3 Ways To Survive Going Home For The Holidays
For many years, I wasn't ready to admit that a visit home for the holidays traumatized me so badly that even after returning home, I was in a dark mood for days and sometimes weeks. I often justified my state of mind by blaming it on the long drive home or the pressure of catching up at work. But then I heard something from a teacher named Ed Rabel that opened my eyes to the higher purpose intended by the family dynamic. He said, "Every thing, experience, and circumstance that passes from the realm of possibility into your world of experience has a deeper meaning and purpose. If you don't see this, you're not looking deeply enough."
To me, this meant that my experiences at home had a deeper purpose in life than just providing so much useless, unnecessary suffering. But, like the statement says, sometimes this purpose is not all that apparent unless a person looks past the obvious to find the underlying meaning. So what I want to do is share with you 3 ways I learned to not be victimized by visits home for a holiday.
1. Before You Go Home, Change Your Attitude Toward Your Idea of Family.
Rather than seeing your visit as an emotional tug of war, see it as a learning experience. To do this, it helps you to know that you chose your family before you came into this world. The choice you made for parents and siblings was not necessarily so you would have loving, harmonious relationships. Instead, the selection was determined by how you could improve psychologically and spiritually because of what you would be able to learn from your interactions with them. So, the individuals in your family who punch your buttons are your teachers.
Why is this true? It's because your relationship with them makes you aware of parts of your nature that need to be healed. As a result, they provide you with the opportunity to grow psychologically and spiritually. So, the experience of family, like every experience, "has a deeper meaning and purpose."
To access this meaning, you must look beyond the actions of your family and examine your reactions to them. What feelings are awakened by their words or deeds? These are the things that are important. You cannot change your family. But, you can use them to change yourself!
2. To Survive Going Home for the Holidays, You Must Let Go of the Idea that You Have to Like and Please Your Family.
The individuals in your family are just people and like anyone else in your social world, you either like them or you don't. You get along with them or you don't. The truth is that you can never fully live up to their expectations anyhow! Often their approval is like a moving target because it is motivated by their mood of the moment.
So, don't pretend to agree with things you don't agree with just for the sake of keeping the peace. Don't say things that are inconsistent with what you believe. When you do, it is not just an energy drain. The emotional tug of war gives you a bad feeling that can stay with you even after you return home.
You might ask the question, "But aren't you supposed to love your family?" Well, yes! You must love them, but you don't have to like them. To love someone means you wish them all the good they can accept for themselves. To like someone, on the other hand, means there is a subjective harmony between you. Even Jesus expressed his dislike of the Pharisees, but he loved them enough to forgive them for condemning him to the cross.
3. Taking Charge of Your Feelings is the Third Way To Survive Visits Home For The Holidays.
Be aware that your involvement with family members is driven by a conditioned reaction. It is not a conscious choice unless you choose to make it one. It's common knowledge that the interaction within the family, especially in the early years, is a powerful force that tends to crystallize a person's place in the family structure.
Isn't one of the problems with going home for the holidays that your family wants to treat you like you are still a mixed-up teenager, despite the fact that you are perhaps now very successful in life? Also, they may treat your goals like wishful thinking on your part just because you didn't have it together very well when you lived at home. They can't accept that you have changed at all!
Once you acknowledge this crystallized view as a possibility, you have the opportunity to observe what triggers your emotional reactions. When you do, you can make an intellectual and emotional decision to change your response.
So before you go home, bring to mind what you normally say and feel when in the family environment. In other words, be aware of how your conditioning causes you to adapt your behavior to match what is expected of you by the family. You must stand behind your conditioning so that you can see how it is a put-up job of your own creation. Then in your imagination, rehearse what you could say and do to consciously change these encounters. This is the beginning of your own personal declaration of independence, a brand new version of you.
Going Home For The Holidays is never what you envision—at least for most of us. So, why not plan your holidays this year as a working holiday? Plan to work on yourself! Be the person you want to be. Don't let the emotional triggers set you off. Don't let your ego get into war with their egos. Use the time to look at the experience as it's happening. Then look deeply within yourself to see where you can change the cycle of your conditioning.
Don't despair if things don't go
that well the first time you try this. It may take several holidays for the
overall experience to level out. After all, your family will continue to try to
nudge you into the position they believe you should hold. Your job is to work
on yourself enough that you not only don't slip into that position, you don't
even notice the nudging.
Idea: John Dean Williamsen; Writer: Dannye Williamsen
Excerpt from book Life Untwisted