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Feuds: A Love-Hate Relationship

exchange-of-ideas-222786_1920There is something about a feud we love to watch and see unfold; and, there is a polar opposite feeling when we are directly involved and impacted by emotional disputes. We hate to be in one. There are numerous historical examples of famous family feuds such as the infamous Hatfield and McCoys. Hearing the family names conjures up fierce fighting, violence, and hatred. The media sensationalized the stories as time went on creating a lasting impression in American culture. FX television series recently portrayed another famous rivalry between iconic Hollywood actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Feud: Bette and Joan.

Susan Sarandon plays Bette Davis’s role, and Jessica Lange plays Joan Crawford’s character. The spellbinding series captured my full attention, and I loved watching the two actresses, Sarandon and Lange give award-winning performances. What was interesting in watching the series is how the drama unfolded with each star positioning themselves to outperform the other and win at all costs. The women fought over acting roles, lovers, directing scenes, the limelight, and just about anything where one had power over the other. Unfortunately, Hollywood elite, gossip columnists, producers, and directors pitted Davis and Crawford against each other to keep the fight going creating a media buzz for high dollar ratings. Sarandon and Lange’s performance made me feel the tension, anxiety, frustration and anger as the two played out the intense scenes.

In yet another recent television series Fear Thy Neighbor on the Investigation Discovery channel, the series portrays real crime cases of neighbor feuds that resulted in intense fighting, verbal abuse, physical violence and even murder between families. In many of these cases, the neighbors started out being friendly and even good friends. In every single case, a seemingly small irritation occurred between two households such as driving over someone’s grass, playing loud music, or feeding the deer.

In each of these feuds, the misunderstandings and small disagreements could have been addressed early and simply if people had not closed the door to conversation. Instead, the silence and avoidance only lead to people making false assumptions, negative judgments, and increasing anger and destructive behaviors. It causes people to take sides and deepen the positions of right and wrong. The cycle continues until tensions and intolerance take over causing an eruption which is often damaging and can be deadly. The key to stopping a fight from becoming a lengthy feud is to address the situation early, calmly and constructively.

Obviously, television’s aim is to entertain, educate or touch their viewers. I must admit I am attracted to these types of programs but would hate to be personally involved in a feud. I tend to view these programs as an opportunity to learn what NOT to do. Here are things you can do.

  • Think about the possible consequences of your retaliatory behaviors
  • Consider other reasons for why the other person is upset with you
  • Approach the other person as someone who is in pain, fearful, or anxious versus someone who is evil.
  • Monitor your emotional thermometer taking measures not to boil over causing a surprising eruption

Next time you watch a movie or television series, observe the behaviors, non-verbal cues, and emotions that contribute to de-escalating a dispute and then try them out in your life.

Pattie Porter, LCSW

Conflict Management Expert

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Back to School and the Woes of Pokémon™ Go

cc0 public domain pokemon go cellAs referenced in the Wall Street Journal article by Sarah Needleman entitled “’Pokémon™ Go’ Craze Raises Safety Issues”, the cell phone app game called “Pokémon™ Go” has caused concern on many levels. These concerns are due to the nature of the game, which involves on-foot travel to capture specific characters and collect them to battle others who play the game. According to Needleman’s article, Don Boyes, a geography professor at the University of Toronto maintains the game itself “could be potentially leading people into areas where they don’t belong.” This safety concern is because the Pokéstops™ (places where you can collect Pokemon™ characters) are sites where people can get hurt when they are not paying attention, such as construction sites and abandoned properties. Not only is the game posing concerns around physical safety, but the game also may raise concerns for parents who have children going back to school.

In the CNN article entitled “A parents’ guide to Pokémon™ Go”, author Christopher Dawson notes concerns related to how much time children spend looking at the screen and playing.  While he cites the benefits of exercise, he also notes that parents should be aware that children are simultaneously walking and playing the game and not paying attention to their surroundings. As a result, children are prone to injuries such as getting hit by cars, walking on rough terrain and getting robbed by thieves. In addition to physical safety and inattention, many parents, and even I see another concern, and that is the game can be very addictive.  Students, in general, are already addicted to their Smart phones texting, calling and using social media. It is hard not to stay constantly plugged in for most young people.  For teachers, one of their main concerns is keeping students focused in class without the need to compete for their attention. Even though I am not a parent, I too struggle in balancing my time with technology and the expectations of time spent with family.   For example, my family does not care about using phones at the table or while talking to one another. The expectation is to focus our communication on each other.

Here are some tips to consider how you might help raise awareness, guide and manage your kids’ game play.

