Craziness with Dysfunctional Relatives (Five Survival Tips)

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family… in another city.”  – George Burns

Do you often feel crazy or beaten up by well-meaning or not-so-well-meaning relatives during the holidays? It is a common theme I see every year with my clients. Controlling and/or passive aggressive and/or depressed and/or mean- spirited relatives and/or obnoxious drunks can cause much angst. You can wind up feeling slimed by your own kin. Here’s some help:

1. Make a plan – 
Strategize about things like:

a. What conversations you will have
b. How you will respond to sensitive issues
c. Where you will sit (in relation to certain irritating people)
d. What topics to sidetrack and how you will do that

Prior to contact, think about how you will respond to rudeness, guilt tripping, interrogation, or political taunts. Be prepared, and count to five before responding. Consider a necessary exit plan should you feel on the verge of screaming or murder.

2. Find reasons to be grateful

Gratitude is a major happiness booster. Be grateful for electricity, telephone and running water. Be thankful that you get to cook or don’t have to cook. Be grateful for your friends. There is always something to be grateful for, and it helps crowd out emotions like resentment and annoyance.

3. Avoid or seriously monitor alcohol

Drinking at family gatherings may make you feel merry, but as you continue to drink, what happens? It’s so easy to lose track of how much you’re drinking when over stimulated. Also, if others seem to be curbing their drinking (or their eating) don’t encourage them to indulge. Support them with their decision.

4. Disarm a primary weapon: Guilt

If a family member attempts to use guilt to manipulate you, it’s fairly easy to overcome. Bring the matter to conscious awareness by asking, “You’re not trying to make me feel guilty, are you?”  Most likely, the guilt tripper will deny it. Soon, when the pattern re-emerges, continue interrupting it by asking them questions such as:

a.  Why do you feel it necessary to use guilt to manipulate me?

b. You must find this upsetting if you feel it necessary to try to make me feel guilty to get what you want. Can you try a more mature way of discussing this?

Don’t beat the other person up; just put a stop to the behavior. The other person is probably using guilt because s/he feels powerless.

5. Allow recovery time

Even if you devised and executed several acceptable responses to unpleasant questions, stayed sober, and remembered to breathe through potentially aggravating situations, it’s possible that you will feel battered, agitated, and sad after the event. Allow needed recovery time following your encounter. Remember to ground down by leaning up against a tree, meditating, drinking chamomile tea, cuddling with a furry friend or other favored calming method.

And, as always, call me for a clearing or two to prepare you for the event or help with healing afterwards.

Robin Heart Shepperd


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