Family Drama and the Conflict Scenarios

by Articles, Reduce Conflict

Family conflict scenarios are not easy at the best of times and almost everyone seems to struggle with some aspect of relating to close relatives.  However, help is at hand with our insightful article that clarifies how your role and family story can be the keys to setting you free from repetitive damaging patterns.

“I woke up one morning thinking about wolves and realized that wolf packs function as families.
Everyone has a role, and if you act within the parameters of your role, the whole pack succeeds,
and when that falls apart, so does the pack.”

Jodi Picoult

This is a fascinating quotation for two reasons. First, the point about everyone in a family having a role to play – so true! Consider your family and the relationships within it. What’s your role? The provider? The carer? Are you the wise peacemaker? The amusing clown? Maybe you have different roles depending on who else in the family you’re with?

Of course, as human beings, we are more complex than wolves (at least, we hope so!) We play various roles, we can change our roles, we can even choose to leave the pack/family – temporarily or even permanently – if we want to. Although, naturally there are consequences to any of those choices. And that brings us to the second implication of Picoult’s quotation: not only are there consequences to acting out of the role, those consequences can be severe – the family may fall apart; or worse, the other wolves may turn upon you in anger and confusion. In other words, you need to consider the different elements of wellbeing in the workplace. It’s a state of balance that when reached, means that people are inspired, motivated and productive because they feel good. 

This idea of fixed roles is at the heart of conflict within families. After all, we’re not talking about recent or short-term friendships or romantic relationships; your family includes people who have known you your whole life and people who have been known for their whole lives by you. That’s a lot of knowledge and a lot of time and whatever patterns and expectations have been formed will be deeply entrenched. Any attempt to change behaviour – yours or others’ – will almost certainly meet with resistance.

This is not to say that your family members will never change, but it is unlikely that they will respond well if you try to change them. You can point out behaviour that irritates or annoys you (and let us be honest, there is always irritating behaviour in families) but more often than not, that behaviour is by now a fundamental part of the foundations of the relationship and any change will shift those foundations; maybe the entire relationship would need to be torn down and rebuilt?

That may sound overly dramatic. But family relationships are usually built on drama, and story, and narrative. Like a play, or a film or a novel, each family has a complicated story, with unpredictable plot twists and unexpected events, but still, one episode is built upon another. You can choose to participate in the story or not. You can influence the story. But you cannot stop it; even if you’re not there, it will continue without you. To believe otherwise is just sheer narcissism.

Again, you need to ask yourself, what’s your family story? What genre is it – a thriller, a comedy, a romance… a horror? What role do you play? It’s probably very different to the role you play in the other stories in your life – the ones that take place in work or social environments, for example.

So, if you don’t like your role; if you don’t enjoy your family’s dynamic at times – in other words if there is conflict – then what can you do? We’ve already said that it can be almost impossible to change the other ‘actors’ but you can always change yourself. If you’re unhappy with your role in the drama, you can choose to change your part. The beauty of it is, we all write our own lines and dialogue. The one aspect of your family interactions that is under your control is what you do and say when you’re on the ‘family stage’.

As Picoult says, the other wolves may not know how to act for a while when faced with your new ‘performance’ but rest assured, even if the family seems to be falling apart for a while, this is merely the process of adapting to a new dynamic. The challenge is to navigate your way through that period of change in such a way that you create a new and better set of family relationships.

You may need patience.

You may need some time out for reflection and reassessment.

You will probably need self-awareness.

You will definitely need perseverance and a willingness to accept the consequences of change.

But… if you can keep your eye on the goal of changing your part in the family story so that it feels better to both you and everyone else, the end result can be worth it.

Just remember these ancient words of wisdom from the 6th century BCE; they particularly apply to families:

“In conflict, be fair and generous.”

–Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

If you’re interested in exploring conflict scenarios further – especially in other environments such as the workplace, please, get back to me via email, LinkedIn or Facebook and share with me any question you may have, and share this article with anyone who could benefit of it.





Executive Coach. Consultant. Trainer. Facilitator.


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