Why festive gatherings can be so toxic

David Robson in BBC:

“A happy family,” so the saying goes, “is but an earlier heaven” – which must surely make an unhappy family a living hell. As we enter the holiday season, many of us will be steeling ourselves for potential tension and argument. Whether it’s quiet disapproval over the quality of the cooking, a simmering resentment over alleged favouritism, or a fierce argument about our political and social values, family gatherings often bring out the worst in us. That’s if we choose to see our families at all – for many, there is no choice but to spend the holidays apart.

While family strife may be a source of entertainment in dramas like Succession, the real-life consequences are no joke. “A really common consequence of estrangement is feeling isolated,” in addition to feelings of shame and being judged, says Lucy Blake, a developmental psychologist at the University of the West of England and author of the forthcoming book No Family Is Perfect: A Guide to Embracing the Messy Reality. There is no easy cure to heal fractured relationships. But a better understanding of our family dynamics can help prepare us for the inevitable flashpoints and reveal ways to cope with the stress.

More here.