Article

Holidays with People You Love: Respecting Outsiders and Reacting To Insiders

user
December 20
user

Questions about what you're seeing?

user

Questions about what you're seeing?

article


You would think you are genuine, happy, with all the guards down, and easy- peasy being at home! It is and it should be. But in families, or better put it, in certain relationships, I hear friction escalating. This is actually super common. When you go to your family of origin as adults, or with teens who do not like to spend too much time with parents as much as with their peers despite all the basic love, one can regress, yielding irritation. Add overprotective parents and sensitive individuals. The shouting matches are multiplied in volume, length and frequency. Mind you, these may be fun, nice normal people who are ultra mature and polite with the outside world more often than not. So what happens within the family? They display dichotomy, with respect to the outsiders and react to the insiders. Especially if this dichotomy is deep, the proportionality of suffering tends also to be deep on both ends. Folk who are ultra sensitive tend to perceive things negatively leading to externalizing with insiders at home i.e., engaging in yelling matches. In contrast, they internalize, ruminate, obsess and chew over what occurred with outsiders, "Do they like me? Am I OK looking? Did I say the right thing?"

A caution to all.  We need extra skill to cope with these sensitive individuals and vice versa. In my opinion, all are sensitive. Some tolerate stuff, others do not. Think of boundaries. I like to think of treating each other as "next door neighbors" with politeness when things are getting heated. Basically this emotional distance invokes poise. In Psychiatry Residency, we are taught this concept that I use now and then to explain: The true self and the false self by D.W. Winnicott. True self is how you really feel on the inside that is totally authentic and vulnerable. False self is the outside layer of you that is ideal, perfect and at times sounds superficial. Reality is all of us need both! If we have very thick false outer layer, we sound fake and deceptive, like cold fish, as though we need a nuclear bomb to break us open to see who we are on the inside. Intimacy is hard to build with thick false self. People get like that if they learnt to withdraw somehow and protect themselves. If we have too thin a fake self, we are having feelings on our sleeve and act with no filters or boundaries and feel vulnerable and exposed with true self, and thin skin i.e., thin false self. So, treating each other with some boundary and respect means, we are mindful of us as well as the other person and act with optimal protective outer layer. Consistency helps.

As crazy as it sounds, when I was young adult and watching Beverly Hills 90210 (I confess it is the one thing I used to watch 20 years ago, not Star Wars unfortunately), I used to think how come the parent dyad are so loving and perfect. That may be just TV series, but why not be appropriate like them in real life? With proper outside behavior that could yield goodwill, good habits? Just a thought!

Remember next time you are annoyed by someone! Easy thing to do is to think of an idealized character you know. I love explaining to young folk the beauty of the word- POISE. Fights are good to express discontent, talk truth and get it over with and are unavoidable. I get it! But I have an issue with "saying whatever" in the name of intimacy. Who wants to be in screaming matches all the time? Distance yourself, act good, watch you tongue, pull yourself together and try again and again. Whether you are sensitive or dealing with someone who is ultra sensitive. That is a gift you are giving to those you love and those that truly care about you.

Topics in this article