i’ve been watching a lot of American Chopper over the holidays. time off = marathon television. i’ve been fascinated by the Senior vs. Junior (Paul Teutul vs. Pauly Teutul) feud since the beginning. i’d like to say i’m not that shallow, but i don’t like to lie. actually, that’s not entirely true. most of the time, i find reality television hard to watch when the pain is…well, real. it can’t help family relations when the entire world is invited to watch the carnage.
when it come to American Chopper, i make an exception. the dynamic between father and son is like watching an old pit bull antagonize a smarter, younger mountain lion. the pit bull is all bite, bark and agro; while the mountain lion knows that it could rain down pain yet chooses not to.
if you couldn’t tell, i’m team Junior.
his bikes are brilliant. he seems like he’d be great to have a beer with. and he continually takes the high road when it comes to the conflict between him and Senior.
not an easy feat when you’re being sued by your dad.
while Senior is launching dummies dressed like Junior off of ramps, Pauly is encouraging his younger brother Mikey to maintain email communication with their dad. while Senior is telling anyone who will listen how useless Junior is, Pauly is building bikes and melting faces at Sturgis.
the way Pauly handles himself under enormous pressure is a study in riseaboveitness. he wins by not fighting back. but the most respectable thing is that he doesn’t see it as winning. he finds it all very sad.
and he should.
anytime you are facing unresolvable conflict with a family member, it sucks. there’s nothing about it that feels good or is anywhere close to happy making. why talk about this now, in the middle of the holidays? because that’s usually when it all comes under the microscope and gets magnified about a 1000%.
my own family is dealing with this. no one is immune.
when you are dealing with someone who is convinced they are absolutely right and they absolutely aren’t, it’s like exfoliating with belt sander. only not as fun. throw in completely unreasonable and you’ve got your own little emotional armageddon.
i’m going to take some pages out of Pauly’s book of class, to help the rest of us handle the chaos.
1. retaliate vs. respond – if confronted directly or even indirectly (Senior has taken to driving by Junior’s shop and revving his engines), respond reasonably to the unreasonable. stay calm. even if it’s only on the surface. people who attack are looking to get a rise out of you. the less you give it to them, the quicker they’ll give up. “sorry you feel that way”, shoulder shrugging, outright ignoring…whatever works best for the situation. just don’t retaliate. retaliation is the lit match to the stick of dynamite. nobody wins and there’s very likely to be extensive collateral damage.
2. lemon juice vs. honey – it can be really tough to remain positive when faced with constant bitterness. Senior goes out of his way to bad mouth Junior, Pauly supports his brother’s effort to keep communication open with their dad. stay above it. someone like Senior wants nothing more than for you to cave and slide down into the tar pit with him. don’t do it. that just validates the bad behavior. fix what you can fix, encourage what you can encourage and stay as far away from bitterness as you can get.
3. aggression vs. moving on – this is your choice between being a jerk and being at peace. Senior sues his son, Pauly opens a new business. let other people waste energy on making their life miserable. you have better things to do. live your life. make choices that move you in a positive direction. succeed on your own terms; even in spite of those who would try to inflict their own special brand of nastiness on you. their problems are not your problems. you know how child psychologists say to just ignore the bad behavior? even when they’re throwing tantrums on the floor? yeah. it works much better on adults than it does on children.
4. victim vs. victor – one of the universal trademarks of someone who feels the need to lash out, be unreasonable, cause drama, no matter the circumstances, is that they are always the victim. everything wrong in their life is someone else’s fault. most likely, it’s YOUR fault. at least in their jacked-up head it is. the truth? they need a reason to justify their own issues and you’re an easy target. let them play the victim and just be you. you win by living your life without allowing them any power over your happiness or contentment.
people can be awful. especially family members. they know which buttons to push. darn them. but you are only responsible for your own actions. no matter what someone else may do, you have to be able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and answer to the one looking back at you. you are also responsible for not dragging anyone else into the drama, if it is in your power to keep them out if it.
understand that when i say you, i mean me. i’m in the middle of it. i have to work at not being provoked. words are my thing. it’s rough to choose to hold my tongue instead of using it as a weapon of mass destruction. but i find with each day i succeed at staying on the high road, it gets easier to stay there.
how do you deal with family conflict?
*fyi: the family conflict i’m dealing with is not between craig and i. apparently the way i said that made it seem as though my marriage was hanging by a thread. not so. lol.