The sea­son of fes­tiv­ity and fam­ily con­flict

The Punch - - HEALTH+ -

was about and how would they feel if the per­son died. They usu­ally don’t seem to have an­swers to both ques­tions, which I think is quite telling.

This is the time of the year to try to cast a dif­fer­ent eye on the per­son you feel has hurt you, to try to look at your re­la­tion as a hu­man be­ing who has made mis­takes like you or any­one else; a per­son who is grow­ing and learn­ing like you. This is the time to try to fo­cus on your rel­a­tive’s hu­man­ness rather than the sit­u­a­tion that cre­ated the es­trange­ment (if you can even re­mem­ber it ac­cu­rately). I have also no­ticed that over the years the truth and facts of the orig­i­nal con­flict wildly change.

When fam­ily mem­bers choose to hold on to grudges, but still at­tend fam­ily gath­er­ings, it is im­por­tant for them to try to think for a minute how awk­ward a sit­u­a­tion is cre­ated and in par­tic­u­lar how out of place they make the ob­ject of their angst feel and the dif­fi­cult at­mo­sphere cre­ated at the fam­ily gath­er­ing.

For­giv­ing a fam­ily mem­ber does not mean that you agree with what they have done, but it does mean that you have de­cided to take a right­eous po­si­tion and you have de­cided not to hold on to it any­more. There is true free­dom in for­giv­ing.

Fam­ily mem­bers some­times try to man­age their un­re­solved emo­tional is­sues with one an­other by re­duc­ing or to­tally cut­ting off emo­tional con­tact with them in or­der to re­duce their own anx­i­eties. This type of dis­tanc­ing can hap­pen on a phys­i­cal level, by re­fus­ing to see them or on a more in­ter­ac­tive level, such as avoid­ing con­ver­sa­tion and man­ag­ing the re­la­tion­ship through one’s be­haviour and man­ner of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

When some­one has an es­tranged re­la­tion­ship with a fam­ily mem­ber, the ques­tion is of­ten whether the dis­tance they place be­tween them­selves and their fam­ily mem­ber is due to healthy bound­aries (some re­la­tion­ships can be toxic and one is bet­ter served to end them), or in­stead due to an un­re­solved emo­tional de­tach­ment.

When a re­la­tion­ship with a fam­ily mem­ber is not healthy for what­ever rea­son, the per­son af­fected has ev­ery right to stop in­ter­act­ing. Af­ter all no one would ad­vo­cate hav­ing to tol­er­ate any un­ac­cept­able be­haviour just be­cause you are re­lated.

Why are many fam­ily mem­bers not speak­ing to each other these days? Some peo­ple may choose to cut off fam­ily mem­bers as a re­sult of re­li­gious be­liefs, con­flict, be­trayal, ad­dic­tion, men­tal ill­ness or some un­healthy be­haviour. La­tent and un­spo­ken rea­sons are usu­ally the core rea­sons for fam­ily es­trange­ment.

If I had to iso­late the com­mon thread in most sit­u­a­tions, I’d have to say it’s be­cause of in­tol­er­ance. In­tol­er­ance is usu­ally the root cause of fam­ily fights that lead to rifts. By this I mean a prej­u­dice to­ward dif­fer­ing points of views, small mind­ed­ness when it comes to giv­ing up a grudge, or pet­ti­ness and nas­ti­ness about for­give­ness. Some­times we just have to ask our­selves if we want to be right or want to be happy (sadly I know for some peo­ple be­ing right will al­ways come first, so they re­main mis­er­able).

The drama of fam­ily mem­bers re­fus­ing to speak to one an­other gen­er­ally re­volves around long term lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a fam­ily mem­ber. Of­ten, it is dif­fi­cult to find the words to ex­press or ex­plain im­por­tant is­sues, par­tic­u­larly if a fam­ily has a his­tory of poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion with one an­other. When peo­ple can­not use words, they re­sort to ac­tions that sym­bol­ise the in­ten­sity of their emo­tions about a par­tic­u­lar is­sue such as sev­er­ing ties with one an­other.

Life­long un­re­solved is­sues of com­pe­ti­tion, si­b­ling ri­valry, poor self-es­teem, feel­ings of de­pri­va­tion, re­jec­tion and other cen­tral psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems when left un­re­solved, wreak havoc on peo­ple’s lives; can lead to the even­tual es­trange­ment of fam­ily mem­bers.

The drama of fam­ily es­trange­ment is not ac­tu­ally about any one given in­ci­dent, rather an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of neg­a­tive feel­ings and lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The drama is of a life­long na­ture and for many, be­com­ing es­tranged is the fi­nal scene. It is a highly dys­func­tional method of cop­ing, but the sub­plot and scenes of the drama ex­ist in each play­ers mind and me­mories.

Liv­ing with a fam­ily es­trange­ment is ex­tremely painful and can be de­bil­i­tat­ing, but all heal­ing starts from within. The most im­por­tant rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is the one that you make with your­self. When you feel good about your­self and the ways in which you re­late to oth­ers and are at peace with your spir­i­tual self, then you know all is well and it will be okay whether or not your fam­ily speak to you.

As you pre­pare for the Christ­mas and New Year fes­tiv­i­ties, keep in mind what the true mean­ing and value of healthy fam­ily bonds is all about. If re­la­tion­ships have been dam­aged maybe it is time to mend the dam­age. With many peo­ple los­ing their lives through ill­ness and other un­known rea­sons, we should learn from this that none of us knows when our time is up. Re­grets are a painful and a com­plete waste of time and emo­tions.

There is suf­fi­cient con­flict go­ing on around the world that if you can make your sur­round­ings this Christ­mas and the New Year con­flict free, you will be do­ing some­thing for the good of hu­man­ity. We can­not make any­one change their be­haviour; we can only make changes within our­selves with the hope and be­lief that through those per­sonal changes it will have a pos­i­tive im­pact and ef­fect on oth­ers.

May peace and love reign supreme in your home and with all your loved ones!

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