Wake up to the facts
Family patterns have a purpose. They stabilize the emotional system so the family and its members can survive.
The interactions are not about politics, religion, sex, drugs or rock and roll – they are about the intense emotion that is part of every family.
The problem is not that those arguments are unpleasant. They actually provide temporary relief by discharging tension. The problem is that they do nothing to solve the thorny underlying issues that every family has.
Start by making an honest appraisal of yourself and your role in the family's emotional dynamics. Do you seem to have a need to stir things up - adrenaline "addiction"? Or do you not stand up for yourself appropriately out of fear?
Make a plan to manage yourself differently
1. Acknowledge that you cannot control the behavior of others – you can only choose to behave differently yourself.
2. Practice taking a step back in less charged situations.
Pause and detach from the stream of sense experience.
Then visualize yourself doing the same at the family gathering.
3. Beef up your ability to tolerate emotional discomfort – yours and others'.
What exactly are you afraid will happen if Mom gets upset?
4. Be curious about yourself and others.
How is it that Aunt Mildred was “elected” to be the one to take care of your cranky grandma?
Why did you have to move six hours away while little Sis can stand to be in the same town with your crazy-making parents?
5. Brainstorm how you can dodge or defuse the situation when you see that same old interaction bearing down on you.
Role play with a friend if necessary: “How 'bout them [insert name of football team]?” or, “Sounds like you feel strongly about X!”
6. Above all, “Don't attack, don't defend, stay connected."
Don't attack or defend: be a non-anxious presence when there is strong emotion.
Stay connected - maintain emotionally neutral communication. Silence and withdrawal will always function as emotional reactivity in relationships.
If this resonates for you let's talk further. This is hard work and it can help to have someone in your corner. Please feel free to call me for a free phone consultation.