Helping family to understand

My family has a conversation almost every time we gather together (usually at the holidays) that brings up the topic of misophonia. It almost always ends in discussing how I have this horrible problem and that I should do something to change, rather than anyone else in the family being more sensitive and considerate about it. Does anyone have kind/respectful ways to explain the issue without feeling completely enraged?

Alana

I saw this post in one of the misophonia Facebook groups and decided to make a post trying to address their question. Misophonia International has a good article addressing this as well.

If the poster is reading this, hi! I hope you don’t mind me answering your question in this format. I just have a lot to say and not enough patience to try and write out a response on a Facebook comment. Also, what I have to say here can be for anyone having the same issue.

I don’t know the ins and outs of your family situation, but from what I can gather, they are choosing to remain ignorant to the fact that misophonia isn’t something to be changed, but rather only something to cope with. There’s no cure or medication specifically for misophonia. You are also not in control. Just as a person with cancer is not in control, neither are you of your misophonia. The best you can do is cope, but they don’t understand or choose not to. They are either insensitive unintentionally and are saying things to try and help, but are too ignorant; or they think they know what misophonia is and are insensitive on purpose because they are sure they know what they’re talking about. And this enrages you. Or maybe I’m completely off base. Either way, you know your family and what makes them tick.

Ways to explain and be respectful at the same time

Tip #1: This may not work for everyone, but explain as though they were a little kid. I’ll give you a real life example. A friend of mine had a very rocky relationship with her father. They clashed on a lot of things, and she would yell at him and not give him the time of day. Everything he did upset her, even his very presence. She couldn’t stand him. One night, she and her mom were running an errand, and they got to talking about her dad. The mom said, “If a kid was acting like that, would you yell?” My friend said no. By the end of their talk, my friend was in tears. She decided to try her best to fix her relationship with her dad. And she practiced doing this, and started hugging him, which she almost never did. Just like how you would hug a child, she hugged her dad. Eventually, her relationship with her dad got better. She told me every time she looked at him, she imagined him as a child, and she wanted to hug him and make him feel better.

Most adults, if a child is upset, crying, or is insensitive in some way, will try to soothe the child and/or correct behavior without yelling back. They’ll be calm about it and explain why it’s wrong. Because that’s a child and they don’t know any better. Adults won’t talk down to them and are usually better able to handle their anger around children. It’s a teaching opportunity, and you hope this sticks in their mind after awhile. I suggest viewing your family as kids and explaining that misophonia is not something that can be changed. This leads me to my second tip;

Tip #2: Provide a short article or two. Most adults require evidence about something before believing it is true. Save an article on your phone and pull it out when the opportunity arises. Send it to the family and have them read, and offer to answer questions if they have any. You know misophonia and how it feels like because you have it. Misophonia International has a bunch of articles on their site and is a good source of information, from research to personal stories.

Tip #3: There is a documentary out called Quiet Please… and it “…explores the emotional and psychological impact that misophonia has on a sufferer, but also on their relationships, family dynamic, careers, and certainly every aspect of their lives.” DVDs were offered for awhile, so if there are still some available for purchase, I recommend buying it and making time to watch it yourself (that way you’re comfortable don’t have anyone to worry about when it comes to triggers). Then, give it to your family to watch. If DVDs are no longer available–or you/your family prefer streaming services–the film is offered on Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, and vimeo on demand.

Tip #4: Deep breathing exercises before seeing your family. Maybe an hour or so before, and/or some time after if you were particularly stressed. You might consider doing this daily. Deep breathing helps with anxiety and calms your wandering mind. It has, for me, helped me be less angry and enraged (though not completely). This article goes over ten breathing exercises to try. There’s also an app called Headspace that is good for meditation, but if you’re triggered by specific letter sounds (like “s”, “p”, or “t”), I don’t recommend it as it’s very audio heavy.

Tip #5: Mood tracking. I wasn’t going to include this originally, but I figured it could be beneficial for some people. If you prefer apps for tracking things, Daylio is a great app for mood tracking and for people who don’t want to write a lot. You can add your own moods and activities and see your monthly and yearly stats. It’s helped me out a lot in its visual representation of how I’ve felt and what activities were associated with how I was feeling. I wrote about the app here if you’re interested in knowing more. If you prefer a physical notebook, here’s an article on minimalist bullet journaling to get you started with ideas.

I hope you found these tips useful. Let me know in the comments what you think would be helpful or would like to try. If you have tips of your own, feel free to add them! Until next time.

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