The question: My family is dealing with very difficult neighbours. It's causing us so much stress that we are considering moving from our great neighbourhood to a nearby community. At the same time, my wife and I have anxiety over uprooting our young children. I'm tormented over what will be best for our family in the long run. Should we stay or move?
The answer: There are two distinct, yet overlapping issues you are faced with: One, the immediate concern of how to effectively approach and personally cope with the situation regarding your neighbours; and two, whether moving your family is the right long-term solution to a possible perpetual problem.
It's going to be difficult to come to a balanced decision about the second issue until you sort out the first.
All too often, we tend to adopt knee-jerk reactions when we are put in high-stress situations. In-the-moment-solutions that we come up with seem to be the only viable options we have. Unfortunately, however, our decision-making when under high emotional distress is often skewed, and we don't consider all of the pertinent factors that would help make a more rational decision.
This happens as stressful situations elicit a fight-or-flight response in us, which is a very strongly engrained, adaptive response that ensures survival. However, unless you and your family are in acute danger or threatening situation from your neighbours (which doesn't sound to be the case), the response may be mismatched to the situation.
Start by thinking rationally about your situation. Writing down the issues can often help provide some perspective. Be specific and detailed in outlining the issues you have with your neighbours.
Sit down with your wife and do the following:
- List all the specific problems you have or foresee with your neighbours
- Brainstorm at least two to three possible solutions to each of the problems (no need to make a decision at this point, or even to evaluate how good or bad the solutions are, just generate a range of different possible courses of action)
- Make a list of the pros and cons of each of the possible actions
- Come to a decision about the best short-term option (with the most advantages, or least disadvantages) and the best long-term option
Some of the short-term solutions may include having a conversation with those who you are having an issue with, and speaking to other neighbours who may be faced with similar issues (this may help reduce your anxiety if you feel you have some support or understanding from others).
Currently you are only weighing the pros and cons of a move as being the only solution, but there may be other less intrusive options. Ultimately, if you have exhausted all other realistic possibilities, and if the issues with your neighbours are significant in severity and impact, a move may be the decision you and your wife arrive at for the long-term.
Keep in mind that you may encounter a similar problem in a new neighbourhood and that a moving each time is not an effective long-term coping strategy.
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational & media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network's Million Dollar Neighbourhood and is the psychological consultant to CITY-TV's The Bachelor Canada. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra
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