We’ve all heard the term, we know what it is.
But ugh, when you feel it yourself….it’s very painful.
And it doesn’t have to be “sibling” to hurt. Rivalry in any form, between any two people or groups, can turn very sour, very heart-breaking.
People frequently feel this kind of angst with their former spouse, with a boss who fired them, with a friend who shocked them, with a partner who betrayed them.
But for me this past weekend, it was rivalry of the sibling kind.
I did or said something, or the whole family did or said something, or our mother did or said something…..and now one sibling has been radio silent for about a year.
The big extended family function that just happened.
How many times has an inquirer contacted me to do The Work when a wedding, funeral, graduation or other kind of ceremony is scheduled, and they anticipate seeing their rival?
It’s OK when they aren’t around, but being in their presence incites the pain all over again, and the fear.
At least, that’s what I noticed happened with me.
It was almost embarrassing, because I “thought” I had done The Work on this person. I had remembered so many moments from childhood I appreciated with her. I knew I loved her so very much–love was not the issue. I had become aware of how much I admired her. I accepted she needs a sabbatical. I left her alone.
But the lack of acknowledgement hurt. The silence.
It all appeared in an instant.
The family event is underway. People are cooking, tables are set. Big greetings and hugs are happening as people who haven’t seen on another for years connect. Ooohs and aaaahs and sounds of joy fly into the air. The big day has arrived.
And then, someone whispers that the relative in question just showed up. “She’s here!”
What do I do? A wave of nervousness runs through my stomach. I’ll be so very happy if she approaches. Anything, something.
During the entire day of festivities, conversations, then evening celebration. Nada.
The hurt comes waving through. Like a voice from a 5 year old child.
She hates me.
Here’s my proof. No eye contact. No words. No connection attempted.
Other siblings don’t seem to have the same trouble with it (I check in with two of them). They appear unruffled and Whatever about it.
So not only does she hate me, but other family members are more mature and relaxed and detached about this person. I must really have a problem. My mind is racing. I feel even worse.
I begin to do The Work. Again. But this time, a new and different thought, and from the point of view of an inner five year old.
The word “rivalry” comes from a Latin word for stream or brook (rivus). The root word “ri” is run or flow. Rivalry are two people who share the same stream of water. Or really, two people who compete for it.
Water is a necessity of life. The physical body will die without it.
I often notice, humans (including me) feel that love is a necessity of life. Acceptance, connection, intimacy. The sense that we’re supported, or wanted.
Interesting that this word “rivalry” focuses on the competition for one source, only one winner, people who are equals in their need to share the stream feeling threatened.
In the sense of Sibling Rivalry, the source of this flow is mother or father. Or both. The feeling within is somehow that I’m not going to get it, I’m left out, I’m lost, I’m potentially rejected. The parent isn’t going to give me what I need. What I need is scarce.
And then….the belief that the person competing with me wants me gone, out, shut off, silenced.
She hates me!
Is it true?
Yes. OK, no. I can’t know this is true. In fact, deep down I know we have a powerful connection.
How do I react when I think this thought that she hates me, is threatening me, can’t be bothered to make contact with me?
Awful. Frightened. I want to escape and get out of here. I want to be as far away from this as possible. She should stay on her end of the stream. Or find another stream.
Sometimes, people have reported to me that they feel absolutely horrible about themselves. Discarded like garbage. Unwanted (by lovers leaving them especially).
I noticed I had pictures flashing through my mind of her stony, mean face. I heard her saying nasty things (she didn’t actually say anything). I started thinking it’s perfectly fine not to have her in my life. I make mental lists of what I don’t like about her, trying to justify my position.
But who would I be without my very painful story of hate, of rivalry, of needing her love?
I almost couldn’t do it, yet the question hung in the air throughout my time at the big family celebration.
Who would I be without this “problem” on my mind?
Who would I be without this fearful story?
