Does this sound familiar? It’s time again for one of those obligatory family get-togethers. An important birthday, a special event, a major holiday – whatever the reason, you’re faced with one more day of the same old conflict, those familiar arguments, that temporary age regression that leaves you feeling like a kid again.
But, this time, you’ve decided things will be different! You definitely won’t get drawn into the debates that leave you exhausted. You know you can keep yourself from responding with anger to the same old stuff that’s always tossed your way! And, most important, you are determined to have a good time (well… as good as you can make it!).
Those are the good intentions, the plans you make before you are actually faced, once again, with the reality of that family of yours whose members still aren’t polite enough to make the changes that would help your peace plan work!
So – what next? What can you do to prepare for the next family event so that things really do end up more peaceful – at least for you?
If you grew up in an angry family, conflict may have become a familiar companion in your adult life. You may not be spending all your time angry. You may even have figured out how to never show your anger. Or, your relationships may look like that angry family of your childhood. Whether your anger is silent or expressed, whether you routinely communicate with anger or you shrink from disagreement, the lessons you learned as a child about how to deal with conflict may still be guiding your adult life. And – you may end up feeling a little out of control of your strong feelings.
However, things really can be better. If you’ve decided that you still want contact with most or all of your family members, then you might as well figure out how to make that contact more pleasant. And, if all that planning to make it better hasn’t worked so far, it may be because you could use a little help.
First, you might want to ask at least one trusted relative or friend to help you brainstorm some strategies. Using a support community really can help. In addition, there are lots of self-help books out there on how to get along with difficult people. They offer some excellent advice.
Second, think about the guest list at that next family gathering. Is there at least one person whose support you can enlist, in advance, to help you avoid being caught up in problematic situations?
And, third, can you identify at least one behavior or reaction that you can plan, before the event, to do differently this time? You don’t need to change everything, just one piece of your participation.
If these strategies aren’t working as well as you’d hoped, you might consider the possibility that friends and family may not be able to offer the help you really need.
Growing up with anger can have a lasting impact on your adult relationships and can influence how you manage your own strong feelings. But, the good news is that help and change are possible! Counseling can help you understand why life is sometimes so challenging for you – and how you can more effectively make the changes you hope for.
If you’d like more information, see my article, Going Home Again: Family Communication Tips for Adults, browse this site, send me an email or give me a call at 310 475-1759.