I have worked as a psychotherapist for over ten years and I have come across two very different family interactional styles over the years. One is far healthier than the other.
Get it out in the open – no grudges
This is by far the healthier family interactional style. This dynamic offers open communication where grievances are aired, put to rest and forgotten about. This style may seem confrontational to people who have grown up in a family dynamic where things are left unsaid. It’s far better though for your mental health and your family relationships to be open and communicate about things that bother you. Sitting with negative feelings is bad for your health – physical and mental.
Bottle it up and hold grudges for years
This is the unhealthy dynamic. Those who have grown up with this family dynamic don’t talk about what upsets them. Instead they act as if everything is fine but their behaviour is incongruent. What they feel inside is very different to what they show on the outside. This is detrimental to mental health. It’s akin to holding in toxins in your body. Suppressed negative emotions are no good for you.
How to experience positive family relationships
If your family is the latter, it’s important to learn how to communicate. Often, people feel that if they open up there will be a confrontation and many people hate confrontations. There is a negative association between communicating and confrontation. You need to look at it from a different agnle. If you communicate in a constructive way there won’t be a confrontation.
Use assertive script to get your point across, it goes like this:
“I feel (insert emotion here) when you (insert behaviour here), so what I would like/prefer is….. (insert positive constructive suggestion here).
Example: I feel sad when you tell me I can’t cook properly, so what I would like is for you to also compliment on what I do well.
When you use assertive script, it facilitates open communication rather than approaching a topic with statements such as, “You always…” or “You never…”. This just makes the other person defensive and they won’t be listening to you.
It pays to be tactful
When discussing a touochy subject, how you deliver the message can affect the outcome of the interaction. Try to stay in adult mode rather than switching to child mode (sulking, stone walling, playing tit-for-tat games) or parent mode (teeling the other person what to do or being condescending). In adult mode, you interact in an assertive manner that seeks a win-win situation as much as possible.
Being a sensitive adult involves diplomacy, tact and the art of diffusing a difficult situation. Using consideration, compromise and open communication, you are far more likely to enjoy health family relationships.