Ok, let's have some real talk. This week, people will be traveling to see family and friends for Thanksgiving. For some, this is an incredibly wonderful time to reminisce and enjoy your loved ones. For others, these gatherings are filled with drama, guilt, and anxiety.
I know the traditional message for Thanksgiving is gratitude and peace. However, that can be really hard when you're dealing with people who love you, but don't always understand, believe, or respect you.
So, I wanted to share a few stories of how some of my past clients have overcome challenges when it comes to dealing with family during the holidays.
Challenge #1: Different beliefs and world views
My client Samantha shared this story: My family lives in the South and I would go home every few years for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. I've traveled around quite a bit and this broadened my world view. I'm used to mingling with lots of different people and cultures. My family definitely isn't! Every year, my dad would start drinking and then watching the news. This lead to awful political discussions and even a few racist remarks. I was NOT ok with hearing that! I felt trapped and extremely uncomfortable. Whenever I tried to offer a different point of view, it made things worse! I just couldn't win.
After working with Dr. Darley, I decided to try something different. Last year, I went home with a new mindset. I can't change what my dad does, even though I really wish I could. Instead of getting so upset that my blood would boil, I decided to detach from the outcome and look at him with compassion. When people lash out like he does, they're suffering on some level. I'm lucky that I had the opportunity to keep an open mind while living my life and traveling. My dad didn't do any of those things. People are afraid of what they don't understand. I kept this in mind whenever our talks turned in a nasty direction. Then, I decided to shift the topic to something he really enjoyed. It was a classic distraction! I'm a mom and what works for toddlers often works for adults too! Things weren't perfect, but they were better.
Challenge #2: Arguments
My client Candice had a family with anger issues. Every holiday gathering, family reunion, birthday etc. would end up with someone yelling. As an empath, this was incredibly hard for her and she would be racked with anxiety weeks before she went to their house. We started working together to calm her anxiety, discuss any issues about her family, and how to avoid absorbing their emotions.
Here is Candice's story: I didn't want to go home. I love my family, but being around them is hard for me. Because they're angry people, I chose never to be that way myself. My childhood was really hard because of this. I felt bullied and never quite good enough to please them. Being around them was super draining for me, and I had a hard time controlling my anxiety.
Now, whenever I'm about to go over to their house, I start working on shielding and protecting myself. I didn't know how to do any of that before, but it's made a big difference. In the past, I used to think that somehow I could "fix them" or make them better. It's dumb, but I wanted them all to get along, and I had this dream of a perfect family. It really bothered me that they weren't. Now, I focus on making self-care a priority, protecting myself, and taking little breaks from them whenever I get stressed. I take walks in nature to ground myself, spend some alone time in a room away from them to read or meditate, and take deep breaths. So far, it's working!
Challenge #3: Criticism
This is my story. My relationship with my dad had its ups and downs. When I was younger, I used to dread going home because my dad would sometimes criticize my weight. He didn't do it every year, but just enough to make me afraid that he would.
My weight has fluctuated every year since I was a kid. Even now, I have anywhere from a size 6 to a 14 in my closet at any given time. I'm human and I get stressed. Plus, I eat crappy food from time to time without exercising like I should. My mom, however, has always been about 80-90 lbs soaking wet. My. Whole. Life.
I sometimes imagined that my dad must think I was a whale when I stood next to my teeny tiny mom. Sigh. I decided in my early 20's NOT to compare myself to her in terms of weight. We simply don't have the same body type. Genetics are funny that way. I've seen many clients in the same situation who ended up with eating disorders because of comparison to a different body type.
My dad didn't mean to be cruel, and in his mind, he was only teasing. I, however, had a low tolerance for teasing! In my 20's, I let it get to me, but I began to put a stop to it in my 30's. I let him know that I love food, I love my body, and I was happy being me in whatever size. I also told him that it was crappy to keep mentioning it. Once I stood up to him, he stopped bringing it up. I just had to draw the boundary and let him know that I was NOT OK with those types of comments. I took my power back, and so can you!
Family dynamics can be tough. If your holidays aren't always joyful, then I urge you to work through those issues with a trained professional. Letting go of stress, anxiety, and trauma can free you in ways that may be hard to imagine, but it's possible! If you can also view those dynamics through a lens of compassion and forgiveness, then it can help you release those emotions even faster.
Dr. April Darley is an expert at resolving stuck patterns of behavior through Neuro-Emotional Technique (N.E.T.). By identifying self-sabotaging behaviors, she can help you regain confidence, improve relationships, remove blocks to health, wealth and success in any area of your life.