Psych Central

my cousin is the black sheep

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

my cousin who is a 21 year old female expressed to me that she does not like many of her family members.She does not like being around her younger sister , brothers, her aunts , uncle,and their kids.However, I do not think she has a mental problem,she is very intellectual. I just wanted to know why she is the way she is ,and is there any way to change it.She’s been through alot in her life,and many of her family members dislike her,and instead of lending a helping hand to help her grow into a better person they sit around and talk about her.It’s kinda disturbing,because she’ll go in her room and stay until they leave.. At family functions she doesn’t talk to anyone.I’ll admit in many ways the family is dysfunctional and divided, but is there any way to help her???

A: It’s hard, isn’t it, to want so much to help and yet not be able to figure out how to do it. I hope I can give you an idea or two.

From what you wrote, it seems that the cousin and the family are in a standoff. She stays away because people haven’t been kind to her, don’t like her, and talk about her. The family talks about her and doesn’t like her because she stays away. Back and forth it goes. The “solution” she’s come up with is to be at family events but not to be with the family.

It may be too big a shift to ask everyone who you say is in a dysfunctional and divided family to just get along. Maybe instead you could just start with yourself. Perhaps the next time there is a family event, you could ask your cousin if she would let you join her in her room for awhile. You can get to know each other better. You can show her that someone in the family (you) is interested in her. Then maybe the next time you can figure out someone else who could join you and build from there. If you and your cousin and one or two others start having a great time, it may soften the family divisions some.

It took years for the separations in the family to become this pronounced, so please don’t get discouraged if it takes a long time to change things. Meanwhile, at least you and your cousin may be able to become friends.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Jul 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). my cousin is the black sheep. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/07/14/my-cousin-is-the-black-sheep/

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