fact of the matter is that some people’s feelings become so overwhelming that they can relish in pointing out other people’s perceived faults, and simply get caught up in the landslide of defensiveness and vilification just to validate their own experience. While we can fleetingly hope our sibling will one day realize that they can be curious about us, get to know us more, as a means of deepening the relationship, it’s best to realize that we can apply this to ourselves if feeling safe in interacting with them (or others)  as a means of showing them how it’s done. 

By being curious ourselves, we are inquiring in such a way as to avoid justifying ourselves, but rather, showing our goodwill in understanding their point of view. Acknowledging another person’s reality doesn’t mean that we’re dismissing our own. It means we’re making room for them, provided the interaction is respectful and cooperative, despite the tension. (If it is worse than this, then I don’t suggest making use of this with them, as it may well further degenerate an already toxic situation).

This method can most likely help in certain family functions where assumptions can run rampant if left unchecked. While it’s good to maintain ways to physically and emotionally protect ourselves, it’s also good to inquire as a means of validating someone else and showing our good faith by dialoguing. At best, this will dispel assumptions and false intentions, at worse, you’ll get more of the same. 

I’m curious to know more about how this goes for you. Feel free to let me know in the comments section or on the Facebook group!

Take care, and remember, you are not alone.

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 and an intensive workshop both on zoom (see groups) for those looking to empower themselves with this rarely discussed subject.

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