An Old Sibling Issue That Still Hurts

Dr. E, guest blogger

Sibling rivalry I have one sibling, a brother three years older than I am.  As kids, we really had very little to do with each other.  Just being different genders was one reason, but there were others.

We had to change schools every three years because each school housed only three grades, so every time I entered a school, my brother exited, on his way to the next school.  And we had very different interests: my brother loved ham radio stuff, and I was into tropical fish and children's theatre.

So it's hard to say whether or not we got along, since we really didn't have much of a relationship at all until we got older.  My parents, however, created a problem that angered me to no end, while my brother seemed hardly aware of it.

At one point, our Dad, who loved new cars, got one just about the same time my brother got his driver's license, so instead of trading in the older car, our Dad kept it.  Before I got my license, my brother had exclusive use of the older car, of course, but when I got my license, I thought we would share the older car.  I was so wrong.

My brother considered the car his property and did not want me driving it, and my otherwise good parents, agreed.  Their thinking, they said, was that as a teenage girl, my dates would pick me up in their cars, but as a boy, my brother would need the car to pick up his dates.  But why I was not allowed to drive the car when my brother didn't need it for a date was a question my parents never answered.

I feel hurt and angry as I write this even though it was decades ago.  Call it boy over girl favoritism; call it older child favoritism; call it our parents deciding it was easier to argue with me than with him;  call it the erroneous sociological and parenting ideas of the decade (the 1950's); or just call it what it was...totally unfair. 

What could my otherwise good parents have been thinking!

I'm Dr. E, guest blogger.   For more information, click on the following resources:

 Studies in Sibling Rivalry

The Everything Parent's Guide to Raising Siblings:Tips to Eliminate Rivalry,Avoid Favoritism,and Keep the Peace  

Siblings Without Rivalry:How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too 

Keep the Siblings,Lose the Rivalry 

Brothers:26 Stories of Love and Rivalry 

The Importance of Sibling Relationships in Psychoanalysis 

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends 

Brothers and Sisters:Developmental,Dynamic,and Technical Aspects of the Sibling Relationship  

When Children Have a Chronic Illness

Children with chronic illness Chronic illness may have devastating effects not only on a child's physical development but also on a child's psychological development.

Ill children are often treated differently by their peers who see them as dissimilar and fragile.  Frequent absences from school can prevent a child from forming strong relationships and being an integral part of the school community. 

A chronically ill child is treated differently in the family, too.  Some parents may overindulge their sickly child trying to overcompensate for the unjust hardships and deprivation the child may face.  Parents may be understandably overprotective and unnecessarily shield the child from every challenge.  Puberty is a particularly difficult time.  It is the time when the child strives for independence and detachment from the family, but for a child with chronic illness that leap towards independence is often thwarted by the dependence on others that is necessasary because of the chronic illness.

There are also effects on other family members.  Parents can become overwhelmed by and resentful of the enormous demands their child's illness causes.  Siblings may be resentful because the sick child requires more time and care, invariably taking time and care away from them.  When family members feel angry and resentful while at the same time feeling guilty about their misplaced and inappropriate emotions, there is conflict.  These conflicting feelings are communicated to the ill child and influence the ill child's sense of self.

Children with or without chronic illness learn who they are from their parents and others closest to them.  Loved children feel lovable; abused children often believe they are bad and deserving of abuse; and children of depressed parents often feel inadequate because they fail to make a parent happy. 

Family therapy might be very useful in helping the family of a child with a chronic illness to develop  well, without maladaptive character traits or, worse, a character disorder.  Once that happens, treatment is much more difficult.

