• Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD

Family Feuds

Are you having a hard time understanding, cherishing, and appreciating your family members? Together we can find out and come to see the situation from the viewpoint of others in your family. Family therapy does not consist of “fixing” the “problem” person so everyone else can feel better. I believe that family problems take the whole family to create, and to resolve. No one gets put in the “hot seat” and no one is singly responsible for problems that happen in relationships. I assist you and your loved ones in figuring out what is going on, where it comes from, and how to create stronger bonds between the family members so that when disagreements occur, you can all discuss it in a productive and helpful way.

Talking to or arguing with a person who is intoxicated is an exercise in futility most times, as the memory of that incident/conversation gets erased by the effects of the drugs or distorted by the drugs. If possible, wait for a time to talk when all parties are not intoxicated.

One thing to consider in your relationships is whether toxic fighting is going on. This type of fighting doesn’t help anyone – in fact, it hurts much more than it helps. It is characterized by the following:

o Threats and violence. When people throw things, break belongings, threaten to hurt, or physically hurt the other person (or pets or living things), no one is safe. Things are so out of control that a reasonable, productive conversation cannot take place. If you are in a relationship with someone who does this, or you do it yourself, you need to contact an agency that helps with domestic violence. Here are some local resources:

o For survivors of domestic violence: Call the Antelope Valley Domestic Violence Council, 24 hrs a day, at 661-273-8255. They have comprehensive services including a shelter, outreach programs, and low-cost counseling. Also, the National Hotline is 800-799-SAFE (7233). They have many services as well they can refer you to. If you need a shelter in the area and are not sure if there’s space available, please call 211 and they will let you know which shelters have space that day. Please get help immediately. It won’t get better on its own!

o For people who have used physical force against their loved ones: The High Road Program in Lancaster, at 44382 Date Avenue. They have a program for both court-referred and non-court-referred people including education, individual and group counseling. They can be reached at 661-942-2241.

o Insults, slights and put-downs. People call each other names, swear at each other, and insult each other’s intelligence or character. A friend of mine once called this “character assassination” and that’s a good way to describe it. It’s verbal violence against another. People get upset and angry – I get that. But name-calling is beneath you, and it needs to stop.

oThe Blame Game. When tempers get hot, and egos get threatened, it can be very tempting to see the problem as completely the other person’s fault. (The exception to this is when one person physically hurts the other person without any need for self-defense). We sometimes lose perspective and need to be completely right in order to still like and respect ourselves. The problem is, it rarely is 100% one person’s fault. There are often things that we can take responsibility for in an argument or disagreement, and it’s important and helpful to do that whenever possible. No one wants to be the bad guy all the time, and there are usually things both partners and other family members can do to help make the situation better, once they see their part in the problem.

o Stonewalling. Taking a break when you recognize that you’re too upset to talk is a good idea, but there are some folks who can’t handle conflict at all, and basically stick their heads in the sand like ostriches when disagreements arise. Nothing gets resolved this way and everyone has to walk around on eggshells until the issue either gets forgotten or swept under the rug. However, it’s still there and it will still come out at a later time, maybe in a different way or under different circumstances. Denial doesn’t help with many human problems, and marital/familial problems are no exception. Together we can start to name and unpack the issues that aren’t getting talked about in your family.

o My way or the Highway. Sometimes when we’re upset it’s hard to take a minute and be quiet, and really try to listen to what the other person is saying. We talk over each other, finish each others’ sentences, and get so frustrated and mad that we become reduced to the maturity level of little kids. “I’m right! You’re wrong!” That’s OK if that’s all you’re capable of, and you are in fact about two to six years old. But if you’re reading this you’re probably considerably older and capable of a more sophisticated level of discourse. So next time you’re disagreeing with a loved one, stop a minute and try to see if you get where they’re coming from. What are they saying, both verbally and non-verbally? How would you feel if you were in their shoes? This doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong, or you have to give up your position, but it does mean that you have a better chance of accurately addressing the problem at hand.

o Having it out in front of children and teens. While you don't have to pretend that couples don't fight at all, there are some things your children do not need to see. Obviously, physical violence and verbal aggression are unhealthy for children to see. Do you want your children to insult, yell at or intimidate their intimate partners when they get older? They soak up everything you do, even infants. Their nervous systems are affected by the level of conflict in the home, so everyone needs to be careful what kind of example we set for them, as well as the possibility of traumatizing them. Many of my adult clients are people whose parents did not think about how their behavior affected their children. Please take this into consideration now so your kids don't have to see me later!

o Making an ass of u and me. Speaking of accuracy, how many times have we all thought we understood what the other person’s saying, but we were really pretending to read their mind and assume we know what they’re saying? This is a common error and one that is easy to slip into, but it can be frustrating and destructive to a relationship when you can’t get your point across because the other person thinks they know what you’re going to say before you say it.

You can probably think of other things that annoy and hurt you in relationships with your loved ones, but these points cover the basics for now. If you recognize yourself in any of these patterns please don’t wait until the relationship is at a crisis point to get help. Call while the bonds are still there, and we can make a difference: 661-233-6771.

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