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Can we really have a warm Christmas with the family?

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“The problem with Christmas, believes Bruno Clavier, a transgenerational psychoanalyst, is that it is a social convention. Everyone meets on a somewhat compelling basis, while day-to-day relationships may have become strained for all sorts of reasons that are still ongoing. Everyone looks forward to New Year’s Eve in the hope of rediscovering a bit of childhood magic. But in practice many questions arise, highlighting family tensions: who will we turn to this year? Who will be there? My little brother is going to sneak away again, my mother is going to make comments about my dress, my weight, my jules; my father prefers his other son-in-law to his, that’s obvious; As for my sister-in-law, what will she find to say about my children? And I, in all this, will I continue swallowing snakes or will I manage to be myself? “The holidays are very dedicated to confirming the ideal family that we would like to be, the one that we were missing”, comments Juliette Allais, a psychotherapist also trained in transgenerational. But the moments of reunion reveal the gap between the ideal and reality. And sometimes it is very painful. »

We fight, we take offense without realizing that we are caught up in issues that are beyond us and that have their origin in the family past or in group dynamics. “Families are like icebergs,” Juliette Allais continues. They have their submerged parts, their underground currents. Even the tightest-knit can be forced to play Perfect Families due to their injuries. It is about becoming aware of what is happening and staying in our adult part so that it affects us less. So what circulates among the guests? What generates distrust, resentment, childish reactions? How to prevent the festivities from degenerating and end New Year’s Eve peacefully?

opposing forces

“In general, there is love in families, describes Mony Elkaïm, systemic family therapist. The problem is that, even as adults, we experience ourselves as unloved, because parental love is always restless, controlling, intrusive. He mimes: “How is your work going? You should have done the opposite, why didn’t you ask me? Don’t you want to stay a few more days? And he continues: “Our parents worry, they would always want the best for us. And it’s hard for them to find the right balance between supporting us and letting us breathe. Juliette Allais agrees: “Our relationships with our parents are necessarily conflictual because we are caught between opposing forces. One, centripetal: the attraction of the family clan that would like to have us close to it; the other, centrifugal: the vital aspiration to emancipate ourselves from it to build our own existence. Nothing too serious, as long as you are aware of it.

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repetitive scenarios

Things get complicated when, to the great concern of the parents, is added the pressure of “their unfinished business”, as Juliette Allais calls them: all their resignations, what they did not receive, what they would have liked to comply with. Her love for us is then full of contradictions: you will do what you want, except this job, less marrying this person, because that questions me too much. “Families where people are allowed to be themselves are rare,” says the therapist. This requires great maturity. We know that our children do not belong to us, but it is not so easy to see them grow up without waiting for them to repair us, comfort us, value us. »

So “when families meet, they play repetitive scenarios,” says Samaï Fossat, a trainer in family and systemic constellations. Parents unconsciously always make the same demands on their children who, even when they grow up, address them with the same reproaches, basically, “Don’t let me down” versus “You never accepted me.” “I don’t know any adults,” Bruno Clavier observes. I only see improved children, with their injuries and childish reactions. Especially at Christmas…”

complementary roles

Conflicts often arise when changes occur in children’s lives. “When they make decisions (divorce, change jobs) that move them away from the ideal projected on them. And that these choices are shown in front of the reunited family”, says Juliette Allais. So often one of the parents gets stuck: “What did I do? Is he (my son) normal? Is she (my daughter) happy? It’s my fault? », while the other tries to temper. “You should be able to ask yourself: where does he come looking for me? What makes me work? How to preserve the bond with my son, my daughter? “says the practitioner. Instead, the family group resists, aiming to return to its original configuration.

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Homeostasis: The term refers to the ability of an organism to maintain its balance. “It explains that criticism is made to discourage change, that alliances are created (with stepchildren, grandchildren, etc.) to expel intruders, that everyone assumes complementary roles (the black sheep, the savior…), or even that loyalties persist from generation to generation”, says Bruno Clavier. It is the son whose alcoholism serves to express the father’s unspoken suffering, the daughter who rebels to avenge the sacrificed women of her lineage, the one who has a child only to replace the one lost by her mother or her grandmother…

“Unconsciously, we are all therapists for our parents,” continues the psychoanalyst. In a brother, each one assumes something of the suffering of the father or the mother and tries to solve it. The hard part is that the gift that the child therapist gives in trying to make amends for their parents is generally not well received. And draws upon him the disapproval of the clan. The best thing, encourages the psychoanalyst, is to “stop being your parents’ therapist, also stop expecting from them what they cannot give: more attention, more approval… And ask someone else for love. His spouse, for example.

our survival manual

How to survive your family? The joke is on everyone’s lips as the holidays approach”, complains Juliette Allais. For Mony Elkaïm, “the question arises at different moments in life: adolescence, choosing a career, forming a couple. The challenge is to be able to be yourself, make your own decisions and assume them, not lose yourself to please your parents or annoy them”. This means being aware of the telluric forces that act under the tree, questioning what the choice of places, gifts and conversations reveal. What is said? What is being asked of me and why?