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information, click on the following resources: 

Helping Children and Adolescents with Chronic and Serious Medical Conditions:A Strengths-Based Approach 

Extreme Parenting:Parenting Your Child with A Chronic Illness 

Parenting Children with Health Issues 

Families Living with Chronic Illness and Disability:Interventions,Challenges, and Opportunities 

In Sickness and in Play:Children Coping with Chronic Illness  

Casey Johnson and Juvenile Diabetes

Casey johnson dies Casey Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, died recently at the age of 30.  Now, snippets of her life that we are hearing about and seeing reveal that like many other children of the rich and famous, her life was a shipwreck.  Someone should do a study on why people who have so much going for them, so much of what all the rest of us want, either get into trouble and end up having to throw it all away, or die young without ever really enjoying what they had.

Casey Johnson, though, had something else besides wealth and privilege.  As a very young girl she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, an incurable disease that takes constant management.  Imagine her having to go through daily finger prickings in order to monitor her blood sugar level.  And imagine having to think about everything you eat in order to keep your blood sugar numbers at an acceptable level.  And think about having to restrict physical activity because overexertion can reduce one's blood sugar numbers to dangerously low levels.  And, of course, there are the daily injections of insulin to control symptoms.

Some of those symptoms, like fainting or becoming incoherent, can result in emergency trips to the hospital, often being witnessed by peers which can be embarrassing.  The growing up process unfolds in a field full of potential land mines.  Puberty is a particularly disruptive and challenging time for kids with diabetes.  The struggle between childhood and emerging adulthood, when the young person wants to assert him/herself, break away from family and shift one's loyalty to one's peers, can be particularly difficult because the chronic illness requires ongoing adult supervision.  In addition, being different and sick can be embarrassing.  Many young diabetics rebel against their illness by challenging it with careless abandon, resulting in more hospitalizations and more embarrassment. 

No doubt, Casey Johnson's diabetes, as well as her wealth and name, shaped her personality.  And there is some sad irony, and maybe subliminal anger in Casey, that the company that gave her such wealth by creating medications to treat so many illnesses never created one that could cure her diabetes. 

But at age 30, when asked what her biggest regret was, Casey Johnson did not say "having diabetes."  She said it was not doing the reality television show with her friend  Paris Hilton. 

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information, click on the following resources:

Type 1 Diabetes for Dummies

The Everything Parent's Guide to Children with Juvenile Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes:A Guide for Children, Adolescents,Young Adults--and Their Caregivers, Third Edition 

Taking Diabetes to School 

487 Really Cool Tips for Kids with Diabetes  

Alexa Ray's Attempted Suicide

Alexa joel Alexa Ray, singer/songwriter Billy Joel's daughter, recently attempted suicide.  Reports about what ticked her off seem to center on a recent breakup with her boyfriend and her relationship with her mother, model Christie Brinkley.

According to reports, Alexa Ray had just returned from a Caribbean vacation with her mother and half siblings.  Apparently her mother, still stunning and trim at age 55, kept criticizing Alexa Ray about her lax attitude toward her weight.  Brinkley, who made a fortune on her good looks and fitness empire, is making the mistake that too many other parents make, that is projecting their personal preferences onto their children and pressuring their children to follow them.  Alexa Ray may need help to learn how to fully appreciate her own value and to find her own calling. 

Of course, Alexa Ray might have a genetic predisposition towards depression and mood swings.  In any case, judging by the number of pills she allegedly ingested, this incident was a cry for help.  Since many people who attempt suicide eventually succeed, though, any attempt or verbal threat of suicide should be taken seriously. 

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information, please click on the following resources:

Suicide and Attempted Suicide

Why People Die by Suicide 

Understanding and Preventing Suicide:the Development of Self-Destructive Patterns and Ways to Alter Them 

November of the Soul:The Enigma of Suicide 

Suicide and Attempted Suicide:Understanding the Cry of Pain 

Night Falls Fast:Understanding Suicide 

Depression and Attempted Suicide in Adolescents

What Causes The Holiday Blues and Can They Be Avoided?

Satisfied%20guests  In Western countries, the suicide rate is highest during this holiday season.  The reasons for this are many and complex.  The expectation of the season, which has lost a good part of its spiritual and religious meanings, is to have a jolly good time, but good times do not necessarily follow a predetermined time frame; they come and go regardless of our expectations.  And all the merry making around us when we feel blue just makes us feel worse.

