Family Heaven, Family Hell
How to Survive the Family Get-together
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Family gatherings are supposed to be happy occasions, full of love and warmth, but the reality is so often more like hell. In "Family Heaven, Family Hell", Jo Ellen Grzyb explores the dynamics of what happens when family members get together - the patterns that get repeated time and time again, the arguments that have been going on since time began (and before), and the expectations, resentments and disappointments that get played out. She gives the reader life-saving practical advice, including techniques on changing patterns, setting boundaries and taking on different 'roles', as well as useful phrases to get out of tight situations. She also explores when the right option is to gracefully bow out. This is an essential book for anyone wanting to improve their family relations.
Title: Family Heaven, Family Hell
Author: Jo Ellen Gryzb
Title: Family Heaven, Family Hell
Author: Jo Ellen Gryzb
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Welcome to Family Heaven, Family Hell. Here’s what I can guarantee over the course of this book: I can guarantee some insight, some humour, some discomfort and some practical exercises for you to try out to help beat those family get-together blues. I obviously don’t know your particular family; you do. But I expect that by the end of this book you’ll probably know yours a whole lot better than you do now. The better you know and understand how your family works, the better equipped you’ll be to make changes in the way you behave when you’re around them. From my own experience and listening to the stories of others, I know that families can bring our greatest joys and our fiercest rages. When we get together with members of our families many deeply ingrained behaviours kick into gear, which turn the gettogether into either a heavenly experience or a hellish one. When I began telling people I was writing this book everyone but everyone had a reaction to the subject. Everyone had some kind of laugh – rueful, sarcastic, delighted, knowing, exasperated – and they all had some kind of comment to make: ‘Oh, you should see my family!’ ‘I need to get a copy if I’m going to survive this Christmas.’ ‘I better buy one for my mother, who doesn’t have the word “no” in her vocabulary.’ ‘You mean there is such a thing as family heaven?’ ‘Don’t talk to me about families.’ ‘You can have mine if you want.’ And on rarer occasions: ‘Birthdays are always great fun in my family.’ ‘I love getting together with our families; we never stop laughing.’ ‘I suppose every family can be hellish at times, but mine’s all right.’ Whichever way you cut it though, the very topic created feelings in every person I spoke with, whether a new acquaintance or an old friend. Not only that, just mentioning the subject tended to open the floodgates of stories, sad tales, funny or horrible incidents, all filled with quite deep emotions. It certainly seemed to me that it didn’t matter who I spoke to, what their age, gender, culture or religion, just the idea of the family get-together created strong feelings in people. In the best of worlds, the family get-together can be a joyful experience. Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t live in the best of worlds; we live in the real one. This is the one where family gettogethers can be a trying and unforgiving experience: our own personal family hell. In this book I’ll be exploring the dynamics of what happens when family members get together, the patterns that get repeated time and time again, the arguments that have been going on since time began (and before), the expectations, resentments and disappointments that get played out. My intention is to help you identify your own roles in the family and how they continue to be perpetuated (I call myself the Human Buffer, but also, the Rebel With a Cause – more on this later). Everyone has two or three roles they play, and it’s helpful to identify them so that they can be changed, if you so choose. I want to show you that even in the most seemingly intractable situations, there are options. Often, when we’re in the middle of an angst-ridden family event, it can feel as though there is no way out – that there aren’t any options. We lose our ability to think and, therefore, to behave more creatively. I’ll be providing you with lots of options to think about, try out and develop for yourself. Reading Family Heaven, Family Hell will require some soulsearching, some courage and honesty, a whole lot of humour and a willingness for you to put your hand up to patterns of behaviour that might not put you in the best light. But the payoff will be more tolerable (perhaps even fun) get-togethers, or the acceptance that now may be the time to walk away. You don’t need to examine why your families are difficult or unhappy, the important thing is to understand what happens and how it can be changed. I’m not interested in apportioning blame, uncovering deep, dark family secrets or unravelling jealousies. If you want to do that you probably need the professional support of a counsellor or therapist. The work of this book is about staying in the present and seeing what you can do now, at the very next family get-together, to make simple changes which will help you manage your own behaviour more effectively.
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