Thanksgiving is a day to gather around the table to discuss what we’re are thankful for — before getting into a political argument with the uncle you see twice a year.
With the political climate seemingly more toxic than ever, the thought of getting together with family can be stressful. Sunbury-based psychologist Donna Pinter said the divide is evident because today’s issues are “down to the core.”
While a good disagreement can be “invigorating and healthy,” Pinter said that outcome has become more difficult to achieve.
“It’s so diverse, so different, it’s best not to get into it,” she said. “During holidays, all old memories tend to fly out of the closet with families, and people need to keep their mouths shut,” she noted with a laugh.
Take a walk ... really
Today’s political and social discussions are not as “frivolous” as they once were because so many Americans are focused on core issues. Those should be avoided at family gatherings such as Thanksgiving, Pinter advises, because they can produce raw emotions.
She encourages people to “take a walk on the positive side” — and sometimes that means literally taking a walk. If things get heated, calm down by going for a short walk to clear your head and calm your temper, she suggests.
Getting along boils down to gratitude, and there is so much to be grateful for, said Pinter. It’s important to make an effort to concentrate on important things rather than get “bogged down in trivia.”
“I try to teach my patients how to do that,” she said. “A lot of them have gone through a lot of bad stuff.”
She said her word of the week is “connections, and how very important they are for all of us.”
Learning to concentrate on the important things is driven by acceptance, especially when it comes to inter-generational relations. Pinter, a first-generation American, noted how multiple generations of families used to live together, but that doesn’t mean they all got along.
“As people get older, I hear how much they learned from their grandparents or elderly neighbor,” she noted. “You’re not like your grandmother, thank goodness, and she’s not like you, thank goodness. Acceptance is so very important.”
Another key is listening. Most people are terrible listeners, but it’s a key to successfully getting along with others. Be an observer and see how many people actually listen to each other, she recommends. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but nastiness can be avoided by simply nearing what someone has to say.
Toast to that
Pinter offered this final piece of advice in avoiding tension with family: “Be cautious, and don’t drink to much.”