Hollywood scriptwriters enjoy a good holiday food fight in their films, but few enjoy actual conflict around an open fire. Nevertheless, some families join together in conflict and are worse off for it. The reasons for such a real life phenomena, as found by Leonard Felder, lie in the three-quarters of the population who find that someone in their family annoys them.
Olga Khazan, a writer with the Atlantic and author of the piece called “Why Families Fight During Holidays,” cited Sigmund Freud’s “narcissism of the small difference” theory, which meant that “it is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of hostility between them.”
In other words, the smallest discrepancies between two otherwise similar people can stand out in an aggravating way.
Felder also said that these negative differences can create fear in other family members. For example, if one person holds racist or homophobic views, his or her brother could fear it reflects poorly on him, even if there’s disagreement on the issue. The accepting brother could lash out at the indecent view with more passion than usual, igniting conflict.
Khazan also brought up cumulative annoyances that some families experience. Extraneous picking at food or verbal tics may not seem like much in small doses, but some can feel annoyed when these habits kick up over a long period of time. The reverse can also hold truth, with some individuals not used to the habits of distant relatives now very close by.
Joe Navarro M.A., a writer with Psychology Today and creator of the article titled “Ten Ways to Keep Family Members From Ruining Your Holidays,” explained the various other archetypes of agitating family members, such as the stubborn and opinionated person or the unfiltered relative. The latter expresses his or her opinions seemingly without regard for the feelings of others.
Navarro suggested fighting this behavior by setting boundaries, even if it means banning certain family members from events until they can behave in a polite manner. This philosophy can also help on the micro level, such as forbidding certain conversation topics at the dinner table or limiting alcohol consumption.
Holiday time is not therapy time, Navarro insisted. He also opined that the holidays are to be enjoyed rather than suffered.
At Sovereign Health of Arizona, it’s always therapy time. Our counselors can help female patients deal with past traumas, including difficult times with the family. Call us at any time to speak to an admissions specialist.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer
Get the latest news on program developments, behavioral health news and company announcements