Last week the New York Post featured an announcement of the publication of "Life with My Sister, Madonna" by the Material Girl's brother, Christopher Ciccone. "Brutal, graphic, and devastating are among the descriptives of this tale of family estrangement. The buzz spread quickly in the media and given the public's obsession with celebrity, the book is already on its way to being a best seller.

The reason for the estrangement is purported to be Madonna's husband Guy Ritchie being "uncomfortable around queens." As an expert in family estrangement, and as an American who likes celebrity gossip as much as anyone, I can tell you that the history of this brother versus sister feud predates homophobic brother-in-law Ritchie. In 2005, Fox News first reported the Ciccone family feud. Christopher is not the only sibling on Madonna's "bad list" apparently, because none of her siblings were willing to embrace Kabbalah and she cut them all out of her life. Not only hasn't she been speaking to Christopher, she's also estranged from siblings Martin, Anthony, Paula, Melanie, Mario and Jennifer Ciccone.

Then there's Madonna's side of the story, which is that her brother is a serious and by now, hopeless drug addict and that she has tried everything and anything to get him the help he needs. She states that she finally had to cut him off because she couldn't tolerate watching him destroy himself. That may have some truth in it, but it's hard to imagine a seriously down and out drug addict clinching a lucrative publishing deal with Random House and pulling it together to write his book.

In any case, given the fact that Madonna speaks to none of her siblings, she should be wondering if maybe the problem lies within her and the power of money and celebrity having fueled her ego to a place where she is Queen of a country that does not exist. Those subjects who are disloyal and disagree with her are immediately banished from this imaginary monarchy.

In my book, "Healing from Family Rifts," I address the question of why family members stop speaking to each other. If I had to isolate the common thread in these very dysfunctional families, I'd have to say it's because of intolerance. Certainly that's evident in the brief history I've shared above about the Ciccone family. It's not unusual for family members to bury each other for lifestyles choices or to stop speaking over differences of opinion. As in this case, the drama easily devolves into a "if you're not with me, you're against me" stance of one family member.

Of course, Madonna is not the only one with a prejudice toward differing points of views. Many of us have lived with people who can be small-minded, petty and nasty about those who don't go along with their program.

Living with a family estrangement is extremely painful and can even be debilitating. If Christopher had decided to come see me for therapy to try to heal the rift with his sister, rather than write his tell-all expose of her shocking behaviors, I would have helped him let go of his resentment toward her and give him concrete suggestions on how to repair and reconnect with Madonna. I'd point out to him that repairing the rift is possible, but he should remember that if he can't repair this breach, the most important healing starts from within. I'd reiterate that the most critical reconciliation is the one you make with yourself. That way, your family's willingness or unwillingness to participate in a healing process will not be able to take away your peace of mind. When you feel good about yourself and the ways in which you relate to others and are at peace with your spiritual side, you'll be okay whether or not your family speaks to you.

About the Author

Mark Sichel

Mark Sichel is a psychotherapist in New York City and the author of Healing from Family Rifts.

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