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Dealing with annoying family members (2008-05-17)
By Michael I Rose, MD, FAPA

About Michael I. Rose, MD, FAPA

What causes people to become irate in ordinary family relationships?

The event

Something occurs, one party is enraged, and they shriek at the other, distance themselves and vow never to bother with the perpetrator of that vile event. Take for example a situation of an individual with any family member or even any close friend.  The other individual is behaving shoddily, you hate what they are doing or saying — they are making you mad.

They should behave correctly, not say hurtful things. Their conduct is bad, anyone would agree with that. That has nothing to do with you; it is certainly not your fault

Solution-finding

The last thing you want to do is to comprehend that the other is really not the individual you want them to be. However, if you allow yourself to grasp that, then you begin to have some control over this matter. You envisage that you are disappointed in them. You wish they would act properly. You don’t want to admit that they are deficient or weak in some way; you want to look up to them, respect them. If you can see that they are less of a person, the solution would not be far behind. That would cause you grief, even despair, disbelief. You are fuming; you cannot imagine any other way to deal with this. Why are they doing this? You think that if you strike them physically they will change. Perhaps they need more pain to change their ways. Then everything will be okay.

The only problem

Clarity is always good — that's what adult's do — they speak directly and completely. Everyone is entitled to their viewpoint. The only problem is shutting out, leaving the scene, threatening or physically acting out.

Anger

Anger is a way of avoiding sadness. When you feel angry you see the other as the problem, not yourself, you feel strong; when you let yourself feel sadness you have pain and weakness. You take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. Of course this person is only symbolic as it is the way you deal with all people.

Grief

When you grieve the person you want them to be, you feel loss, sadness and tears. It is sort of imagining them in the ground, six feet under with you at the funeral, saying goodbye.  Or you might lie on the floor spread-eagle, imagine them on the ceiling while you talk to them, saying goodbye. Not asking them why they behave so badly, as asking questions is only a way of postponing sadness. But actually facing them as the person who is impulsive, dishonest, rotten, unloving, selfish or whatever.

Promise

You would be accepting the loss, accepting the new person as the one with all these despicable qualities, in other words the real person.

Eventually, you grieve the one you wanted them to be and accept them for what they are. You then grasp that your fantasy wishes were simply out of reality. You were the culprit in the first place.

What a revolting development!

The upshot

If you could learn to master this process, you will find that you accept others, can help them more, and are more at peace. The misery within you vanishes and scathing relationships with others no longer occur. You would get along better with your family and friends-— in fact everyone.

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