Podcast Episode 66 – Staying Out of Family Drama

Jul 1, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana Swillinger, and you are listening to The Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode 66 Stay Out of Family Drama. 

DIANA: Hey. Hey, everybody. What’s happening? What’s happening with me? Let’s see. I’ve been reading books. I’ve been doing a lot of introspection. Uh, I’ve been doing a lot of learning lately, a lot of reading about psychology and theology. Good stuff. I’ve been keeping my refrigerator stacked with watermelon at all times. One of my friends had a debate on her social media page about who likes watermelon and who doesn’t, and I have been astonished. There are a lot of people out there saying they don’t like watermelon. I’m like what? I didn’t even know that was a thing. So if you don’t like watermelon, I just learned that that’s a thing. I just assumed everybody loved watermelon. Anyway, I’ve been going out for daily walks. Last night, I caught the most beautiful sunset over the river by my house. It was incredible. 

Um, I’ve been spending more time with my parents now that the pandemic worries and restrictions have changed. Right? I’ve loved that. If you follow me on Instagram, not only have you seen that my sunset walk by the river last night, but you’ve seen pictures of my mom’s garden because her garden is ridiculous. This is the kind of garden where people purposely drive by because they heard about it and they want to see it for themselves. They’ve even had people get out of the car when they’ve seen them in the yard and ask if they could walk around. My mom and dad work really hard on this garden, and it is their retirement hobby. Yeah, that’s true. But when they were both still working, they still had this amazing garden. Anyway, too much about it, but it’s beautiful. It’s a haven. And so I’ve been really enjoying going over there a lot this year. And so there’s pictures on Instagram of that stuff, too. But I also put inspirational, uh, stuff on there. 

I put verses in the Bible that I find that I think are so linked to this work we’re doing on Renewing Our Minds. And sometimes I share mind renewal tips over there, too. So if you want to connect with me on Instagram, it’s at Diana swellinger. It’s just my name, so go find me over there. Anyway, today’s topic is family drama. It’s going to be super fun. So, um, I’m guessing no one’s tuning out right now, thinking this doesn’t apply to them, because we all have family drama in some shape or form, and today. I’m talking about it in the words of family drama. But really all this stuff applies to relationship drama, no matter what kind of relationship it is. I’ve had relationship drama with a boss, with a friend, um, whoever. So if there’s somebody that’s not in your family that you’re having some drama with, you can apply all of this to them too. I’m just going to be talking about it in terms of family for today. So I would like to give you some strategies in the form of visuals. I love visuals. They always help me. 

So the first time I had a visual with this, somebody gave it to me many years ago. It was one of my most effective counseling experiences. And I was telling my therapist about some family drama. My stepmom and my dad were divorcing and my stepmom was a recovering alcoholic at the time. And she wanted to pull the daughters into the divorce drama. The details of how she was doing that don’t really matter, but in general, she was having conversations with me and my sister, trying to get us to support her and maybe even get us to do some of her bidding for her. I don’t know what her intent was. It kind of felt like that. And I found myself doing some bidding for her one time. And when I caught myself, I’m like, I don’t like this. Uh, something’s wrong with this. I need help. So I took it to my counselor that I was seeing at the time and I shared with her what happened and the stress I was feeling about it. And she had an amazing visual picture for me. 

So this might sound a little crude, but I mean, this is what she gave me and it was really helpful for me. So she had me imagine certain family members of mine in a pit, like down in a pit. And there were chains. And these chains were linked to issues and to other family members in the pit. And it was a tangled mess. And then she told me, I’m feeling stressed because I’m entering the pit with them. M um, and when I enter the pit, I then get entangled in chains right along with them. It’s stressful, it’s confusing, it’s heavy in the pit. It’s a mess. And I was like, oh my gosh, yeah, that is what it feels like. Or she offered. I could be near them, I could have compassion, I could express love, I could even share thoughts and words with them. But I could do it without entering the pit. And I could see it in that moment. I could visualize being out of the pit and not entering their drama. And I could still feel freedom out there. It didn’t mean I had to ignore them. It didn’t mean I had to turn my back or not love them. I could still give them attention. I could still give them encouragement. I could still express my love and not get entangled. I’m like that’s. Brilliant. 

I hadn’t even read the Boundaries book by Cloud in Townsend yet at that point. But this is kind of that idea, right? Stay out of somebody else’s yard where they’re having a mess. Stay out of the pit, have a boundary line that you don’t need to cross. Like, I can listen to you family member having a hard time, but if you start telling me what a horrible person he is, I will end the conversation. I love you, but that’s your relationship drama, not mine. So I didn’t actually address it exactly like that with her, but I did share that I had a boundary that I didn’t want to enter into that kind of conversation. And, uh, all the time I got to love her. She might not have liked my decision to not engage in certain conversations, but I liked them. They kept me out of drama. I stayed sane, and it became super easy for me to have compassion and love for my dad and my stepmom safely next to the pit, but not in the pit with him. Brilliant. All right, here’s another way to think about this. Recently, I was coaching a client, and we thought of another visual. 

