Many people feel anxious about the holidays. Whether it is the unconscious urge to get love and approval from someone who simply can’t give it, the desire to feel safe in a situation that feels completely unsafe, or feeling bewildered by other people’s behavior and just wanting to keep the peace, the holidays have a way of intensifying issues. Needs are heightened. Stress and expectations are high. We know we must do something different, but what?!
Before we go further, let’s ask ourselves:
What do we hope for at the holidays this year? Said another way, what normally plays out with your family, and what would you like to have happen instead?
The holidays can bring things to the surface. Frustratingly, no matter how much we have grown, or what we have accomplished as adults, even in the most loving, functional families, old childhood wounds and deeply buried patterning can get triggered. One moment we are the smart, capable person we know we are, and the next we are thrown back in time experiencing some earlier version of ourselves, or a projected version of how someone else sees us.
I’m brave in weird ways. Years ago, I used visits home at the holidays to gauge where I was in my self-healing process. What I noticed was that others would behave in certain ways just to get the reaction they had become accustomed to getting from me. (I realize now that it was not conscious on their part, or even personal to me, but it consistently happened.) Once I got clear that this was happening, the behavior I knew I had to master was NON-REACTION. That’s right. NO reactions to ANY prompts that could cause me to behave in ways I did not choose to behave. I set the intention that no matter what negative energy or behavior was sent my way, I would meet it with love in my heart, and no judgment.
When I asked myself then, What do I hope for at the holidays? I realized I just wanted to be happy with my own behavior. That was it. No one else had to change. I just wanted to be happy with how I managed my own peace of mind.
The good news is that no matter what our patterns are, they can be changed. The power is always within us. While what I suggest here is not easy, it works!
Keep Your Love Tank Full
Cultural programming says that to feel loved we need to get others to love us. The truth is, real love doesn’t register until we first love ourselves. We will be less reactive at the holidays if we commit to filling our own tank with the love we need. Give yourself the nurturing love you crave by making a list of what you most value about your life. What are you most grateful for about yourself? Devote your thoughts to appreciating yourself, and this will unburden others of trying to figure out what you need.
Be honest about what triggers you and work a dedicated practice around it. That practice could be as simple as journaling about previous holiday experiences noting how you felt, what you experienced and how you behaved. Mastery here requires us to stay grounded and present in our bodies. The fight or flight response takes us out of body, making it difficult to know how we reacted or what we actually said. Get interested in what provokes you. Notice everything about it. What is your emotional and physical state when it happens? Are you hungry, angry, lovely or tired? Be armed with awareness of what you need to feel strong. Be rested. Be well nourished. Tell a friend your goals for the holidays and debrief afterwards.
No matter the appearance, everyone is struggling with something. Give them love. Have some simple responses ready such as: “I respect your opinion, let me consider that.” Or, I hear what you are saying, thanks for sharing that.” If a comment feels like an outright attack, try repeating what you heard the other person say in as neutral a voice you can muster. “I hear you saying this, is that correct?”
Stop Expecting THEM to Change
Realize your family is not likely going to change, but YOU can. When you change how you respond, it changes everything. Try this attitude on for size: The most important thing I bring is my presence. I am lovable just as I am. I choose to lovingly detach and let others be. I am free and so are they.
All anyone wants at the holidays is to be loved, accepted and respected. This is what your family wants, too. When you practice these behaviors, a miracle happens: you become the love you want to receive and everyone is blessed by you just being you.