A Sane Christmas with Your Insane Family
By: Beth McHugh 2007
Well, perhaps your family isn’t clinically insane, but there are lots of families where dysfunction is as much a part of the family as the heirloom furniture. In our last article, we looked at how the younger sister of a two-daughter family decided her life was too short to go on being abused by her older sister. So Miriam made the decision to formally end her relationship with Rachel, and her Christmases and indeed her life, has been the better for it.
Not all of us want or need to be as radical as Miriam in cutting out her sibling completely from her life. While this can be the best solution in some cases, most people from dysfunctional backgrounds still continue to maintain contact with their parents and siblings, especially around the holiday season.
Yet meeting up with family is not always as it is portrayed in TV shows such as 7th Heaven. In fact, I have spoken with many distraught people who cannot watch 7th Heaven and the perfect Camden family as they steam gracefully through life. This saccharine-sweet show has the capacity to bring grown adults to tears as they watch the close, caring environment provided by parents Eric and Annie Camden as they guide their seven children through childhood and adolescence. Adult children from highly dysfunctional families often find that the sense of closeness and love portrayed in this fictional series is simply too painful to watch.
So when your family is less than Camden-like, how do you cope with the rigors of Christmas and other family gathering? One of the main ingredients of inflammatory family get-togethers is alcohol. If you would like to survive the festive season with the minimum of emotional scarring, cut back on alcohol consumption. While you cannot control excessive drinking in other family members, you can limit your own. One or two drinks may set a festive mood, but there is no doubt that alcohol is the lighter fluid of many a family quarrel or even the fuel for all-out domestic violence.
While it may be tempting to drown your sorrows at Christmas gatherings,
keeping sober at family gathering can not only prevent you from your
own dramatic outbursts, but allow you to step back from the family games
that are part and parcel of your family. Watching rather than participating
in family squabbles can give you valuable insights into the way your
family functions and, most importantly, a way out of the madness.