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ducky_dnl's avatar

How can I politely tell my family to be more optimistic?

Asked by ducky_dnl (5371 points ) January 10th, 2011 from iPhone

I’ll start off by saying that my family is highly dysfunctional. Now to the question. My family talks only about death, murder and rape. I am sick and tired of hearing about it. It’s constant. I’ll wake up and my mom will be like: “Morning! Hey did you hear about the guy that got shot over on the north side?” I know for a fact that she learned it from her mother. My moms mother calls every 15–20 minutes talking about someone getting killed. She literally gets off on it. I have asked my mom to try to get her involuntary treatment because she needs help. She is a danger to herself and my family. She knocks me down all the time by calling me a failure, she says my mom is the reason for my problems, etc. I just want a somewhat normal optimistic family that sees more to life than murder. I mean driving to see a car accident isn’t what I call functional? How can I bring it up without losing my head? I just want to scream and beat the crap out of them.

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16 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

I think you know that you are sitting on a powder keg, that’s about to explode, right?

How old are you and go into detail about the assaults your mother makes on you.

deni's avatar

My moms boyfriend is kinda like this. He is always watching the news and C-Span which, for the news anyhow, only talk about the negative things that happen in the world. It’s fucking stupid. Who wants to surround themselves with bad news all the time? I know what you mean, its really a drag.

Can you just politely bring up that dwelling on murders rapes and car accidents that have nothing to do with them is a waste of time? Or at the least, something like “I’m trying to be more optimistic lately and you’re really making it hard by filling me in on who got raped and how many times and how many people got shot last night” I don’t think it’s a wild request…

J0E's avatar

Lead by example.

ducky_dnl's avatar

@john65pennington it feels like it. It’s not my mom who is the problem, it’s my grandmother. Shes been like this ever since I was little and even before. It’s the only thing that comes out of her mouth. Death! Death! Death! Oh, and calling me and my mom crazy. She drives with my aunt to see car accidents, she follows ambulances to see what it was. Like it’s her business? I’m not snapping on you, btw. She’s just an old crow. I call her AOD or Angel of Death as sort of a joke.

marinelife's avatar

First, you need to become reconciled to the fact that you cannot change the behavior of others.

Next you need to figure out how to respond differently than you have in the past.

Have you tried sitting your mother down in a calm moment and saying, “Mom, I don’t want to hear about death and mayhem all the time.”

See how she responds.

If she brings up death, walk out of the room. If she asks where you are going, say (calmly) “I told you I didn’t want to hear about death all the time.”

Then repeat that every time she brings it up.

A book that may help you is Susan Forward’s Toxic Parents.

Kardamom's avatar

You should sit down with your mom and have a conversation first. Explain to her, what you’ve said to us and then say that you would like to try to do things differently and give a few examples. Then ask her if she’s on board with trying to change the dynamics.

Some examples of doing things differently:

Have your mom tell granny that she’ll only take one piece of bad news per day, no more taking phone calls every 20 minutes (this will be hard, because granny will still try to call) have your mom tell granny that she’ll put the answering machine on and use it. Tell granny that it’s perfectly fine to call if she personally is having an emergency, or if she wants to call with good news or regular conversation. Have mom tell granny that it would make more sense just to call once a day and limit the amount of time (half hour, say?)

And then tell mom, to start the day with a big hello or howzit going, dear? and not to start off with the death stories.

Get a pad of paper or an erase board and tell mom to start listing the death and destruction on the pad of paper instead of instantly telling you about it.

You should _attempt” to talk to granny, yourself, in the most non-confrontational manner you can (or write her a letter) telling her how much you love her, but you are trying to enter a world that is less negative and so therefore you need her to stop giving you so much negative information and to please realize how much it hurts you when she criticizes you. Tell her that you are doing the best you can, but it makes it harder to be your best when you are constantly being put down or criticized. Tell her that you want to talk to her and have wonderful granny/grandaughter conversations without all of the negativity. She might be mad at first (and you may have to call her repeatedly until she gets used to it).

