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Embracing your inner jerk at the Thanksgiving table?

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As the traditional holiday season arrives in force this week, people's stress levels begin to climb. Some of the increasing holiday blood pressure can likely be attributed to family squabbles.

You may begin to ask yourself, “How can I be related to these people?” From your Uncle Bert’s political diatribes to your mother-in-law’s incessant meddling in the kitchen, family can really get under your skin. And there is nothing like squeezing all of you around a cramped table to amplify the conflict. Perhaps another glass of wine?

But maybe there is another way. Author Valerie Frankel’s comedic new memoir, “It’s Hard Not to Hate You,” is an ode to the airing of grievances. Frankel posits that the best way to deal with these toxic emotions is by taking them out on the toxic people in your life.

Frankel says that tense situations often stem from the fact that many people return to their childhood home for the holidays, where they may encounter relatives who have a habit of pushing buttons.

While many say the best way to cope is to "just grin and bear it," Frankel say biting your tongue is ineffective and does not solve the problem. She prefers a different solution: "Instead just confront it head-on," Frankel says. "There's nothing wrong with cutting through all the unspoken fog that goes on and just bringing it out."

But, she cautions, the way in which you confront your antagonizer is important. Frankel recommends the use of humor and witty deflective comments instead of theatrical accusations to call attention to what the other is doing. They may not even realize how their words affect you until you confront them.

"Even if you say, 'Hey, you're hurting my feelings -- let's not go there for once,' they should be able to accept that and respect you for that," she says.

For those who know for certain that their relatives' inflammatory comments will make them upset, Frankel supports alternative holiday celebrations with friends and other non-family members. "Why not do something that you know will make you feel thankful and grateful on the holiday when you're supposed to be counting your blessings?" she says. "Families shouldn't get a free pass just because it's a traditional holiday."

Frankel does not advocate turning the holiday dinner into a screaming match but she says facing the issue directly is the only way to make a breakthrough. "Letting people get away with their old bad habits doesn't serve anybody's good."


Is it possible to feel better by reveling in negative emotions? What kinds of battles do you expect at your Thanksgiving table this year? And how will you deal with them?


Valerie Frankel, author of "It’s Hard Not to Hate You"; former articles editor at Mademoiselle; contributor to the New York Times, O, Glamour and others