She had some family members that all seemed to be on the same page with family drama. Like, they have this pattern of entering into this family drama with each other. They talked about each other, they judged each other, they got into each other’s business. They would try to tell each other what to do to make another person in the family happy or give a lot of suggestions in each other’s business and dramatic. And it’s hard when this happens, because we just want to love people. We want to be nice, we want to not contradict them because that might upset them if we don’t affirm them, um, and all that stuff. So we’d like to comply with their wishes because we think that’s the way to honor them and show love. But it’s not often. It just takes us right into the pit of entanglement with them. Love and honor is not entering into relationship the way the other person wants you to so that they can use you to get their needs met while you people please and you try to put out fires and you try to comply. That’s not love and honor. That’s them trying to get their needs met. That’s you trying to be what everyone else wants you to be, while you don’t get to be your authentic self. 

A lot of times we forget about our own needs. I always tell people, like, that person in your life, they’re doing a great job trying to get their needs met. They’re doing a great job. In fact, they get their needs met. Might not be a healthy way, but they do it all the time. They want you to validate them when they’re mad at someone else so they can feel something. They might want to feel justified or they want to feel supported or whatever it is they want to feel. When people try to pull you into their drama, I promise you, it’s about them trying to meet their own needs. So what analogy did we come up with? Well, I was thinking about sports that day. I don’t know why. What sport has a lot of drama? Anyone? Especially if you’re up here in the Midwest or Canada. Hint, hint, it’s hockey. In hockey, there’s fighting. They fight on the ice, they resent other players, they get frustrated, they take out revenge, they have aggression, they get entangled, like a pile up in the corner slamming up against the plexiglass. Sounds like family drama to me. But what I love about hockey is you can show up to encourage and support your team and never enter the drama yourself. In fact, just in case a puck goes flying into the air, somebody loses their hockey stick so the players don’t fall over into the stands on top of people’s laps with blood and sweat. 

There is tall plexiglass all around the ice rink so you don’t get smacked in the face with a puck and lose your own tooth or lose an eye or get a big old goose egg on your head. You are protected from the punches. You’re protected from the pucks, you’re protected from the insults. Whenever this stuff goes flying all around on the rink, you’re behind the glass. And this can be a way you think about family drama. You can show up to encourage and support and not go on the ice. Did you know that? You can stay protected. The choice is yours. And there will be people who invite you to get on your skates and get on the ice with them. It could look like this. Now, I’m just making up scenarios here. Mom calls and says something like, oh, my word, your brother is screwing up again. He finally had a nice girl. He’s not paying enough attention to her. Now she wants to break up with him. Isn’t this totally awful? What do you think we should do? We need to do something. Did you hear the invitation to get on the ice? What do you think we should do? She wants you now to chime in and join the discussion about the family drama. She might even invite you to get more involved. Like, she could say, can you call him and talk some sense into him? Can you tell him to go make it right? Tell him how to pay more attention to his girlfriend. An invitation to get involved in the drama. 

Now, if you take mom up on the invitation, you’re going to be lacing up your skates and hopping onto the ice to go skate over to your brother and get in his business. So if you don’t want to get involved, in the family drama. In a situation like that, you want to stay behind the plexiglass. What would that look like? Well, that’s why I like thinking about hockey and showing up to support your team. Support and encourage. So you could say something like, mom, it seems like this is hard for you. That makes sense. You love your son. You want good things for him, but I don’t feel like it’s my place to get involved, so I’m not going to. But I do understand why you asked, and thanks for caring about us so much. Boom, um, stayed out of the drama. But did you see how you were able to support and encourage mom with a response like that? You acknowledge what she’s feeling. Mom, it seems hard for you and that her thoughts are valid. It’s valid for her to feel this way. 

Makes sense, mom, because you love your son and you want good things for him, then you say, I’m not getting on the ice. I don’t feel like it’s my place to get involved, so I’m not going to and then validate again. But I understand why you asked. Thanks for caring about us so much. I mean, if mom doesn’t feel encouraged by you validating her, acknowledging her feelings, appreciating her, that’s up to her. But you offered encouragement, and you supported her in the way that you could. You don’t have to be good at skating on the ice. Maybe you don’t want to be an ice skater in the drama. You don’t have to be the way that you’re comfortable is in the stands, supporting and encouraging. Boom. Stayed out of the drama. 

