Avoid those family feuds

Family feuds can cause depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, sadness, confusion, and rage, says psychotherapist Mark Sichel.

Family feuds can cause depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, sadness, confusion, and rage, says psychotherapist Mark Sichel.

Sichel, who is also the author of a famous book on relationships, Healing From Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off From a Family, says on the website exploring womanhood that no one wants to live like that - weighed down by these factors.

He says: "Here are some simple rules for turning family feuds into family fun" and encourages readers to try following some of the "Ten Commandments of Family Harmony":

lThou shalt Zip it - Learn to think before you speak.

Bite your tongue before that biting remark comes out of your mouth and you get embroiled in a huge fight.

lThou shalt clean they spleen - Write a hateful, nasty letter to your family, telling them all your resentments and rages.

Drop the letter into your personal "dead letter box" and move on with a smile on your face.

lThou shalt listen, thou shalt not dispute - Hey, words are only words. Sometimes people vent frustration in inappropriate ways by going on wild diatribes.

Don't get sucked down to their level. When your mom blows her top and starts howling about the time you came home late when you were 19 and how you never come to see her any more.

And, how Mrs Johnson's daughter is such a much better daughter than you.

Hear her out and simply say, "I'm sorry you feel that way." When your mom cools off, she will probably feel bad, but you won't have to.

lThou shalt remember: good fences make for good family relationships - Create boundaries, set limits. You know how much contact you can take and how much will ignite your internal nuclear bomb.

lThou shalt remember occasions and events - It doesn't cost much to remember birthdays, anniversaries and other events.

Whatever the occasion, a card makes people feel remembered and when they feel remembered they feel loved and another feud is avoided.

lThou shalt not overreact - When family members feel neglected they often present a scenario that invites your overreaction. Invites? Heck, begs for it!

But remember, overreaction can cause all-out wars.

lThou shalt give in - If you want to win the war (or, in our case, avoid the war altogether) it is sometimes strategically advantageous to lose the battle.

Assess a family situation carefully and weigh your gains and losses in any given situation.

For example, if your ageing mom needs a weekly phone call to avoid starting a fight with you, why not give it to her? Is the inconvenience of the call really weightier than the inconvenience of a brawl?

Practise artful dodging if necessary, call when you know she won't be there and leave a message telling her you love her and miss her.

lThou shalt let brevity and paucity be thy motto - In volatile families, keeping contact limited and utilising a cordial and polite silence to avoid fights, can often extinguish the flames of conflict.

Again, artful dodging is a useful tool. If your dad calls and you can tell he's looking for trouble: "Got to go, dad, the pastor's at the door for his annual visit. Speak to you later!"

lThou shalt chant: "What you see is what you get." - Do not ever try to change your relatives.

Remember, people can change themselves but we cannot force another to change.

Accept your family for who they are, whether you like them or not. Trying to change them causes battles, poor self-esteem (because you're trying something that is doomed to failure), and depression.

lThou shalt stay in the driver's seat - Take control of potentially volatile family situations and manage them.

For example, if you come from an alcoholic family and you know that going out to dinner means that cocktail hour is the main course and flambé the dessert, arrange breakfast meetings where drinking won't occur. - Source: Exploring Womanhood