Each year at around this time I raise the topic of family holidays and their propensity for arousing strong negative emotions.
In spite of our best efforts to be civil and polite, undercurrents of old rivalries between siblings and unresolved issues with parents have a way of bleeding into the feigned holiday revelry we all try to maintain.
If you have been watching the TV show, Downton Abbey, you’ll know what I mean. The dysfunctional extended family is a perfect example of a strained family dynamic.
In spite of the surface decorum demanded by the English etiquette of the time, it seethes with spoken and unspoken acrimony towards each other, down through three generations of English gentry.
At the top of that tree is the Dowager, Lady Violet, played by Maggie Smith. That woman can mow anyone down from 50 paces with a well timed and accurately aimed, barbed arrow laced with poison. Lady Mary is not far behind in that skill, either.
There are secrets held and subsequently discovered. Early on it was the Turkish diplomat who died while having sex with one of the family members which was hurriedly hushed up. Then came the youngest daughter’s affair and subsequent marriage to the chauffeur which caused great consternation and acrimony within the family. Later there was the child born out of wedlock to another member that was kept a secret for a long time from other members of the family.
There’s the pride, ambition and sense of entitlement of the snobbish Lady Mary, who never misses an opportunity to snipe with venom at her sister, Lady Edith, who has, up to now at least, been a tragic figure having suffered all sorts of emotional traumas and losses that are never talked about or dealt with. In other words, plenty of dramas to fuel the family flames.
If you have watched it, I wonder if you have noticed that a good deal of the acrimony that arises at Downton occurs when everyone is sat around the dining table eating and drinking?
Imagine having to endure this kind of thing every day of our lives like they have to at Downton. Let’s be thankful that we only have to experience it once or perhaps twice a year at Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah.
Even so, I imagine this scenario might be the case with many of us today as we gather around the table engorging ourselves with food and alcohol at the annual family feast? Tongues do get loosened under such circumstances.
If you have been with me for several years, you’ll know we always recommend taking our 21-day online program for Forgiving Your Parents, Siblings, Partners and Others in advance of the event.
If you did indeed try it, I would like to invite you to write and tell us about the difference it made in terms of how much more enjoyable the family holiday experience became for you having done the Online Program beforehand.
Even if you just did a Radical Forgiveness Worksheet and not the online 21-day program, I would still like to include your story in my next blog. I think others would find it inspirational. E-mail your story to email@example.com