This year, these personal tensions are taking a pandemic turn. Maybe someone is commenting on your decision to send your kids back to school or how your body has changed after so much time at home. Journalist Kimmy Yam joked on Twitter, “After two years apart due to the pandemic, my family is getting together tonight. Now I’m betting if my parents are going to say I’m too fat or too skinny.
Underneath those comments hides the sting of feeling rejected even when you crave love the most. Rejection is the opposite of belonging – and psychologists have found that experiences of rejection, no matter how small, are extremely painful. Research has shown that the feeling of rejection activates the physical pain centers in the brain. Whether it’s snubbed by our in-laws or criticized by our parents, rejection literally hurts.
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The pain of rejection is also the reason why political discussions can become so hostile. Fighting over issues such as masking and vaccination warrants are not only expressions of tribal allegiance, as is often claimed, but also means by which family members seek to be understood and accepted, by especially by relatives who have different beliefs.
In his book “I love you, but I hate your politics,” Dr. Safer writes that children fight with parents over politics because they want to be “seen, heard and appreciated” for what. they are ; parents fight because they feel “betrayed by differences and interpret them as repudiations”. Because political values are increasingly a central part of people’s sense of identity, rejecting the politics of a loved one has become a personal affront. It means rejecting them.
The vaccine dispute has become a way of communicating acceptance and rejection.
“For the vaccinated,” Dr Suitor explained, “the engagement of the unvaxxed family member may seem like a blatant disregard for their life and health” – a position of indifference. “And the unvaxxed family member,” she continued, “can be made to feel like an outcast or a social outcast.”
Dr Safer tells his patients to avoid political discussions during the holidays. “It’s a dead end. If you are looking for full acceptance and full understanding, if you hope to change people’s minds, ”she said,“ don’t go.
That advice, however, could be difficult to follow this year, as people adjust their guest lists based on immunization status. The vaccine discussion may be inevitable before the rally, Dr Safer said, but once you have it, banish politics from table conversation.