The holiday season practically forces us to take note of our achievements and failures, including last year's resolutions which mostly went unfulfilled, just like the resolutions of the year before that.  It is hard to face the fact that we were not able to live up to the promises we made to ourselves and to others.

This is also the season of voracious consumerism. No matter how much we buy, instead of feeling fulfilled we feel emptiness and a growing longing for more things.  We may even feel sadness that we can't afford what we want and jealousy of those who have and can afford more.

In addition, the pressure of gift giving can add to our holiday sadness.  Some of us feel we must give the perfect gift, sometimes within a strict budget.  And even if cost is not a factor, it is hard to come up with that special meaningful present for everyone who needs to be gifted.

Going home for the holidays is suppossed to be joyful, warm, fulfilling and serene.  In too many families, though, the modus operandi is anything but.  One tends to regress in emotionally charged situations, so many of us respond as we did as children when parents and relatives push certain buttons.   But you are an adult now, and this is your life, so take possession of it and be proud.

Learn not to apologize or feel ashamed for your failures.  And don't feel you have to perform spectacularly.  Your best approach is to dare to be yourself.   Be tolerant of others for they, too, have their own struggles.

The expectations we put on ourselves, our families and our close friends this season are so high and the pressure is so great that it ultimately proves to be too much to bear.  A cetain amount of letdown is unavoidable.  Family gatherings, however, are not the place for dramatic and forced resolutions of the family dynamics.  Individual and group therapy, if warranted, is a much better place for venting your regrets and casting the blame.  The ensuing results are beneficial and lasting.

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information, click on the following resources: 

The Family Gathering Survival Plan

Happy Holidays:How to Beat the Holiday Blues 

Holiday Blues Rediscovering the Art of Celebration 

No More Holiday Blues:Uplifting Advice for Recapturing the True Spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year  

Alzheimer's:Blessing in Disguise?

Dr. E (Ph.D.) Speaks Out:Guest Blogger


While watching Sargent Shriver, who has Alzheimer's Disease, wave goodbye at his wife's (Eunice Kennedy Shriver) funeral several weeks ago, and having recently placed a relative with age-related memory loss in a long term care facility,  I had some thoughts. 

Of course, every Baby Boomer in America wants there to be a prevention and cure ASAP for Alzheimer's and other age-related dementias and memory loss conditions, and that would be great, no doubt about it!  But if not, could it be that these conditions are Nature's way of helping us face old age and death?   Might Alzheimer's be a blessing in disguise?

For elderly people with Alzheimer's, they may not know what or who they don't remember, so maybe their condition is not upsetting to them.  Perhaps Sargent Shriver was told he was there to say goodbye to his wife, but since he may not remember her or their long life together, he did what a child does when told to say goodbye.  He smiled and waved, like a child at a parade as people march by, rather than feel the unbearable pain of his terrible loss. 

And since elderly people with Alzheimer's may not remember they are old or perhaps even know any longer what death is, how can they be depressed about it or fear it?   Ignorance is bliss, in a way, isn't it?

It is hard on family and friends who miss the person who used to be, for sure, and who fear ever being like the person with memory loss.  But maybe the fear is not necessary.

Now, mind you, I am talking about these dementias in only elderly people, not early onset memory loss, which is a real tragedy with no upside at all.  But otherwise, let's work towards prevention and a cure, but not worry too much if that doesn't happen.  And if there is a prevention and cure, we will have to find another way besides Alzheimer's to cope with old age and death.

I'm Dr. E., Guest Blogger.

