Dealing with Family: Tips for Reducing Tension with Your Extended Family

If you dread getting together with your extended family, you are certainly not alone, but you may be able to make things better the next time you all gather around the table for dinner, celebrate a holiday, or take a vacation together. You may be able to improve the situation greatly by addressing your emotions head-on and learning skills that will help you better cope with a stressful family dynamic.

When dealing with your extended family, keep the following tips in mind to make the most of your time together and avoid ugly confrontations and tension:

  • Remember this is temporary. You will only be around your extended family for a limited amount of time and will, presumably, have a long stretch of time between visits.
  • Keep your children in mind when interacting with other family members. You don’t want your kids thinking it’s okay to bicker with someone nonstop, and you don’t want them to wonder why things are always so tense when Uncle Joe is around. Also, try not to bad-mouth the family member in front of your children after the family leaves. It sets a poor example for your kids.
  • Keep your spouse in mind too. If the source of your family stress is your spouse’s sibling or parent, don’t lose sight of the fact that though this person may annoy or aggravate you, he or she means a great deal to your spouse. Put yourself in his or her shoes and imagine what it would feel like to have two people you love dearly at odds with one another.
  • Try to find some good things to focus on about the family member(s) who are causing your emotional reaction. It’s easy to lose sight of the positive attributes of a person when you react emotionally to one aspect of that person’s personality.
  • Communicate with your family member about the problem if at all possible. Go to neutral territory, such as a coffee shop, and talk openly and honestly about the issue that is driving a wedge between you and affecting the family dynamic. Allow time for the other person to talk and really listen to what he or she has to say.
  • Remember that you are only in charge of your own emotions, not others’. You may get very lucky and be successful at getting another person to change his or her behavior, but you have a very good chance of success at modifying your own behavior. You have full control over you and only you. Focus on your actions and reactions rather than the family member’s actions.

Tension among family members is a very common problem faced by many of us. You can help make family time more enjoyable by taking responsibility for your emotions. For more information on mastering your toxic emotions, pick up a copy of my book, Your Killer Emotions.

Pent-Up Anger and Rage: Some Constructive Solutions

This morning I heard a horrifying story. Allegedly, in stop-and-go traffic, a driver, “A,” stopped quickly, and driver,“B,” behind him slammed on his brakes a bit too late. Allegedly, B’s car hit A’s, and damaged his back bumper. No one was hurt. Allegedly, driver A, like a keg of dynamite that had just been lit, exploded! He stormed out of his car, grabbed a thick metal pipe from his trunk, and raced with a full head of steam to B’s car, yelling every obscenity in the book, as he began smashing B’s car side window, in order to break through the glass (which he did) to injure/kill Driver B. Allegedly, Driver A was taken into custody by the police shortly thereafter.

Over the past 30 years, I have counseled thousands of individuals to master their toxic emotions. One thing that I have learned during this time, is that: If you let your potentially toxic emotions (rage, hurt, hate, fear, hopelessness, rejection and the like) overtake and hijack you, your best judgment, and your reasoning processes, terrible life choices and irreparable damage may well be the result.

We all experience stress in our lives. The key is not to let your stress or your potentially toxic emotions trigger a destructive or self-sabotaging expression of those emotions. Here are some tips to help you to effectively deal with moments of extreme anger or rage, and/or other strong emotions:

*First and foremost: DO NOT make a decision or act when you are overcome by emotions!  Always, stop, cool down, and, as they say, “take the pause that refreshes.”  Additionally, DO NOT opt for an immediate, emotional quick fix, response, or retaliation. (As driver A did.) Oftentimes, we opt for these short-term satisfactions, but in the big picture of our lives, these unthinking, emotion-generated reactions are counter and highly detrimental to accomplishing what we truly want for ourselves in the long term (our Gold Ring Dreams).

*Never reflexively or unthinkingly act when you are angry or enraged!

*ALWAYS strategically identify what you truly want in and from the choice you’re going to make and any action(s) that you will/may take. This means that you must know what you truly value the very most before you make your choices.  This way, you will make well-thought-out choices that reflect and effect your most treasured values and goals.

*Be “Consequence Cognizant.”  This requires you to carefully think about and vividly visualize:

-The most severe and heinous consequences that a poor/destructive emotionally-charged choice on your part can have on your life, your career, and those you love. In this case, Driver A could go to jail for many years for allegedly committing assault with a deadly weapon. This is a horrible consequence for him and his family, that he should have thought about and/or visualized before he acted; and

-The most positive, beneficial outcome(s) that you will secure because you took the requisite time to strategically choose the most constructive course of action.

*If it is appropriate, try to truly understand where the other individual who is pushing your emotional buttons or evoking a potential toxic emotion-generated response from you is coming from. Strive to see things from their point of view. Chat with the person in issue, in an open and non-defensive manner. Oftentimes, learning where others are coming from brings understanding, as well as sympathy/empathy, which can diffuse and thereby lessen the strong energy charges generated by potentially toxic emotions.

