The end-of-year celebrations are an opportunity to get together with the family, especially this year after two editions greatly disrupted by the pandemic. But with anxiety-provoking and sometimes divisive news, these family moments can become sources of agitated, even heated discussions. To avoid them, Amélia Lobbé, psychologist and author of “The day I tamed my fear”, advises “small talking”. Interview.
The end-of-year celebrations are rituals that provide an opportunity to come together. Put on hold for the past two years due to the pandemic, do they take a special place this year?
Certainly, this year, it will be easier to get around for the holidays because there are no more restrictions due to Covid. However, the end-of-year celebrations can reactivate feelings of loneliness, nostalgia, and sadness, for people who have no family, for those who are in open conflict with their family, for those who no cannot afford to celebrate Christmas, for separated parents who do not have their children at Christmas, for children of divorced parents who cannot cut themselves in half, etc. It won’t be as simple as in the Christmas TV movies.
Family get-togethers are often an opportunity to discuss topics likely to lead to disputes (politics or vaccines, for example). Why do we talk about these subjects more than at work, for example, where we spend more time? Can these disagreements influence emotional ties?
First of all, I think it is better to protect yourself and not go to your family if someone harmful to us is present. We have the right to preserve our physical and psychological integrity. It is better to avoid reactivating a trauma, which risks upsetting us for the next six months.
If you decide to go to your family, I think it’s best to avoid discussing certain angry subjects, ‘controversial’ subjects, and New Year’s Eve. And it is also better to avoid subjects that have strong emotional stakes (such as inheritance problems, food or religious proselytism, etc.). We are not going to solve all the problems of the world, nor the problems that date back to our childhood, in one evening.
It is better to focus on ‘small talking’. To do this, we just talk about unifying subjects (cold, children, dogs, cats, inflation, etc.).
This year, the end-of-year celebrations have a particular flavor in view of the current context, in particular the war in Ukraine, inflation, and the risk of power cuts. Do you think this can help reunite families and/or bury the hatchet?
Perhaps indeed, if everyone plays the game of ‘small talking’ and benevolence, and if everyone shows a little tolerance and humor. That said, even if an aunt or brother-in-law provokes us and is openly unpleasant, we don’t have to take the bait and ruin our evening. You can dodge the question or pretend you didn’t hear the derogatory remark.