The holidays can bring about tension if there is unresolved conflict or resentment in families. This might make you feel tense or want to avoid the holidays altogether.  Sometimes there might be one person in the family who struggles in social situations, sabotaging the holidays by lashing out.  There are many scenarios and family dynamics that can make the holiday season seem unbearable.  Here are just a few reasons why and what you can do:

1. Recognise, reflect and reframe

Be curious who it is you want to avoid and why. Who is making you tense?  Ask yourself if this person makes you nervous because they have been hurtful to you or if someone else has said they are harmful.  If someone else has replied they are hurtful, consider having an open mind about who the person is.  Sometimes people gossip untrue words.  If the person you are avoiding has hurt you, how severe was the hurt? Is it something you can have a conversation around?  Is this person open to listening to your side?

2. Who cannot listen to your side or take responsibility?

If there is someone in your family who refuses to listen to your side, ask yourself why.  Is it because they don’t listen to anyone’s side? Are they feeling taken for granted or hurt?  If they cannot look deeply at themselves and blame and attack others instead of listening, consider spending your time elsewhere.  These people tend to blame everyone but themselves, so expressing yourself won’t get you far.

3. Be polite and concise

If you feel that the other person cannot hear you and prefer not to deal with them, be polite. If you think that anything you say can be used against you, don’t say much.  For example, you are upset with your relative that tends to burn bridges.  You can see them push people away, so you speak to them about it.  Your attempts to help this person have been used against you as they escalate the abuse against you.  Instead of wasting your emotional energy trying to help them, focus on protecting yourself.  Say hello and be polite but don’t engage if they start playing victim to pull you into their emotional chaos.

4. Drama roles

In family dramas, different people play different roles.  Sometimes the attention-seeking comes from previous abandonment situations where the person felt rejected or unwanted. Typical characters are rescuer, victim and persecutor.  People tend to switch between the roles from time to time if they are not getting the attention or result they wanted.

5. Feelings of being overwhelmed

Some of your family members might be suffering from anxiety or depression. If they are anxious, the noise, the people and all the stimulation might be overwhelming.  When people are anxious, it can lead to lashing out.  If your family member is depressed, they might also feel overwhelmed, so they want to stay home and hide.  They might create a drama to be able to hide in their home or room.  You can speak to these family members and ask them what they need to feel safe.  How can you turn down the stimulation?


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Photo by Brooks Rice on Unsplash

Although I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology, I am not a licensed psychologist or any other type of licensed therapist in the United States. The information I am providing here is educational and informational. This social media page does not provide professional advice, nor does it create a professional-client relationship or any other type of relationship between us. You should always consult your own licensed mental health professional before making any changes regarding your mental health. My goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower you regarding your mental health journey. Always consult your licensed mental healthcare provider(s) and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information posted on this page or post.