In this week before Christmas perhaps it is appropriate that I am writing about arguments, rows and fights. Although we hope the festive season will be about goodwill and happiness, it all too often it brings up issues within family relationships. Apparently, more people row and seek relationship counselling after Christmas than at any other time of the year.
At the surface level it is the stress and expectations that create tension at Christmas, but at a deeper level some of our most basic needs and insecurities are triggered. Of course this can happen at any time of the year but Christmas makes us focus on our family relationships and we are usually much closer to them physically. It brings to the surface any unfinished business from our childhood and unlocks the emotional skeletons from the cupboard.
The best way to understand why we end up in rows or seek to withdraw from all the tension is to consider our needs. If you are familiar with the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow you will recall that he created a hierarchy of human needs with the more practical physical needs at the bottom of a triangle, moving up through successive layers to higher level needs at the top. In order to be happy we need to fulfil all these needs. The problem with our emotional needs is that they we usually created when we were very young around problematic bonding with our parents and in our family. We can come out of these experiences with resentments about our unmet needs and considerable guilt for having failed the people around us. Festivities like Christmas bring back the subconscious memories of these unmet needs from childhood and we start feeling bad. Some of us will end up fighting the people around us to try and have these needs met in the present or we might choose not to fight and to simply withdraw to take away the feelings of resentment and guilt.
Arguments and rows are really about who in a relationship is going to meet the needs of the other person. If two people are in a fight, the underlying unmet need will always be identical. The trick is to find out which need is lacking. Incidentally this is how wars are eventually ended – the warring parties eventually realise that they are fighting for the same thing. It also explains why rows and arguments are so pointless. Even if we win an argument and the other person backs down, we have stored up some guilt for ourselves that we will have to try and pay off later with more needy behaviour.
Effective communication at the level of our feelings is therefore the only way to avoid or recover a relationship from an argument. To find out what the other person involved needs, simply ask yourself what you need from them. If you give this unconditionally, the argument will be over and life will get much better. If they continue being aggressive you can try to find out what they need from you through sensitive communication.
So this Christmas, if you celebrate this event, I hope you have a wonderful time with your friends and families. Keep a look out for those people who are trying to have their needs met and are getting frustrated of disappointed. Perhaps you can offer them a bit more compassion and love. Ultimately, all needs can be traced back to the feeling that love is lacking in our lives. This is never true because we always have self love and for those with a spiritual belief, divine love. Whether you are a Christian or of any other faith, the key to happiness is to be able to give from the sheer pleasure of giving and then to receive in equal measure. When we have achieved this, we will experience the joy and peace that is our natural state. Arguments, rows and fights are simply telling you that more love is needed in a situation and perhaps you can be the person to bring this.
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