How to Deal With Difficult Family During the Holidays
With Thanksgiving travel slated to return to within 5 percent of 2019 levels, AAA predicts that upwards of 54 million people are traveling for the holiday—an 80 percent increase from last year. This year—perhaps more so than in years past—the issue of holiday travel is a particularly interesting one.
Thanks to two major overlapping events—the pandemic and the 2020 presidential election—the last two years have seen a lot of families and loved ones fall out over irreconcilable differences about politics or Covid-related grievances. While some relationships came to an abrupt end (Cornell University professor Karl Pillemer found that “about 25 percent of the population is living with an active estrangement“—the equivalent of almost 70 million people in the US), my suspicion is that many of those traveling to see loved ones are about to endure a tricky holiday season together.
As someone with a history of fraught family dynamics (no matter the season), the issue of holiday travel has always been far from stress-free and innocuous, and I’d often spend the holidays on the East Coast waiting for the other shoe to drop. (It always did.)
After considerable therapy, I’m now practiced enough at boundaries to travel strictly on my terms. That said, now that we all have vaccines and a relative decline in Covid-cases, many people will travel back home and directly into the path of tiresome relationships—even if it’s not the most emotionally uplifting choice.
A Google search for “Holiday Survival Guide” yields more than 36 million results, which suggests that there’s no shortage of people anxious about navigating the season and coming out on the other end psychologically intact. In reporting for NPR, Julia Furlan summed it up nicely: “There are … a lot of people who get a very familiar pit in their stomach when the holidays roll around. Holidays can mean exhaustion, confronting familial trauma, managing your uncle’s opinions, and all kinds of overload.”
In honor of those for whom the holidays are a predictable slog, I’ve compiled a short list of YouTube channels, audiobooks, and podcasts that are a must-listen for anyone returning home this season to their own challenging dynamics.
2 YouTube Channels with a Mental Health Focus
Clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula is the author of three books, including Don’t You Know Who I Am?: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility and Should I Stay or Should I Go? Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist. She specializes in narcissism and toxic family dynamics, among other areas. Her channel boasts nearly a million subscribers, and her content is a salve for anyone requiring emotional validation during the holidays.
“There’s a mythology around the unconditionality of family. We were taught that lesson since we were children,” Durvasula said during an interview. “You don’t see images in society or advertising of friends coming together during the holidays, or of mixed groups of individuals coming together. The fetishization of the nuclear family is a real problem and keeps people stuck.” With content focusing on “holiday hygiene for dealing with narcissistic family members” and “Dr. Ramani’s holiday survival guide,” Durvasula’s YouTube channel serves as an encyclopedia for toxic relationships and how to navigate them.
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November 24, 2021 at 04:12AM