While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On people who see therapy as an admission of weakness:
I'm a guy. I'm also someone you might have met at a Mensa meeting years ago when I was kind of an elitist, arrogant toe rag. Going to a therapist is something I just would not have done; so much of my self-worth was wrapped in being smarter than people that admitting I needed help thinking through something would have been unthinkable.
Sadly, it took some traumatic events to wake me up to the fact that maybe I didn't know everything about everything. And an amazing revelation that people could still like/love me if I was fallible. I don't know how to make someone see the light, but if a person is agreeable and really tries, therapy might really help.
On older relatives who play favorites:
My grandparents' generation (all four sides) had a total of over two dozen siblings. During my 20-year Navy career, I made it a point to appear to be a good nephew by sending postcards from foreign ports and remembering birthdays and anniversaries, mostly because I enjoyed getting mail and care packages at sea. I'm a terrible gift-giver, but I learned that a really appreciated gift for an elderly relative was a roll of 100 stamps, so that became my go-to gift.
Shortly before I retired, a great-aunt who had lost her only child in World War II passed and left me everything. She mentioned in her will that she chose me as her heir because I didn't forget her.
I really didn't know how much the cards I sent every so often and the occasional letter meant to her, but evidently it meant almost a million bucks. I didn't scheme to get into relatives' wills — I was probably as lonely at sea as they were at home, and I really hated mail-calls if I had nothing. I had lots of time to write, so I reached out. Who knew, right?
If I had been smart enough to realize what I was doing, I would have been much more diligent in my correspondence. My brother is still jealous.
On getting worked up over thank-you notes:
I wish to share something about another kind of thank-you note. A couple of years ago, one of my favorite college professors died. I sent a note to his widow telling why he had made such a tremendous, positive difference in my life. She, to my surprise, remembered me, and gave me the gift of a wonderful letter in return.
Since then, I have written several "thank-you" notes to people who helped me in one way or another, just through generosity. It's for good karma, not direct reward, but, my gosh, people who have done good or been generous like knowing that the recipients noticed.
On dealing with someone who continually dredges up old grievances:
A line we use in our family in a lot of similar situations: "So what's your point?"
Granted, it is usually used with humor. But maybe that is something else that needs to be added to the communication.