*Another means to diffuse your emotion-generated energy charges, is to take a moment to think about all of the blessings and positives in your life/job/career.  In this case, driver A could have taken time to truly appreciate the fact that he wasn’t injured and that the accident could have been much worse. This can help you to cool down from the angst of the moment, so that you are then better able to think clearly and strategically.

*You should avoid making important or potentially pivotal choices when you are tired, experiencing high levels of stress, or have had too much caffeine. Additionally, you never want to make important choices and/or act when you are under the influence of alcohol or clarity-impairing medicinal or recreational drugs. Your goal is to be cognitively clear and precise when making your choices. Therefore, you want to stay away from anything that can impair your cognitive processes.

Your takeaway here, is that there will be times when you will experience potentially toxic emotions such as extreme anger or rage. I use the word “potentially,” because these emotions are toxic to you, if they trigger destructive and/or self-sabotaging acts on your part. What you want to do in these instances, is to not emotionally react in these situations, but to instead, strategically and constructively choose your actions. Channel the potential negative energies that you experience into positive endeavors – thereby using your emotions and their energy charges as your valuable allies. The sweet result may well be that you will act appropriately and constructively by preserving and/or enhancing the things that you hold most dear, as well as gain (increased) feelings of high self-esteem, self-worth, and the core-confidence to achieve your most cherished goals.

Your Killer Emotions is available on www.amazon.com and www.bn.com!

Tips for Avoiding Poor Decision Making During Stressful Times

A few days before last Christmas, I was in an elevator with a prominent attorney. During our conversation, he mentioned that he is always busiest during Christmas, New Year’s and other times when individuals are under more stress than usual. He warned, “When people are stressed out, they make their absolute worst choices!”

Toxic emotions (e.g. feelings of sadness, hopelessness, alienation, hurt, rejection and the like) and stress can block or dismantle your reasoning processes and the use of your best judgment. It can also amp up the voltage of the energy charges generated by your potentially toxic emotions. Therefore, it is essential for you to do your best not to make important life choices when you are under an emotional barrage or high stress.

In my book, Your Killer Emotions: The 7 Steps to Mastering the Toxic Emotions, Urges, and Impulses That Sabotage You, I discuss The 7 Steps of Emotion Mastery, which enable you to make highly beneficial life choices—free from sabotaging emotions, urges, and impulses.

Here are some holiday suggestions to keep you under “wraps” this season when you are at the company holiday event, family reunion or other hustle-and-bustle:

1. First and foremost: Do not make an important decision or choice when you are overcome by emotions or stress! Always, stop, cool down and “take the pause that refreshes.” Additionally, do not opt for an immediate, emotional quick fix, response, or retaliation. Oftentimes, we opt for these short-term satisfactions, but in the big picture of our lives, these unthinking, emotion-generated reactions are counter and highly detrimental to accomplishing what we truly want for ourselves in the long term (our Gold Ring Dreams).

2. Be “consequence cognizant,” which requires you to think carefully and visualize vividly about the following:

a. The most severe and heinous consequences that a poor/destructive emotionally charged choice can have on your life, career and/or those you love

b. The most positive, beneficial outcome(s) that you will secure because you took the requisite time to choose strategically the constructive course of action

3. If it is appropriate, try to understand the position of the other individual who is pushing your emotional buttons or evoking a potential toxic emotion-generated response. Strive to see this person’s viewpoint. Chat with this person in an open and non-defensive manner. Oftentimes, learning where others are coming from brings understanding as well as sympathy/empathy, which can diffuse and thereby lessen the strong energy charges generated within you by potentially toxic emotions.

4. Another way to diffuse your emotion-generated energy charges is to take a moment to think about all of the blessings in your life. This awareness can help you to cool down from the angst of the moment, so that you are then better able to think clearly and strategically.

5. You should not make important holiday choices when you are tired, experiencing high levels of stress or have had too much caffeine. Additionally, you never want to make important choices when you are under the influence of alcohol or clarity-impairing medicinal or recreational drugs. Your goal is to be cognitively clear and precise when making holiday choices. Therefore, you want to stay away from anything that can impair your cognitive processes.

Your takeaway here is that we all experience high levels of stress and potentially toxic emotions during the holidays. I use the word “potentially” because these emotions are toxic to you and your well-being, if they trigger destructive and/or self-sabotaging acts on your part. In these instances, you want to avoid reacting emotionally in these situations; instead, strategically and constructively choose your actions. Channel the potential negative energies that you experience into positive, life-enhancing endeavors—thereby using your emotions and their energy charges as your valuable allies.

The sweet result may well be that you will make positive, life-enhancing holiday choices, as well as gain (increased) feelings of high self-esteem, self-worth and the core-confidence to achieve your most cherished goals.

By Ken Lindner

(This article originally appeared in Artsphoria, AKH Publications, 2012)