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Do you have a tyrant, a victim or a drama queen in your family? Many of us will recognise these characteristics in people we are close to – and even ourselves. Martha Roberts explains how to change dynamics, and keep the peace over the festive season

Picture the scene – you’re all out celebrating a family birthday in a restaurant when a waiter brings out a dessert topped with sparklers. The trouble is, it’s not for your table.

‘Where’s my cake?’ your birthday girl rages, and you beckon staff to help before the roof blows off. This is all the more mortifying because, while this birthday girl may be acting like a toddler on the verge of a tantrum, she’s actually 55 today, and she’s your mum. In fact, she was my mum.

I loved my mother, who died five years ago, but I have often wondered what caused her to behave this way. Yet, the fact is, many of us have family members who we often find ourselves tiptoeing around; the people who dominate the mood and atmosphere for everyone else around them.

Causes and effects

If this sounds like your family when you all get together, be reassured you are not alone. ‘If you were to ask people, I think about 70 per cent would say their family winds them up more than anybody else,’ says Dr Mandy Bryon, consultant clinical psychologist and head of paediatric psychology and play services at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

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Psychologies January 2017 - How To Be Charming