The Stress of Family Drama

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Every family seems to go through difficult times, the stress can hurt everyone.

It may be one member in the family that has an issue that affects many. Perhaps it is the discord sometimes experienced between family members that overflow onto everyone, especially when a family celebration comes around. It may be that you are in the midst of a family difference and you do not even understand how it happened. Then we have the modelling we demonstrate to our children when someone erupts within the family.

While we cannot control the behaviour or actions of another, we can learn some strategies to control our responses and how to diminish the effect the other person has on us.

Understand the Facts

There is often a variety of stories and points of view over something that occurred or was said to create the issue within family members. Often this is confused and escalated due to high emotions, meaning the truth and facts may be within the story however not necessarily precisely as what is portrayed.

Can you convince the storyteller of this, usually not. Our perception becomes our reality and therefore it remains real to us. Listening to what the person is telling you then asking some pointed questions can assist to clarify fact from fiction.

Questions to ask:

  • What reason would another have said that 
  • How did they say it
  • Was there a reason they may have said or acted in that way
  • What needs to happen to rectify the situation

These questions demonstrate logic, concern and care in your desire to seek answers to rectify the issue. We all love to be considered and heard thereby asking questions this allows the other person to feel heard and understood.

Mediation or Counselling may be helpful

If you find you remain stuck or frustrated in this family drama, consider attending a counselling session to help you manage and cope. You can then suggest to the family members attend either individually or together with the therapist so they may both be able to understand each other’s perspective. They may also be able to learn some effective  strategies. 

Often a third person, particularly one trained in dealing with these type of issues, can reposition each person allowing them to hear and understand the other persons’ perception. A mediator can also identify any patterns or contradictions that contribute to the problem.

Understand the type of relationship you want

If you have a family member that is continuing to make trouble or difficulties, it may be time to reassess your relationship with them.

Having a strong neutral conversation can sometimes help but only if the person is willing to listen as well as speak. If they continually reject your logical approach ask them if they want to remedy or rectify the matter. If they do, great, work proactively to help them learn the strategies to develop this skill. If they do not, then it may be time to reassess your position alongside them.

  • Do they provide solace, support and friendship for you?
  • Are they just a member of the family you do not particularly like or someone that causes nothing but pain?
  • Is the person continually involved in some family altercation or issue?
  • Do they always refuse to accept another person’s opinion?

If they do fit these categories then it may be time to remove yourself from them. This doesn’t mean to cease speaking to them, it means you withdraw from listening or being affected by their interpretation of any event.

Take a Moment

We all tend to respond to things immediately. We have a desire to be heard, especially if we think we can resolve the issue.

If we are involved in a dispute and the other person launches accusations at us, it is natural to want to defend yourself.  This however may play directly into the other persons game as when we defend ourself we are on the back foot immediately.

One of the best things you can do is to put some distance between you and the other person. Take some time-out away from them and the situation. It might be timely to say, ‘I’m not ignoring you but I need to take a moment and gather my thoughts.’ Time away often helps us to regain a clearer perspective. 

Consider the Why

Sometimes a family member may be going through their own demons and this can be reflected on to you or other family members. If you do feel this person needs support and understanding, be there for them. Do your best not to take things personally as they may be reacting not thinking in a controlled or logical way. Ask them what they need and how you may be able to help them. Listen to what they say and do for them what you can.

As you work through any difficult family phase, remember to practice self-care. Everyone makes mistakes at times; nobody’s perfect. We all deserve love, respect and acceptance, especially our family members. Time, understanding and consideration is often the best remedy.

Read more from Dr Karen