Watching life, people make kind and loving connections. Noticing she’s a part of the family, and her presence is welcome. So is mine. Watching us all share in the stream of life, imperfectly having our hard times or our caring times.
Everyone simply being human.
No one doing it wrong.
Seeing that it’s on my mind, then it isn’t on my mind. Watching me not reach out myself, feeling insecure, feeling like it’s BIG and OMINOUS, then watching me forget about it for an entire conversation with someone in the family, a niece, an aunt, a nephew, a cousin, an uncle, a second cousin once removed, the new partner of a cousin, a great uncle.
Feeling the hot sun, resting in the shade, watching a flock of birds overhead all making unusual bird sounds calling to one another.
Turning the thought around: she loves me, I hate myself, I hate her.
I study this energy I’m calling “hate” that I’ve thought is coming from her.
I notice I have no idea what it is, and I can’t say it’s coming from her either. This thing called “hate” feels very strong, centered in the heart, explosive, wild, mysterious, loving.
Wait….did you say loving?
I see the energy of hate is an energy that says “you matter to me!”
Even if the way you think that person matters is negative, or that you need to get away from them, that they are your rival.
By definition, this rivalry I feel means I am sharing the river with this person. I can’t help it. Sharing is happening.
In this experience of apparently being in the presence of someone who is Other than me, I’m loving myself, I’m hating myself, I’m loving them, I’m hating them, I’m believing they are hating me, and loving me too.
All crashing together like a gigantic wave.
Part of the family events for the weekend included a river float trip. Everyone receiving their own inner tube and paddles, getting taken in a van up the river to float home over a 4 hour ride.
The river held the entire family. All the bodies, ages, emotions.
The river shared by almost 40 people, and 4000 more (truly) on a hot summer day in a gorgeous, cold, gentle river.
Eagles flying overhead, wild ducks and half-grown babies all following the mother, big trout flashing down below the surface, long brown carp hugging the bottom, fresh sweet water rolling along, big round rocks and boulders to swerve around under the surface.
Sharing was happening, and competition was not required. A faster speed to the finish line was not desired, or required. Survival was not threatened. There was enough comfort, pleasure, peace, sunscreen. Excitement on a moment of rapids, food enjoyed from the tube with the cooler in it, water to drink, sights to see, a time of quiet with eyes closed, moving along without trying.
A great humanity was on this cool river together, including anyone and everyone’s supposed rivalry. Or lack of rivalry. (And by the way, I never saw the person who hates me the entire time–she was somewhere far behind me I’m not even sure where). All of us sharing the stream. Whether people were speaking to each other, or not, or knew one another, or were related, or strangers, or neighbors, or had something to say, or not.
Could it be possible to I’m moving along down the stream, and so is everyone else?
And suddenly, the feeling of living the turnaround turns a corner for the first time in a year, after many moments of inquiry and exploration and wonderings and investigation of fear, pain, disappointment, or anger and feeling misunderstood and unloved.
And I take out a pen and paper, ready to write a letter to this person I care about so much, of how I wind up “hating” myself and believing I am hated and thinking I’m cast out, with not enough peace to survive…..and how untrue that all is.
“This is an insane belief. People should stop judging people? What planet do you think you’re on? Make yourself at home here: When you come to planet Earth, you judge us and we judge you. That’s it. It a nice planet to live on, once you get the ground rules straight…..So I’ll strike a deal with you. When YOU stop judging THEM for judging you, then go talk to them about judgment. It may take awhile. No one can deprive me of my family–no one but me.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is
I like the “it may take awhile” part.
It takes the time it takes, and you may continuously and regularly get to practice.
Just keep going. Like the river itself. Flowing along to the sea.
P.S. Two hour entirely free online immersion course TEN BARRIERS that BLOCK THE WORK on August 22nd at 8:30 am Pacific Time (like, for example, hating yourself for not being farther along). Love to have you with me there. Q & A at the end on the new Year of Inquiry starting September 5th. Register for the live class right HERE.