Episode 89 – Sibling Complexes

Dec 12, 2019


Siblings are embedded in the human psyche as they are in life. Even if one lacks siblings, there is ready access to them through friends, fairy tales, myths, and scripture. All feature multiple experiences and examples of sibling solidarity and siblings as shadow carriers. Birth order, sex, temperament, and the quality of parental presence play a part in constellating the intense polarities of sibling relationships: competition and cooperation, admiration and envy, hierarchy and partnership, aggression and intimacy. We often carry the dynamics of early sibling relationships into adult life and project them onto individuals, work teams or social groups. Jung used the alchemical image of the soror mystica and the adept to represent a relational ideal, whether externally between self and other or internally between ego and unconscious. Each must have a respectful and equal say, from collaboration to confrontation. 


“In my dream, I visited a pet shop to buy a snake. I had my dog with me. I looked around the store and couldn’t find any reptiles, so I asked the staff and one of the employees told me they kept them in a separate room. He had no face and reminded me of a jailer as he carried a bunch of keys with him. The old wooden door we approached didn’t match the rest of the store, which was very modern, friendly and light. As he unlocked the door, my dog tried to get in with us but I told her to wait outside. The room on the other side seemed to have no ceiling or visible end and was more like a dungeon or cave. On the right hand side from the door there was a wooden outdoor rabbit cage with six compartments. It was too dark to see the animals but I could hear some sizzling and strangely humming noises and saw that all of their skins had different patterns in black and white. The man asked me if I wanted to hold one and before I could say anything he opened one of the boxes and gave me a smaller snake. It felt warm and lively in my hands and I enjoyed holding it. I couldn’t see its head, so I tried to get a closer look and as I held it closer to my face it started biting my hand a couple of times though it didn’t really hurt and even if it did strike before every bite they felt more like it was just nibbling a bit. The man asked me if I was okay and I laughed and told him that I was not afraid of snakes. I handed it back to him and decided that I didn’t really need a snake as a pet. As I opened the door to get back, my dog was excited to see me and I petted her for a while at the threshold. Through the open door some bright light fell on the cage and I looked back and finally got a closer look at the snakes. They were all sleeping and still making humming sounds, rolled up as snakes do but their heads looked like those of rabbits with no ears.”

References (books available on Amazon) 

Newton, Lara. Brothers and Sisters: Discovering the Psychology of Companionship.

Fairy Tales: The Children of Lir, Six Swans.

Conroy, Pat. The Prince of Tides.

Jahren, Hope. Lab Girl

Film: Winged Migration

Check out this episode!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


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