Unfortunately there is no video this week. It's a pretty quick read though :-)
Do Holiday Gatherings Bring You Joy or Anxiety (or perhaps some of both)?
Spending time with family over the holidays can be great fun, but for some of us they can also be highly stressful and conflicting experiences.
Those who enjoy primarily harmonious experiences when spending time with your core and/or extended family members, that’s wonderful! Consider yourselves lucky. For there are others who dread such family events.
It could be one or both parents critiquing or judging your choices in life; it could be too much alcohol contributing to heated debates. It could be an ornery grandparent, or opinionated aunt or uncle. It could be a clash of parenting styles and/or lots of rowdy children on sugar highs seeing who can scream the loudest and then inviting everyone to witness their respective meltdowns once the sugar wears off.
It All Comes Down To Culture.
You see, each family has its own unique culture or way of interacting and doing things.
Once we’ve grown up, left our family home, and developed our own personal preferences and/or adopted the preferences of a significant other, we change.
While we may continue with some of the ways of our original family, we also create our own personal and relationship or family culture too.
What’s fascinating about this is that even though we evolve to develop our own way of doing things, for whatever reason, when we return to our family - especially when it’s in the same home in which we were raised, or when everyone in the family shows up - aspects of that original family culture can return as well.
Even though there are additional people such as significant others, spouses or children added to the mix, the strength of the original family culture can compel us to revert to a different version of ourselves. A version we might not particularly like either in ourselves or in others.
And it’s at this point where we can lose sight of our reason for being together in the first place; to celebrate the joy of the season.
Here are some examples: We revert to our 15 year-old self when one or both parents begin an inquisition about our life choices. Siblings might resort to their childhood dynamics and power struggles, even though they’re now well into adulthood. We may feel unheard, under appreciated and misunderstood, because some or all of our family doesn’t really understand who we are as adults, and tend to treat us the same way they always did, which we might have perceived as not all that great.
How To Have An Enjoyable Family Experience:
The purpose of today’s post isn’t to depress you though. Even though culture can have a strange pull on our psyches, that doesn’t mean we have to go along with it. There are a number of things you can do if you find yourself in this type of situation:
This might sound like a warning, but what it really means is that when you aware of the large influence culture can have on the way we are in certain situations you gain power over the situation. If you head into the gathering intentional about looking for and noticing the different family norms and dynamics, you can choose whether or not to engage instead of allowing them to automatically hook you.
Getting hooked is a sign that you aren’t paying attention and have lost your intentional edge. If you notice this happening, excuse yourself from the room, take a short break to breath deeply and recenter yourself. Return once you’ve shifted back into intentional awareness.
Another aspect of being aware is that if you can notice where friction usually occurs, you might be able to change your approach or response to reduce it. For example, I noticed my mother really liked to teach me things, yet I often perceived her attempts to teach as her telling me what to do, which I then resisted.
Once I recognized that she just wanted to share her knowledge with me, I began experimenting with ways in which she could do it. When I allowed her to teach as she desired, my resistance decreased and we got along wonderfully.
If you feel like your family doesn’t really know the person you are today, it’s likely others feel that way too. Asking genuine questions (not to gather fodder for later use in a joke or sarcastic remark) can open the door to some great conversations and potentially updated bonds with family members.
What can you take the time to understand about your parents, siblings or other members of your family?
Accept Others For Who They Are.
Acceptance does not mean agreement. This is important to understand, because it’s the confusion between acceptance and agreement that often leads to family rifts.
Let’s say your brother has a very different political perspective than you do, which has lead to heated arguments in the past. What if you accept that your brother is his own person, lives his life the way he believes is best, and that it’s okay that he has a different point-of-view?
This in no way suggests that you have to agree with his perspective, just that you recognize your differences.
This perspective can release the tension associated with judgment; when one person feels judged by another because they aren’t conforming to that person’s beliefs or ideals. Accepting that we’re all different can go a long way towards fire prevention.
From the need to control other’s experiences. Despite how much you may want to at times, you can’t control other people. It can be especially easy to fall into the control trap when you want others to react a certain way to something, such as a particular moment in a movie, or an experience you’ve tried to create.
Instead, focus on creating a great experience for yourself, and accept that others may or may not experience something similar. And if they don’t, too bad for them. Might sound harsh, but it is not your job to ensure other people’s happiness; it’s your job to ensure your own.
From the drama. The best way to break a pattern of behavior is to disconnect yourself from it. If you don’t engage, the pattern begins to collapse.
Others might try hard to hook you in, but if you refuse, there’s nothing they can do and eventually they’ll leave you out of it. That might not resolve conflict completely - if there are several others involved it can still occur - but at least you won’t be in the heart of it.
I put this one last because it’s the most important and often the most frequently forgotten approach.
Why do we care for these people? Why are we here to celebrate together? What is the true purpose behind this gathering?
Focusing on the reason behind our gathering, and what the people we're with mean to us can help to keep the mood positive, and conversations more congenial.
Speaking of Happy Holidays...
That’s it for 2016. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried any of these tips out and/or how they worked out for you.
A heartfelt THANK YOU for reading and/or watching my Mindset Monday series, and the warmest and best wishes to you and yours this holiday season. ~M
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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