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Tips for managing overwhelming anger around your family over the festive period


Spending time with family can be a soup of emotions. While there is often strong love and a comfortable feeling of familiarity, there can also be dynamics that may leave you feeling pretty overwhelmed. For example, it might be that your family treat you like the teenager they remember battling with, and you might revert to that role without even realising.

Many things could make spending time with family members a challenge. Old family conflicts and resentments, spoken or unspoken issues can bring up feelings of dread at the thoughts of seeing them. If you struggle to manage your anger during family gatherings, here are tips on how to keep your cool.

Define How You Experience Anger

People experience anger differently. Some people might get more verbally aggressive, some might withdraw, and some might internalise these complicated feelings. Becoming aware of how you experience anger, you can then better recognise when it is starting, and so have more time and awareness to take control of how you respond.

Rehearse Responses

Typically, family ask intrusive or demanding, inappropriate questions. Try to come prepared with rehearsed responses so you won’t be caught off guard.

Set Boundaries

It is crucial to try to have boundaries with triggering family members. If someone is aggressive, rude or disrespectful to you, making you the butt of their jokes, your silence acts as approval of their behaviour.

Because you don’t protest, they think what they are saying or doing is ok with you. Furthermore, pretending bad behaviour is acceptable only gives it more room to continue. Rehearse boundaries setting statements, so you are not caught out with family. It is ok to let them know when things that they are saying or doing is hurtful.

Cut the Visit Short

Maybe the best option to keep the peace (and your sanity) is to spend less time together during this stressful period. Try and manage this by thinking about how, if you need to you can show up later or bow out earlier. For example, if your family tends to have spare time before dinner, show up in time to join everyone at the table. It is also ok to leave a bit early if you feel things may go south.

Family relationships are incredibly complex. They are often the ones who know how to push our buttons the most effectively. Managing your anger at family gatherings can be very challenging. 

However, investing some time and energy in learning to maintain control over your emotions is a healthy, active expression of self-love. This work will not only keep you sane, but it will keep your family relationships undamaged and intact during this very stressful time.

If you are having difficulty navigating complicated family relationships, I can help. Please give me a call or drop me an email message and we will find time to talk. I am seeing my clients online through zoom and in my office in Hove.

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