Can’t we ever learn to be happy? Some of us feel sad during the Christmas holidays, because we’re along, while others dread having to travel home for Christmas, where we participate the same old family fights.

Loneliness and family conflicts can be particularly painful at the holidays. Researcher Dan Russell says we should forget the ghosts of Christmas past, and focus on the present and future. He has been studying loneliness for 25 years, and has found no direct correlation between the number of relationships a person has and his or her level of loneliness.

But some of us wish for MORE loneliness. According to researcher Sheila McNamee, who is an expert in communications, there are many reasons why families fight more during the holidays. For one thing, marriage brings people into an extended family that may be filled with people with whom they wouldn’t normally interact. Yet everyone is expected to get along as if they are a homogenous group with similar life experiences.

One of the biggest problems is that, despite the fact that we’re all grown up, we tend to replay our childhood roles when we?re back in our families. If you were the troublemaker as a child, you’ll be cast as (and begin acting as) the troublemaker today. Often we?re bewildered as we watch ourselves acting out these old roles.

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