The holidays are coming up—how are you feeling about that? Christmas advertisements are already playing; we’ve been talking about Black Friday long before Thanksgiving; are you feeling excited about the holidays yet? While media tells us it’s supposed to be wonderful, most of us have some trepidation about the holidays. Maybe it’s the stress of getting ready for it; the stress of finding just the right gifts; the worry about not working for a few days if money is already tight. Those are just a few of the many stresses that the holidays invoke. But what if your anxiety is about being with certain family members? And whatever do you plan to do to handle that?
We all come from tribes. We owe our survival to the history of that tribe throughout the generations. There is no perfect family system, and no perfect people in them. Rules, myths and legacies are passed down across the generations, and often we are expected to conform to the ways that have gone on forever. For example, let’s say everyone just tolerates Uncle Joe’s obnoxious behavior. He is allowed to talk loudly and make jokes at other people’s expense throughout the day. You, on the other hand, cringe when you hear him, and you see the effect is has on the children in the room when he puts them down. But no one speaks up. Are you thinking about what you might do differently this holiday about all of that?
Or what about Mom. Maybe she is always anxious, trying to make everything perfect for the huge meal. She doesn’t accept help when it is offered, but later complains that she has to do everything alone, as though she were a victim of everyone’s neglect. Do you have any ideas of what you might do differently around her this year?
And how about that sister of yours! She always wants the attention, and she gets angry when she feels you aren’t listening to her enough (even though she goes on and on with chatter without stopping), and you get exhausted and overwhelmed. You might find yourself dreading having to deal with her.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, know that you are not alone! These are common problems, and everyone has some version of dreadful stories when they think about some members of their family. Have you done some things in these situations that backfired? Did you make things worse if you spoke up? Did someone else in the family get mad at you for rocking the boat, or make you feel guilty for calling attention to the situation? Did it make you feel hopeless that anything would ever change, and that you would just have to put up with it and head for home as soon as you possibly could?
If so, listen up! I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “you can’t change anyone else.” I know, I know, that’s so annoying! Heaven knows we have all tried. But like Dr. Phil used to say, “how’s that working for you?” Alas. Actually, the best way to change another person is by changing yourself! In relationships we act and react to one another in a predictable patterned way. It’s often unconscious because we’ve been doing it for so long. It’s kind of like brain muscle memory in terms of how often we repeat interactions that don’t feel good to us. But believe me when I say it is quite possible to change the interaction pattern by doing something totally different from what you may have tried before, without requiring that the other person change. Interested in learning how to do this? I can help! If you want some new, innovative and creative ideas about how to deal with the difficult people you may be around this holiday season, give me a call. Let’s get together for a one-time strategy session. I know that we can come up with some interesting, even fun, interventions that will help you feel more in control of yourself and will have an impact on the other person in a way that begins to move the dance around so that their old response doesn’t work anymore. Let me hear from you if you are interested in change!
Here’s to a happier holiday season this year!