It’s the time of the year when families gather together for the holidays. Many people have to interact with a family member who is difficult and brings up negative emotions. You don’t have to go through this holiday the way you’ve done it in the past. Use the following 5 guidelines to help you have the experience you want– not the one you’ve been repeating for years!
1) Make this holiday your biggest self-awareness event of the year: This is a great opportunity for you to become aware of behavior patterns that you do with this family member (which you are likely doing elsewhere in your life as well.) Ask yourself what is the pattern you developed to deal with this difficult person? Do you fold and say yes when you really want to say no just because it’s easier and you don’t know how to express your boundaries? Do you find yourself needing to feel responsible for that person’s experience and get engrossed in taking control over their details? We can get so caught up in the day to day that we don’t take a step back to reflect on what patterns we bring into interactions.
2) Act don’t React
Do you emotionally react to that difficult person? When you react, you ‘re-activate’ something that you feel insecure about. This insecurity is like have kindling inside you and that person’s behavior is like a match which ignites it.
When you are in your power, you will no longer take their words personally because you know how to source your confidence from within. When you are in your power you define your worth, so that person’s outdated view of you can no longer dim your light or make you feel ‘less than’. If you find yourself reacting to that person’s behavior, it means that you still have an opportunity love yourself and believe in yourself more.
3) Prioritize your mental well being.
This year plan what you will do – and not do – throughout the whole holiday based on the criteria of you staying ‘good in you’. You can set boundaries with family members and you don’t have to explain yourself.
If your family interactions have left you in the past feeling resentful, or lonely, or taken advantage of, you don’t have to participate on those terms this year. You can decide to make different plans with an intentional family or your (not ‘logical’) family. “I’m not going to come home this holiday, I’ll look forward to seeing you another time soon” or “I’m going to come for Thanksgiving but stay in a hotel,” or “I’m going to come for the meal but not stay the whole day.” You can also create a safe emotional environment for others who will be there, such as starting with a ground rule “Hey, how about let’s save talk about politics until after the Thanksgiving meal.”
4)Keep a healthy perspective on your difficult family member
When you interact with a difficult family member, you may be tempted to try to change that person–that will be a losing battle. Try to cultivate compassion for them by knowing that if they are stuck in old perceptions of you, they
are probably not feeling very good about themselves. Try to think about what it will be like when the person is no longer on the Earth, then appreciate them for what they do bring. Accept others where they are on their journey.
5)Practice healthy detachment. Think of what behavior the person might do that would be “going too far” for you to tolerate. That’s where you “draw the line in the sand’. As long as their behavior doesn’t get to that point, they may be unpleasant to deal with but you are choosing to tolerate it and stay engaged in your family gathering. If the person’s behavior crosses that line, then have a pre-planned response (such as ask to excuse yourself, or publicly ask that person to stop what they are doing.)
You don’t have to resolve the relationship or win any arguments this particular holiday, you just have to get through it so that after the holiday you can continue on with a life you love, and one that you’ve chosen.
–Sharon’s new book is In Your Power: React Less, Regain Control, Raise Others.