For more on the subject, check out the following:

Alzheimer's From the Inside Out

The Myth of Alzheimer's:What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis 

Alzheimer's:A Caretaker's Journal

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias:A Practical Guide  

Punishment for Teen Offenders

Dr. E. (Ph.D.), Guest Blogger

Boychinovtsi Recently, after people heard that 5 teens in Florida set  Michael Brewer, one of their peers, on fire over a bicycle and video game incident, leaving their victim with burns over 65% of his body, many wanted those bad kids to be locked up forever.  Coincidentally, the very question The United States Supreme Court will be considering this session is whether teens should receive the sentence of life without parole.

The cases that have prompted this review by our highest court are also about Florida teens, one of whom was convicted of committing a rape at age 13; the other was convicted of armed robbery at age 16.  Both were sentenced to life in prison without parole. 

In 2005 The United States Supreme Court  banned the death penalty for juvenile defenders stating that adolescents are unformed, susceptible to peer pressure and capable of change.  Their decision drew on international law and pointed out that "the United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty."  And some groups say the U.S. is also the only country where teens can be sent to prison for life without parole.

New brain imaging techniques have found that teens, indeed, do not have fully formed brains and, thus, are not capable of the same reasoning and do not have the same decision-making skills that adult brains allow.  It does seem reasonable, therefore, that the Supreme Court's 2005 decision regarding the death penalty for teens would apply also to these cases of sentencing teens to life without parole.

There is no question that teens who commit crimes must be punished.  As a society, though, we must find appropriate punishment for this age group and provide prison environments that allow teens to mature, to change for the better, when at all possible, and then to become contributing, law-abiding fully developed adults. 

I'm Dr. E, Guest Blogger.  For more information, click on the following resources:

Reforming Juvenile Justice

Youth and Crime 

Treating the Juvenile Offender 

Youth, Crime and Justice:A Global Inquiry 

Young People, Crime and Justice 

Judging Children as Children:A Proposal For a Juvenile Justice System 

Youth, Crime and Justice 

Judging Juveniles:Prosecuting Adolescents in Adult and Juvenile Courts  

What Was David Letterman Thinking!

Talk show host, David Letterman, a high-profile person, after being threatened with blackmail admitted to having numerous sexual liaisons with women who work for him.  Whether he was legally married at the time we do not know, but he was certainly in a long-term relationship with the woman to whom he is now married and with whom he has a 6-year-old son.

One would think that men, especially successful ones, would be more diligent about controlling their libido, but men's appetite for exciting, new, extramarital sex will not abate.  When Bill Clinton was asked why he got involved with Monica Lewinsky, he stated simply, "Because I could."  His and Letterman's success and power, and that of men like them, attract ambitious women who can bask in the men's power, can be wined and dined, mentored and promoted.

Young, single women and powerful married men usually deserve one another.  Problems arise when one of them feels she/he didn't get what they bargained for, and the games involving body and greed may lead to a broken heart or wounded pride.

Then things can turn ugly -- going public, blackmail, extortion, or even violence.  And do not forget potential problems at home -- a vengeful spouse, depressed children, an expensive/acrimonious  divorce, and loss of job, property and finances.   Overall, a nasty disruption in life's routine -- from easy coasting along in the pleasant waters of privilege and indiscretions to catastrophe.

This may be the price one pays for playing with fire.  Was it worth it for Letterman and other men like him?  

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more on this, click on the following resources:

Intimacy:An International Survey of the Sex Lives of People at Work

9-5 Sex, Lust,Lives Destroyed:What Happens When Sex Blossoms in the Workplace 

Dirty Little Secrets:Sex and the Workplace 

Sex and Business:Ethics of Sexuality in Business and the Workplace 

Sex at Work:Attraction,Harassment,Flirtation and Discrimination  

Phillips and Polanski:Incest and Rape


Roman-Polanski-001 Mackenzie Phillips, daughter of John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas,  writes about her incestuous relationship with her father in her new book High On Arrival .  Roman Polanski, Academy Award-winning director, was arrested this week in Switzerland for statutory rape of a minor 30 years ago. 

