Help's on the Way: Surviving the Family Meltdown

Help's on the Way: Surviving the Family Meltdown

Kimber Watson
Dec 19, 2014
(Image credit: The Wall Street Journal)

"I don't know what to say, but it's Christmas and we're all in misery." If this Christmas Vacation quote sums up how you feel about spending the holidays with family, then this article from the Wall Street Journal is a must-read. Even if you don't have the so-called dysfunctional family, there are smart tips to help everyone get a handle on even the smallest of squabbles.

The core of the article explains that family meltdowns very much unfold like a movie plot, where family members become the stereotypical cast of characters. First you have the "trigger." This is the person that is acting out and they often see themselves as the victim or outsider. Then there's the "prosecutor," who makes it their job to point out the trigger's bad behavior by saying something like, "Stop being so sensitive!" This usually leads to others jumping in.

The rest of the cast may include a "defender" or "peacemaker." These guys might stick up for the trigger, jump on board with the prosecutor, or even attack both. The "enabler," typically the role of the mother, usually just wants the conflict to be over regardless of a resolution, and the "passive enabler" generally just checks out of the situation altogether.

Understanding the roles we play in a family dispute, how or why an argument unfolds and how we can prepare in advance to avoid conflict, can help us avoid the blowups altogether or lead us down a path to resolution. My favorite technique suggested for avoiding conflict is what is referred to as "if then" planning. Within your family, you can usually expect certain behaviors from specific family members, and knowing this ahead of time can help you formulate your own reaction. Reframing the event in your mind, making personal resolutions, or choosing repression over self-expression are other techniques for steering clear of the family drama.

Read more: Family Meltdowns: When Everyone is Arguing and No One is Listening | The Wall Street Journal

What are your thoughts on handling or avoiding family altercations? Do you think the techniques listed would help you survive the holidays with your family? Or do you have your own success story to share?

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