Dear Therapist:

I have been estranged from my brother for 8 years. This happened as a result of a financial issue where I felt he had cheated me. I got some bad advice at the time regarding how I should deal with it and that led to all the issues. There were mistakes made on both sides and we have been locked in. I’m not going to kid myself; there was a lot of nasty lashon horah and machlokes on my part but also on his. Recently when I was sick I accepted on myself to try and repair the relationship. Problem is I don’t know where to start. Every idea seems like it will just backfire. If he asks me how I plan to undo the damage I won’t be able to answer. Also, I feel I can’t take responsibility for everything; there was a lot on his side.  I have picked up the phone a few times to call but never got anywhere. Please give me some guidance.



Of course without very specific information, I cannot give you very specific guidance. Without knowing the particulars of your relationship prior to the problem, the exact nature of the issues, the extent of your current relationship, and the relationships between each of you and third parties—as well as a host of other factors—there is little that I can say that would give you clear guidance.

There are two general areas that might be helpful for you to consider. The first relates to the emotional aspect of your thought process. Most (if not all) of our thought processes include an emotional component. Even for something as mundane as purchasing a shirt, some part of the thought process is likely based on emotion. (How will I look? Will I make a good impression?) This can lead to a decision that is not entirely logically based (like buying a more expensive shirt).

Typically, the more important or emotional a thought process is, the more impact our emotions can have on our decision. In addition, in emotionally charged situations our emotions are often better disguised as logical thoughts. While in less emotional situations emotional thinking may be easily identified, when in highly emotional circumstances this can be more difficult. In other words, decisions may seem logical when they are actually largely emotionally-based. It can be difficult to separate emotions from logic in these types of situations.

When you recognize that your emotions are high, it is generally a good idea to step back and try to think objectively. If you can acknowledge a tendency toward emotional decisions, ask yourself how much of your current thought process is being affected by non-logical factors. One strategy is to imagine a friend asking for your advice in a similar situation. This can help you to better focus on what you truly believe should be done.

The other factor that you should consider is of a more practical nature. Is there a possibility of involving a third party as a buffer? This can be a mutual friend or family member. A professional or rabbi whose opinion both your brother and you will respect is another option. A third party can help to decrease the level of overt hostility. They can also help to arbitrate both emotional and financial matters. They can help your brother and you to view things from a more dispassionate perspective, hopefully leading to reconciliation.

-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

 Brooklyn, NY   |   Far Rockaway, NY

 author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 718-258-5317


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