1)  Set a time limit for young kids. Give your children time limits and restrictions including when they can play their app games. Follow through with consequences including the possibility of uninstalling the app from their phone. On the other hand, reward them with gameplay when they do well in school.

2)  For older students, expose them to the news stories on the dangers and consequences of Pokémon™ Go. Hopefully, they can see how far is too far with this game. Follow up with a simple talk and raise awareness of the dangerous addiction to the game.

3)  If you are a parent or teacher, research the actual game and become familiarized with the various components of the game. Even if you are totally turned off towards the idea of the game, the kids may be more inclined to listen to your guidance if you know simply how fun this can be to them.

Here are two additional strategies for teaching kids safety while playing Pokémon™ Go, as cited by blog article “Ground rules for catching ’em all” by Brittany Morgan.

1)  Teach children to “look up” as Brittany states so that they are aware of their surroundings.

2)  Encourage children to play the game in “teams” so they are not alone while catching their characters. This team concept allows safety in numbers.

With kids returning to school, it is my sincere hope that these tips are helpful to you by raising awareness that your children can have a healthy balance of fun and safety while enjoying the game Pokémon™ Go.

Sincerely,

 

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Negotiations and Conflict Management Program

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Just Sleep On It – Insight on Challenging the Age-Old Wisdom, “Never go to bed angry!”

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The age-old wisdom that married couples imparted to my husband, Bernard and me before we got married was, “Never go to bed angry.”

I do not enjoy being in conflict with my husband; for that reason, every time a conflict has occurred between us throughout the nine years we’ve been together I usually try to get it resolved as quickly as possible. Another reason I tried to resolve it quickly is that I feared the consequences of going to sleep still fighting with my husband.

If we did go to bed mad what would happen? Would it automatically mean we were doomed to failure? I believe this fear is why I had always pushed for a resolution, sometimes before we were ready because illogically I thought if I fell asleep and Bernard and I were still fighting we wouldn’t make it.

Recently, Bernard and I got into a heated conflict. Without going into detail, I will say the fight escalated after I lost sight of my emotional triggers. After the battle had met its climax, Bernard did not want to talk. Bernard not wanting to speak moments after an argument is pretty standard; as mentioned, I usually push for a resolution and break his silence. However, this time was different. It was late in the evening and time for bed. I remember thinking to myself, ” Do we go to bed angry? What will come of our relationship? Will we be okay?”

I recognized that a time-out was necessary, recalling all the conflict resolution literature I have read over the years that says sometimes time-outs are fine; good even! I acknowledged that pushing for a resolution on this particular matter could make things worse. So for the first time in our relationship, we went to bed angry. The next morning, we didn’t speak either. I spent the next day researching how going to bed angry could affect your relationship, and I became even more panicked as I read more negative results. I then decided to pull myself together and gain insight from this experience rather than promote a prophecy that has no merit.

So for this post, I wanted to share my insight on what I learned from going to bed angry.

I was at fault in this argument, and I realized that every time in the past when I had pushed for a resolution, and I was to blame, I was minimizing my behavior. My husband was clearly upset with me and my actions, if I pushed him to forgive me, I recognized that I was reducing his hurt feelings to make my uncomfortableness with being in a fight go away. I did not like this realization about myself and immediately felt guilty for all the times in the past I had done this; therefore, this time, I didn’t push for a resolution. I apologized but then I backed off and let my husband make the call on when we could speak and resolve the issue.

Going to bed angry gives you time to calm down and gain perspective. I am aware this isn’t a ground-breaking revelation to most people but to me it was. I have a sharp tongue, I have been told this since I was little, and it has gotten me into trouble before. Therefore, calming down and shutting up helped me not to say anything I would later regret. It also allowed me to gain the perspective I needed so that when Bernard and I did talk I was able to articulate my points and feelings without a high level of emotion.

Lastly, going to bed angry does not automatically mean that your relationship will meet its demise. It is important that you take a break if needed when arguing with your spouse or significant other to gain clarity and de-escalate a conflict. If that means sleeping on it, then that is something you should do. It might make you feel better to know that no one has ever cited “we went to bed angry” on their divorce papers – I checked!

Have a Great Week,
Abigail R.C. McManus
Apprentice

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The Dangers of Teen Sexting

Raychelle Cassada LohmannStephenKotev2In this age of instant communication and instant gratification sexting has become all too common for those in love. Teenagers are no different, while many teens openly admit that they know it’s wrong to send these sexual photos, many feel the odds of getting caught are so low that they are willing to take the risk. Unfortunately, they are disconnected from the life-long consequences of their behavior and risks of hurting not only themselves but those they love. Join Raychelle Lohmann as she discusses how you can protect and talk to teens about this difficult issue.

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