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You’ll never look at your relatives the same way

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I stumbled upon an interesting article. Enjoy:

“Most people have at least a few ‘out-there’ relatives. And there is no better time of the year to experience the things these relatives do that qualify them as ‘out-there’ than during the winter holidays (Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Diwali, etc.). During this season, families tend to gather together and air out all of their abnormal behavior. If you are lucky during this time, and very quiet, you may witness a veritable sideshow of human fallibility. For instance:

  • The aunt who always must be the center of attention.
  • The grandmother who talks at you, not to you and treats you more like a doll than a person.
  • The sister-in-law who will not assert herself despite the fact that her husband treats her badly.
  • The uncle (working on his third divorce and second DUI arrest) who wants to tell you about his latest scheme for getting rich quick.
  • The other uncle who rigidly insists on speaking at length about his religious beliefs, pointing out how wrong you are to persist in your evil ways.
  • The hysterical and promiscuous cousin who has had string of failed relationships and who, you’re pretty sure, has attempted suicide at least once.
  • The niece who dresses funny and is pretty sure that the pyramids were built by UFOs.
  • And of course, the nephew who chooses not to attend the gathering for his own inscrutable reasons.

Note please, in the example I’ve cooked up just above, that I’m talking about odd beliefs, and disturbing social mannerisms, but not necessarily about Depression, Manic states, true Obsessional behavior, or honest-to-god Psychosis. This more serious stuff, also present in our families, is not the topic of this essay. Rather, I want to call your attention to what are usually termed, “personality disorders”, or problematic, rigid personalities as you experience them in the wild. Because we are often intimately connected to people who behave in ‘abnormal’ ways, (as partially illustrated above), it is helpful for us to have some understanding of how the mental health establishment understand abnormal personality. […]

It is important to remember that everyone acts dysfunctionally at least some of the time. Most everyone I know has felt emptiness at one time or another (particularly in the teen years), and many have at least thought of suicide. A few have done some significantly antisocial things in their day (often as kids). And who has never wanted to be the center of attention, at least in fantasy. Who has never been devastated when a relationship they were dependent on broke up. People with personality disorders are not so much ‘different’ than people without them, as they have fewer possibilities for how to handle situations. Whereas non-personality disordered people can express themselves flexibly, choosing the best way to handle any given situation, personality disordered persons are rigid in their responses and too often fall back on what they always do, regardless of whether it fits (and often it does not). Where non-personality disordered people are free to experience a variety of different states of mind, personality disordered people end up being limited to the same one, over and over.

There is an old proverb that says, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones”. For the purposes of our present discussion, I’ll translate this proverb as follows, “People who have personality traits in common should not criticize or judge one another (too much)”. My major professor from graduate school used to say, “Everyone has a personality”. And because everyone does indeed have a personality; because everyone’s personality (no matter how nice) ends up getting on someone’s nerves at least some of the time; we are the very people who should not be criticizing one another.

Have a peaceful rest-of-the-holiday-season, and may your best hopes for the new year come true.

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.”

From “Everybody has a personality” written by M. Dombeck in Mentalhelp.net on Dec 28, 2001.

And my parents will be here in less than a week. Let’s pray.
While I’m on the subject, on Tuesday I went to the city of Bethlehem. It’s not that far after all.
In the worst case scenario with my parents, I’ll say

Hakuna Matada!!

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