Mackenzie's statements that the sex with her father was consensual are bogus, because there is no such thing as consensual sex between a parent and a child, regardless of the child's age and/or willingness to participate.  Parents and children are not equals.  Parents are there to protect children and to point the way.  Even when parents fail, children still longingly and lovingly look up to them.  Children are ready to abandon their not fully developed common sense in order to preserve their trust in their parents, because if they do not trust their parents, where do they turn for support, guidance, respect and understanding?   Incest negates for children the very traits they need from their parents.

When Polanski  was 44, he lured a 13-year-old girl to actor Jack Nicholson's Los Angeles house, drugged her and raped her.  On talk shows about this, many men say that Polanski, now 76, is no longer a threat and it's not worth the cost to put him in prison.  Some commentators, men and women, say that since his victim forgave him, so should we.  This last argument is particularly  perverse and offensive to me because it invokes the noblility of the victim's character to induce the same charitable instinct in us.

One man said that if his daughter were raped, he would ask her some time after the crime if it were injurious to her, and, depending on her answer, he would decide on a further course of action.  That a father could possibly believe that it might be alright for his 13 year old to be drugged and raped, and that the event might not be of much importance to her overall development, is outrageous.

Rape and incest are brutal humiliations, to say the least.  For women to be tricked, entrapped and subdued as fresh meat for powerful men's enjoyment is not something women can or should come to terms with easily.  Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is only one result.

Then there is the matter of justice and punishment for hideous acts these adults committed knowingly.  John Phillips is dead. Why, however, do we think war criminals should not be enjoying their old age in peace, while after violating a 13 year old girl Polanski should be free, living with a beautiful young wife -- among the rich, famous, fashionable and talented?  Something is very wrong.

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more on this, click on the following resources:

High On Arrival

Polanski:A Biography 

The Ultimate Betrayal:The Enabling Mother,Incest and Sexual Abuse 

The Sexual Healing Journey:A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse 

Father-Daughter Incest 

Healing the Incest Wound:Adult Survivors in Therapy  

What is Schizophrenia?


Politicians and celebrities frequently and incorrectly refer to things as "schizophrenic" when they are describing something with a dual meaning or a split personality, but that is not what schizophrenia is.  Schizophrenia is the most common psychotic disorder and occurs in one percent of the population throughout the world with higher concentrations in some places.

A psychotic person has an impaired sense of reality, often hears voices, has firm beliefs not based on facts but on projections, has fears, has hallucinations and often is not sure of his/her identity.  Someone in an acutely psychotic state is easliy identifiable; you do not need a psychiatrist to tell you if someone is acutely crazy, but you need a psychiatrist to identify the type of madness and implement the right treatment.

The first obvious symptoms of schizophrenia usually occur between the late teens and the mid-thirties, with the illness generally making its appearance earlier in men than in women.  It may start slowly with social withdrawal; loss of interest in school, work and previously favored activities; and deterioration in grooming -- all often symptoms of depression also.  Or it may start suddenly, with unusual and bizarre behaviors and speech, unprovoked anger, hallucinations, and irrational and dangerous actions.  At this point hospitalization is usually necessary in order to protect the patient and possibly others, and the patient is treated with antipsychotic medication.

The prognosis varies but schizophrenia is usually chronic, interspersed with periods of acute and severe symptoms.  The prognosis is somewhat better in women and in cases when the onset occured later in life.  There is some evidence that if the patient takes medications regularly from the onset, the prognosis will be somewhat better.  Interestingly enough, people suffering from schizophrenia tend to be infertile.

There can be a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, and environmental factors are thought to play a role as well.   We've come a long way in treating schizophrenia, but we have a great deal more to learn. 

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information about schizophrenia, click on the following resources:

Surviving Schizophrenia:A Manual for Families, Patients, and Providers

Schizophrenia for Dummies 

Getting Your Life Back Together When You Have Schizophrenia 

The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia:Helping Your Loved One Get the Most Out of Life

Diagnosis: Schizophrenia