Guest Author - Lisa Angelettie M.S.W.
There are people right now this very minute feeling a swell of anxiety growing inside their bodies. Its holiday time. And while there are many of us worried about shopping lists, or dealing with crowds, or perhaps just being motivated enough to get into the spirit for our kids etc. - there are others who are worried about having to deal with old family squabbles, new family members, or the always faithful-- family obligations.
So are you feeling pressure during this holiday season? Does this sound like you? And do you let the stress over having to deal with your dysfunctional family ruin your holidays? Are you anxious or depressed or worse yet - both?
Listen up folks - I have yet to meet one person who doesn't have a crazy aunt or uncle, or an overbearing parent, or a judgmental grandparent in their family. The issue seems to be not really the lunacy that they present - but what we are willing to accept, tolerate, or take on from them.
The key is not to avoid them every year, or to challenge them every year, or to even hope that they "finally change" this year. The key is to change the way you react to them.
1. Debaters. If there is a constant debater in your family and it drives you crazy - don't get involved in the discussion that he or she is starting. Walk away and find something else to do or someone else to talk to. If you are stuck at the table or in the conversation - then agree with everything. That will drive him/her crazy, because they only want you to agree after they have debated their point. Not before.
2. Critics. Critical family members especially look forward to the holidays to pick on the weak! Your first defense against any enemy is yourself. And that is what a person who is trying to tear down your character, your choices, or your life is - an enemy. Defend yourself. Firmly let that family member know that you are not the person to mess with this season. If you don't like confrontation - pull the person to the side. But you have to stand up for yourself - or they will use you for target practice every holiday.
3. Martyrs. This is all about the guilt that you yourself feel in regards to this person. If you allow a martyr to guilt you into doing things that you have no interest in doing, you are punishing yourself. Forgive yourself and move on. Let someone else in the family take Aunt Mary all the way home after dinner for once.
4. Toxic. There are some family members who are just all around miserable people. No one in the family really likes them but they are allowed to come around because simply they are part of the family. These type of people should be avoided during the holidays. You cannot "fix them" in one night or even in a couple of weeks. These people have complex multi-layered problems that they either inadvertently or purposefully take out on everyone around them - especially people that they love. Just like all those desserts at dinner - walk away!
5. Addicts. Doesn't every family have a gambler, alcoholic, drug addict, or sex addict? At least one - right? Addicts are either very comical during holidays or really painful to deal with and to watch. Try not to take on the burden of the addict. Addicts do need a support system, but only after they have made a decision to change. Its not your fault nor your shame to bear. If your addict is in really serious trouble it may be in the family's best interest to consider an intervention instead of an invitation to your holiday dinner.
If your family is made up of a high percentage of all these family types and there is no sane person to run to during holiday celebrations...then you may want to consider taking a break from them this year and sharing the holiday with your spouse's family or a friend's family. That will give you some time to get yourself mentally prepared for next years family follies!
Lisa Angelettie is an author, counselor, & coach on mental health, relationship, and other life issues for women. You can also visit her at www.GirlShrink.com for some Free Advice. Please visit us for more discussion on this topic in the depression forum to talk about it further. Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter for topics in the news, new articles, website & book reviews, and other useful mental health resources. Subscribe below.