All right, let’s do another example, because I think sometimes we get into drama in our head, so we kind of do it to ourselves all on our own. So maybe we’re able to say no to somebody, but then we still go on and nobody knows it, but we’re, like, spinning and drama in our head, and this can be really emotionally taxing. Okay, so here’s just another made up example. Your son calls and says he lost his job. He asks to borrow a little bit of money to make ends meet, um, until he finds a job. Maybe next month. Right? It’s going to take a few weeks. So it’s not even about if you give him money or not. Maybe you do decide to give him some money, maybe not. You could do that and still stay out of the drama. You could give him money and stay out of the drama. You could not give him money and stay out of the drama. Or you could give him money and have head drama. All the possibilities are there. So this is what it would look like if you entered into head drama by how you were thinking. You’re still getting on the rink, and you’re getting on the rink with the drama of emotions like worry and fear and disappointment and we hang out on the ice with these emotions, we’re going to feel anxiety and stress. Not because of the situation, but because we’re not letting go of dramatic thoughts. Could be thoughts like, I don’t know if he’s going to be okay. Maybe he’ll get depressed or discouraged because this is hard. What if he can’t find a job? Will he lose his house? Maybe I should do something to help him. This is embarrassing. I hope other people don’t find out. His dad might get upset if he finds out. So I’ll try to keep it from him. Maybe I should give him money. Maybe I shouldn’t have given him money. And just spinning on all these dramatic thoughts, you’ve entered the rank almost like with a bunch of instead of being out there with a bunch of family members, it’s a bunch of clones of you and you’re bouncing a bunch of worrisome thoughts among you that are like flying pucks that just keep smacking around. It’s painful and it’s exhausting. 

So if you want to stay out of your own mental family drama, the family drama in your head, it’s totally on you. And it’s on you and your ability to manage your thoughts. You need to be thinking things that acknowledge that there’s a separation between you and other people. They live their life and you live yours. You’re not intertwined. You’re separate people. Okay, so sun is the one without a job at the moment, not you. It’s a normal life occurrence. People have struggles. This is one of the common ones. It’s normal. You doing mental gymnastics about it doesn’t suddenly put you in the driver’s seat of someone else’s life. You thinking all these thoughts isn’t going to somehow fix this situation. It’s just drama in your head. His situation is not your problem to solve. You’re separate people. He’s on his journey. It’s his business to solve. You are on your journey. So again, it doesn’t mean you don’t help. If you want to give him some money, if you want or don’t, you get to decide what you feel comfortable with. Okay, but about the thoughts that you’re spinning on instead of all those ones that create worry and drama. What if you were going to have thoughts that helped you show up with encouragement and support or helped you feel like you were in a place of encouragement and support? Your thoughts would sound more like, I’m glad I could help and give him a little money. Even though I didn’t give him money, I’m glad he felt comfortable telling me and I was here to support him. I believe my son will figure this out. Maybe it will take him a while to figure it out and it’ll be a little painful, but that’s okay. It’s his journey. 

This is the part where my son loses his job. I bet he’ll learn a lot. I’ll pray for him. I’ll keep my ears open for a job openings that might interest him. If I hear some, I’ll share with him. If not, if I don’t hear any. Okay. I still believe he’ll figure this out. Can you see how much better that feels? This is how you don’t enter the ice rink by your own invitation or by the invitation of someone else in your family. You don’t have to. You don’t have to enter the rink of drama. You can support and encourage and stay safely behind the glass and not take a flying puck to your face. I know some people in your family might not like it if you don’t join them on the rank, but that’s okay. That’s just more of their drama. They’re the ones in charge of whether they have drama or not. And if they invite you to join their drama and you say no, and then they feel more drama about it, that’s their drama could even be all the more reason to stay safely behind the glass. Some people might think this is selfish. 

A lot of people think that when we do things to take care of ourselves and mind our own emotional health, that it’s selfish. But it’s not. It’s keeping you healthy. Because when you’re healthy, you get to show up better for everyone else in your life. But listen, you’re still showing up. You’re still showing up to support and encourage because you care. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t even enter the stadium. And honestly, sometimes that is what we need to do. But that is a whole other podcast. Anyway, family drama. That’s all I have to say about that for today. I hope that helps. All right, what did I start with today? Um oh, yeah, I was talking about flowers. Oh, my gosh. My daisies in my front yard are, like, crazy. I think they’re three and a half feet tall, and they’re super prolific. But anyway, if you want to see my garden, my mom’s garden, if you want to see my other adventures, if you want to be encouraged, if you want to learn more mind renewal tools, if you want to send me messages and communicate with me, find me on Instagram. Just search my name. I am there. So, um, all right, until next time, I’ll either see you on Instagram or that’s it for today. So I’ll catch you next week. Take care of you. 

As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com, to get my free resources or a free coaching call.

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