“In systemic therapy, Mony Elkaïm details, we explore the symptom in its intrapsychic meaning, but also and above all in its function in relation to the context: what is the use of the group always putting me in the same place – as a rebel, as a failure , ideal son-in-law… What good is it for him that I fail, that I get angry, that I stay alone…? “It is also a question of understanding why we have accepted to occupy these places for so long: “Because we were already very young, we sensed that by moving away from him, one of our parents was at risk of collapsing”, Bruno Clavier advances. Therapies can help us break with these alienating mandates: transgenerational psychoanalysis, climbing the branches of the family tree in search of the “unfinished” Juliette Allais speaks of; the family constellations, “staging the relationships between the members of the group and what they reveal about the family unconscious”, specifies Samaï Fossat. And making it possible to experiment, through space travel, with other ways of relating, of resolving conflicts and of cooperating around common problems”.

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Meanwhile, on New Year’s Eve, “avoid conflict!” encourages Mony Elkaim. This is useless. First, because those who love us do not understand it and experience it as ingratitude. So, because the spiral does not make sense: when the tone rises, it is always that the other invites me to choose, among all the possible reactions, the one that will reinforce a negative belief: he attacks me, I attack in return, and that reinforces. their idea that I am unlivable”. The important thing, the therapist believes, is not to establish who is right or who is wrong -because everyone has their reasons- but to achieve peace by being different. And maintaining the freedom of their reactions: “I know that you tell me such a thing out of love, but let me think otherwise, make other choices. Christmas is an opportunity for families to celebrate being together and being alive, “it is an opportunity, even if someone is missing at the table, even if the turkey,” smiles Juliette Allais. The best thing, she suggests, is to try to “speak honestly with yourself, don’t expect too much from others, don’t judge yourself… and don’t drink too much so you don’t spoil the party”!

to go further

==> I am “Christmas phobic”

For them, Christmas is a nightmare. They are “Christmasphobes”. A suggestive neologism to designate the fear of this year-end ritual better known as “natalophobia”. A fear, an anguish even for some. Explanations and tips to make the party more digestible.

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Family / Couple

Separation: the signs that can predict the breakup three months in advance

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A study published in February 2021, in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, made it possible to identify certain elements of idiom what would allow predict a breakup three months before it happens. To achieve this, researchers from the University of Texas analyzed more than a million posts on romantic relationships on the Reddit site. They discovered that the vocabulary used by users changed three months before the split and didn’t return to normal until about six months later. “It would seem that even before the people involved are aware of the breakup, it starts to affect their lives,” said Sarah Seraj, one of the study’s author psychologists.

Different “language markers”

According to the researchers, we do not pay a particular attention the expressions, pronouns and prepositions that we use daily. Now, these function words say a lot about our life situation, so they change perceptibly when our the psychological and emotional state deteriorates. “Whether the person leaves their partner or vice versa, the language markers changed up to three months before the breakup,” adds the psychologist.

The language used becomes more personal and informal, indicating a decline in analytical thinking. According to the expert, these people use pronouns like “I” Where “to meto the detriment of “we” or “we”, more attached to the notion of a couple. This indicator would be a signal of a heavy mental load, illustrating going through an intense period of internal reflection and rumination, making us more centered in ourselves Furthermore, the frequent use of the pronoun “I” would be associated with sadness and depressiondetails Sarah Seraj. When we are depressed, we focus more on ourselves and are less and less able to relate to others.

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Those significant changes they reached their climax at the time of the breakup and lasted up to six months later, even though those concerned discussed topics other than their separation or love life.

Our language, responsible for our traumas?

Scientists have also discovered that it is our idiom which would be largely responsible our ability or not to heal and overcome the trauma of a breakup. The people who kept the same way of speaking until a year later separation, by continually evoking and remembering this painful episode, took the longest to recover and move on. And this, regardless of the trauma experienced: divorce, loss of a loved one or other emotional upset, according to the researchers. “Thanks to this study, we can better understand the different challenges of life, being more attentive to our way of speaking,” concludes Kate Blackburn, psychologist.

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Family / Couple

Separation: the signs that can predict the breakup three months in advance

Published

on

A study published in February 2021, in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, made it possible to identify certain elements of idiom what would allow predict a breakup three months before it happens. To achieve this, researchers from the University of Texas analyzed more than a million posts on romantic relationships on the Reddit site. They discovered that the vocabulary used by users changed three months before the split and didn’t return to normal until about six months later. “It would seem that even before the people involved are aware of the breakup, it starts to affect their lives,” said Sarah Seraj, one of the study’s author psychologists.

Different “language markers”

According to the researchers, we do not pay a particular attention the expressions, pronouns and prepositions that we use daily. Now, these function words say a lot about our life situation, so they change perceptibly when our the psychological and emotional state deteriorates. “Whether the person leaves their partner or vice versa, the language markers changed up to three months before the breakup,” adds the psychologist.

