We’ve all experienced it-—the dysfunctional family moments that we find so funny in the movies but cringe or even cry over in real life. Conflict within a family can turn relatives into enemies. It can also heavily affect the severity of depression for those who internalize things.
The simple and very sad truth is that there are some people with whom there is no reasoning. Unfortunately, those are usually the ones who seem to enjoy creating tension and chaos at family gatherings. And we wonder, “Why won’t they just stay at home?” But they won’t, because they enjoy stirring up trouble. It gives them a sense that they are in control.
If you have a trouble-making control freak in your family who really gets to you, avoid him (or her), if possible. If avoiding him completely is not an option, then try to have someone close by who can help you out if you become the trouble-maker’s target.
The next best thing to avoiding the trouble-maker is to just ignore him. He thrives on his ability to push your buttons and get you upset, so even if you feel like your head is going to explode, just let it slide. Ignore the insults, the taunting and the lies. Just remember that it takes a much stronger, healthier and more mature person to walk away from a conflict than to participate in it.
Sometimes we engage the trouble-maker, feeling completely justified (and maybe we are), but it only adds fuel to the fire. Do we really feel better when we step down to his level? Okay, maybe for a second or two. But it almost always causes an escalation in the conflict, taking it to a whole new level, and making us feel even worse.
There are those of us who might be outside the conflict, giving us the opportunity to stand back and be neutral. It’s almost like being on the playground in second grade, watching silently as a bully picks on another child.
We don’t want to be involved in the conflict, but is it fair of us to do nothing to defend someone we love when she is being attacked? Bullies do what they do because they can. They get away with it, so there is no deterrent against that type of behavior. It’s the same with your family trouble-maker. Let him know that type of behavior is not appreciated, and it will not be tolerated.
Sometimes there are long-standing “feuds” between two or more family members. Whether or not you are involved in the conflict personally, you and the other relatives suffer the effects of it.
In cases of long-standing conflict, it might take someone who is not directly involved to make a step toward resolving the issues. Reach out to all the parties involved and try to appeal to their sense of family. Explain to them how painful and stressful it is to the elders and the children to have to deal with the conflict. Remind them that the only way to have peace in their own hearts, not to mention within the family, is to forgive.
None of us is perfect, and sometimes we contribute to the conflict unintentionally. If you do or say something you didn’t mean, or hurt or anger someone in another way, have the courage to admit your mistake and apologize. Stop the possible pandemonium before it has a chance to develop before your eyes!
We can’t control the actions of others, but we do have the power to defuse some of the bombs dropped at family gatherings, and the depression that many times follows.
Life is difficult enough without a lot of turmoil, so whenever you’re faced with a trouble-maker, take the high road. If you fire back, you’ll probably regret it, but being dignified is something about which you’ll always feel good.