Then you and mom can both do what my cousin did last month. Write or call each other everyday with assertations of gratitude and good news. If the bad stuff creeps back in, tell them you’re only doing “good stuff” right now (and remind them of the one bad thing per day rule). If you have to say you’ll hang up until later, do so, politely and remind them how much you love them and will talk to them later. You may have to do this repeatedly.

If you have medical insurance, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor (or mom’s doctor) to see if you guys can get a few sessions of family counseling. I recall you saying that your mom had some problems with depression. Does mom already have a doctor or a therapist?

Talk to mom a little more about whether granny needs a little more medical attention from her doctor. It’s not safe for her to be chasing after ambulences and all the negativity is only hurting her family. Maybe someone needs to talk to granny’s doctor and let him know what’s going on.

For your own self, try to be sweet and accomodating without pointing fingers, but let everyone know that you are trying to start living in a more positive manner. Keep reminding everybody how much you love them (even as you are explaining what you will no longer tolerate). Spend more time with friends or other family members who are positive. Be super-positive yourself and just push on. Don’t hesitate to lean on us Fluthers as time moves forward. Good luck : )

choreplay's avatar

The suggesting by @marinelife sounds great. Makes me think of the concepts of another book I read, well listened to as a book on tape. The Dance of Anger. Just realize, your family will resist change, even if it’s just you changing and not them. They will get harsh and try to get you to change back. Thats called the change back reaction. As marinelife said, its not about changing them, its about playing on whay you have control of, YOU. Good luck.

Supacase's avatar

Well, I love @Kardamom‘s suggestions! Especially having her write them down instead of telling you (although, I suspect some of her problem is she wants to share the drama) and limiting her to one negative thing per 20 minutes.

Have you tried busting out with all kinds of positive news? When she talks about a murder, say “Uh huh. Did you hear about that kid who won the spelling bee?” Pose a counter-attack with even the most trivial of positive things and barely acknowledge her negative news.

snowberry's avatar

@Kardamom you have come up with some awesome suggestions. I only wish I could give you 500 more lurve points than I am allowed. So you get it this way instead.

Kardamom's avatar

@snowberry Thanks. One of my friends had a mom that was similar to the granny in this question. Although maybe not quite to the same extent. At first, she used to drive me mad whenever I’d go to visit, but then, I realized that she just craved attention. So I started giving it to her in huge doses. Every time I’d go over there I’d give her a big hug and a kiss and ask her if there was anything she needed me and her daughter to do for her. She usually took us up on it, but I always tried to make funny and interesting conversation with her while I was there. After awhile, I stopped dreading going over there and always had a “prepared” method of positivity whenever I saw her. And she became less negative the more positive attention we showered on her.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’m totally with @marinelife on this. Unless you’re in direct control of a person’s behavior, such as a children’s teacher or a drill sergeant, you can’t do much about modifying behavior or attitude. The best that you can do, if you feel that you need to do something, is suggest a change and let them act on it. I doubt that they will, so don’t invest a lot of time and thought in this.

But you – and only you – are totally in charge of your own actions and reactions. Tell your mom how you feel, and when she does something that violates your notions of what is proper conversation, then terminate the conversation politely, and do that all the time.

Be careful about responding to some of your feelings (I’m reading the last line of your original post): they may have gotten you closer to the dark side than you want to be. You may need to think about leaving, since you’re legally an adult now, to preserve your rules for right living and your sanity.

Good luck.

perspicacious's avatar

It’s not rude to encourage optimism.

ETpro's avatar

Remind them each time you hear them dwelling on the negative and horrible that what you constantly dwell on you bring into existence in your own life. Be sure to catch them in the act of being positive and optimistic whenever it happens, and to reward and encourage that behavior just as much as you discourage the opposite. If that doesn’t seem to help, seek competent professional help and if all else fails, get out of there. If you see someone is determined despite all advice to the contrary to be a train wreck looking for a place to happen, get off the train.

Aleta7777's avatar

BE more optimistic

snowberry's avatar

You could change the answering machine on your cell phone to “Hi, I’m not available right now please leave a message. And have a great day, unless you have other plans!

I did this. It made a point to the people who needed to hear it.

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