The language used becomes more personal and informal, indicating a decline in analytical thinking. According to the expert, these people use pronouns like “I” Where “to meto the detriment of “we” or “we”, more attached to the notion of a couple. This indicator would be a signal of a heavy mental load, illustrating going through an intense period of internal reflection and rumination, making us more centered in ourselves Furthermore, the frequent use of the pronoun “I” would be associated with sadness and depressiondetails Sarah Seraj. When we are depressed, we focus more on ourselves and are less and less able to relate to others.

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Those significant changes they reached their climax at the time of the breakup and lasted up to six months later, even though those concerned discussed topics other than their separation or love life.

Our language, responsible for our traumas?

Scientists have also discovered that it is our idiom which would be largely responsible our ability or not to heal and overcome the trauma of a breakup. The people who kept the same way of speaking until a year later separation, by continually evoking and remembering this painful episode, took the longest to recover and move on. And this, regardless of the trauma experienced: divorce, loss of a loved one or other emotional upset, according to the researchers. “Thanks to this study, we can better understand the different challenges of life, being more attentive to our way of speaking,” concludes Kate Blackburn, psychologist.

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Family / Couple

‘Sex Debt’: Why Women Sometimes Feel Pressured to Have Unwanted Sex

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The conversation

Faced with such attention, many of them have sometimes agreed to engage in sexual experiences (kissing, caressing, oral sex, sexual relations) with men without necessarily wanting to, but out of a feeling of responsibility. This sense of responsibility was also expressed by some young men in same-sex relationships.

In this article, however, we choose to focus on heterosexual relationships, where this logic has emerged most markedly.

Les jeunes femmes rencontrées explicant que, si elles ont acepté, ce n’est pas parce qu’elles n’arrivent pas à dire non, mais parce qu’elles auraient dû se douter qu’en acceptant ces faveurs, elles créeraient des attentes sexualles in his house.

Always willing men and always sexually available women?

Sexuality, like other social practices, can be understood as a space where sexual relations materialize.

If the young women interviewed feel more indebted to sex than the young men, it is because they are subject to behavioral expectations linked to a system of binary representations of sexuality called “heteronormativity”.

In this system, sex corresponds to gender and heterosexuality is the norm.

In this logic, the sexual roles of men and women are understood as different and complementary: male sexuality is characterized by assertiveness, sexual performance, virility, and sexual desire associated with physiological needs. Female sexuality, of a relational nature, is linked to affectivity and conjugality.

Various studies show that these representations are still the majority in our societies today.

according to one French survey, 73% of French women and 59% of men adhere to the belief that “by nature, men have more sexual needs than women”. Also according to this survey, this belief has an impact on the sexual practices of women who recognize that they are more willing to have sex without wanting to.

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An investigation carried out in Switzerland among young people aged 26 on average reveals that 53% of the women surveyed have agreed to have sexual relations. without desire.

Sex “debts”

The results of our study point in the same direction and highlight that the heteronormative order engenders what can be called “sex debts”. We are interested in sexual transactions, that is, sexual experiences associated with an economic, material and/or symbolic exchange.

As for young women, our analyzes show that if they are found more often than young men accepting unwanted sexual transactionsit is due to the fact that in the “gender order”, female sexuality is posed as a “sexual debt” that leads them to feel indebted to the sexual expectations of men.

However, by consenting to sexual transactions without necessarily wanting it, women confirm their own “sexual debt” to men, which is to ensure an assertive, determined and desiring sexuality, and which sometimes leads them to show (apparent) detachment from women. demands.

Thus, women and men come together in the complementarity of their “sexual debts”, but in a hierarchical relationship: women think that they have no choice but to offer their sexuality in response to the supposed expectations of men, to whom they affirm that they do not they have no choice but to be willing, sexually available, and successful.

Consequently, they reproduce, without necessarily wanting it, “gender order”.

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Consent: A Negotiation Process

Sexual experiences are part of a reciprocal bargaining relationship where, depending on the situation, not everything is arranged in advance. In the case we are analyzing, the young people retain a certain freedom, which allows them to negotiate the rest of the transaction, despite the feeling of responsibility that may arise.

In particular, some young women have stated that they find some advantages in these unwanted sexual relations, which can be material (housing, food, etc.) and/or symbolic (feeling of recognition, protection, etc.). Other young women refuse to conform to the expectations linked to their gender and adopt behaviors more associated with the masculine gender, for example being assertive both verbally and in attitude or clearly expressing their limits and leaving little room for what is implicit and misunderstandings.

However, these strategies often have a limited effect, since they consist of changing the behavior of women, without questioning the heterosexual order within which these behaviors occur.

These results show that sexual consent is a complex process that cannot be reduced to saying “yes” or “no” and that “accepting” does not necessarily mean “wanting”.

Thus, the feeling of responsibility reveals the logic associated with a “gender order” based on heteronormativity. However, sexual consent is not the sole responsibility of individuals, especially women, to assert their rights. Our conclusions invite us to understand sexual consent as a negotiation process, between conformity to gender norms and the bargaining power of individuals.

An article published in The conversation through Mirian CarbajalProfessor, University of Social Work, Western Swiss University of Applied Sciences (HES-SO) and Anamaria ColomboProfessor, Friborg University of Social Work, Western Swiss University of Applied Sciences (HES-SO).

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