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Any family holiday get-together brings this thought to the up-close-and-personal level. Uncle Ernie shows up and everyone has a good time. Cousin Joe shows up and you know there will be a fight. Auntie Sybil is there and it’s a possibility that your mother is going to end up in tears before the day is out. Grandmother Julie arrives and it’s like pouring oil on the water.
Seems that this would all fall under the heading of “family dynamics” or “group dynamics.”
I used to notice this phenomenon in the classroom, too. Add a certain kid, and the classroom erupts. Let that kid be absent and your day is smooth sailing. It can work in the opposite direction, too. However, affecting the classroom or group of people in a positive manner seems to be at least twice as difficult as affecting the group negatively.
Why is that? I’ve often pondered just what interpersonal mechanism is at work here.
Not being educated in the behavioral sciences, I don’t know why that’s true . . . but it sure seems to work that way. Maybe that says something about our own nature. It’s much easier to play to our baser nature than the other way around. It seems so easy to slip into the lower reaches of our own personalities. And it also seems to be a truism that many times trying to intervene when seeing the party headed down one of these disruptive paths, ends up acting as an accelerant.
Even in the classroom, even as a teacher, sometimes the best thing you can do is to excise the errant cell . . . better known as “sending them to the office.” Seldom does that do much for the behavior of the offending party, but it gives one a chance of herding the group back toward the positive side.
Hmmm . . . wonder if that technique would work in a family situation? Let’s see, if you could prompt your brother to ask Cousin Joe to offer his opinion on his new tires, it might avoid the fight brewing. But how do you keep Aunt Sybil from making those snide remarks to your mother all day? Guess you can’t. That pattern was set decades before you arrived on the scene.
But it is also interesting to note: 1) everyone expresses joy at the thought that Uncle Ernie and Grandmother Julie have been invited, and 2) moans audibly when informed that certain other members of the family are going to attend a given event. So, then, why we do keep inviting the same group of people? Well, they are family . . . and after all, not to invite them would seriously damage our fantasy of what a perfect family gathering should be. Maybe this time Cousin Joe will behave.
I’m also certain that someone out there has figured out this conundrum: how to contain the disruptive elements, but manage to keep the fun guys (not to be confused with mushrooms) going.
Oh, if you have that secret, do share!
Nah . . . if we didn’t have these aberrations, what stories would we have left to tell at future family gatherings?
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years.
A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes . . . she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.