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'Tis The Season

It’s the Holidays!! So many mixed emotions this time of year. This time of year brings a lot of family gatherings and family time in general, and with family can come so many past wounds and unresolved feelings. Why is that the people that “love us the most” also seem to bring us the most pain?

Well, here is some food for thought that just may make family gatherings a bit smoother!

First of all, if you really think about it, of course the people that love us the most, most often family, also hurt us the most. These are the group of people you are most vulnerable with, you share a history with them, experiences, laughs, cries, arguments, and biology! We love them the most because of all of the stuff that connects us together…. So where does the pain come in? Well if someone knows us that well and has spent significant amounts of time with us, then they also know the bad things. They know what our weaknesses our and which buttons to press. Family can hurt us the most because our connection to them is so strong and so intimate that the slightest threat to that bond can feel the same as the day a loved one passed away. This complicated relationship can often make it so difficult to let go of grudges and past hurts and be in the moment with family. Consider this, they may not be trying to hurt you, they many not even realize they are hurting you, but instead look for those signs that they do love you and they actually want the best for you. Try to move your attention from the underhanded passive aggressive dig at your choice of dress and instead focus on the tight hug and warm smile they gave you when they walked through the door, or the side hug you received in the middle of conversation, or the words of encouragement that were well intentioned.

Secondly, let’s talk about our own dispositions. It is so easy to find ourselves in a lose lose situation with family. That kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t cycle. No matter what I do it’s going to disappoint them and going to give them a reason to judge me. Take stock of your own thinking. I often find that when I feel trapped by the judgement and pressure of family, that really at least 50 percent of that is self inflicted. Recently, I found myself newly married and feeling immense pressure to have a baby. I was feeling frustrated and hurt, why can’t my family just understand we aren’t ready to have kids yet, why can’t they just be happy for me and let me live my life? Sound remotely familiar? Well, when I stopped and took stock of what was actually happening in the room, I was the only one talking about having kids and starting a family of my own. My parents didn’t mention it, and my sisters mentioned a joke or two about me being a mom, but nobody asked if we wanted kids, or when we wanted kids, or even if we were pregnant. No one engaged in conversation about mine and my husband’s decisions, I was having the conversation by myself in my head. This is a trap I still fall into all of the time, it always helps me to really take inventory of who is actually, explicitly putting pressure on me or demanding I make a choice.

These two are some of my strongest strategies for not just surviving the holidays but really getting to enjoy them and leave feeling tired, but with a smile on my face, because ultimately family is family and I wouldn’t want to change that even if I could.

What are your strategies for thriving during the holiday family gatherings?