Flowers bloom in spring; personality disorders blossom during the holidays. Insanity flourishes this time of year due to the theatrics inherent in celebration. For those who like drama, the holidays are the perfect stage for their damaging psychological production. Don't be the audience who gets sucked in. Put the family drama and dysfunction at bay by practicing the following:
1. Talk to Who You Want
At every family gathering there are going to be "the dreaded people." The ones who hurl passive-aggressive insults; the ones you fought with a decade ago; the obnoxious ones. Don't doll out the honor of making them your focus. So it doesn't become an ignore fest, get the hi-how-are-yous out of the way and then gravitate to the people who you are actually looking forward to seeing.
2. Have an Answer Ready
A lot of fights start when people get caught off guard. You pretty much can predict what the dysfunctional people in the family are going to say to you i.e. you know the critical aunt in the bad marriage is going to ask, "Why are you still single?" You want to have a good predetermined answer, however the best answer isn't an incisive jab back. Instead, the most effective response is a postmodern one--a nebulous retort that leaves 'em blank. A current favorite now: "It is what it is."
3. Play Games Instead of Fighting
Games are the great mitigators. If you all sit around staring at each other, someone's liable to say something incendiary. A game shifts the focus and makes it harder for those who want to ignite a fight. Games are also great for sublimation--get out your aggression out in a game of Taboo or touch football.
4. Be as Objective as a Hit Man
Don't let them draw you in. You're above it. Think about how hit men in the movies go about doing their job: They're tough, passionless, and goal-directed. Be the same at your family gathering: get in; do your job--in this case it's eating, drinking, and sharing some good stories with friends and family--then get out unscathed.
5. Abscond to an Undisclosed Location
If your family makes you truly miserable, there's no need to suffer the abuse. Don't go and don't feel guilty about it. Instead set off for a happy place, preferably somewhere sunny--just don't get caught in the airport by a TV crew like Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon's characters did in the hilarious movie, Four Christmases.