TEENS: Growing up is no guarantee that you will outgrow the rivalry you have with your brother or sister.
"I know people in their 60s and 70s who are still jealous of their brothers and sisters, people who feel their entire lives might have been different if only their parents had loved them more," says Dr. Maury Lacher, a clinical psychologist.
Quite often, Lacher explains, an older child is jealous of the younger one because he or she gets to spend more time with their mother. Other times, jealousy is sparked by a sibling who is a better student or more outgoing or has more dates.
Says one teen who is envious of her talented younger sister, "My jealousy takes the form of sometimes being angry or short-tempered with her. Then I get angry for being angry because I know I shouldn't feel that way."
As a general rule, people become jealous when they can't get what someone else has.
"When someone you know wins an award or does well in class, one reaction is to say, 'I'm really happy for you.' ... But allowing someone else's success to make you feel bad about yourself is essentially immature."
Immature or not, this kind of jealousy between brothers and sisters often persists into adulthood unless the feelings are recognized.
A crucial step in escaping from such jealousy is to admit that you feel it and try to understand why. Because brothers and sisters continue to be a part of your life, the sooner you overcome the problem, the more you'll benefit from this special relationship.
Of course, you can't expect that you'll never feel jealous again. But you can learn to look beyond it and acknowledge what's really bothering you, as jealousy is a symptom of an insecurity.
Whether a sibling, friend or acquaintance most often triggers your jealousy, work to overcome the problem:
—Pinpoint the real cause of your jealousy.
—No matter how difficult it seems, discuss your feelings with the person you are envious of (if possible.)
—Focus on your own good points and successes the next time you start to envy someone else.
—Get involved in a project that will use your talents and energy so you don't feel so bad about another's accomplishments.
—Remember that a smile and a hug prevent a lot of friction and repair a lot of hurt feelings.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected]eatestgift.com. To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.