Holiday Happiness, or is it?
Question- I love my family, except during the holidays. We are in constant battle mode when we are all together. We all have to ONE-UP everyone else. For example: everyone is on a different diet so they can’t eat that, or their kids are on the #1 team. Or we are all on a different political group. Or it just may be that the kids are choosing a different way of living than the rest. Why can’t we just have a good time together? Our constant show-and-tell ego mode causes us to lose our close connection. Now I don’t like getting together and would rather do something else. We were once a fun-loving family. What happened?
Answer –The holidays seems to bring out a lot of stress. Also, when we get together with any collection of people, there is going to be some kind of conflict. That is true even in the most connected families. Of all the people we know, it is our family who can trigger our fears or help build our peace the most. That is because we have deep expectations that have changed over time.
The holidays mean getting together with loved ones and family , a potentially explosive combination. Or great potential to build deep bonds. A common misconception is that this gathering is a time to work it all out. No, this is a time to build up each other and to let go of any conflict that can be taken care of at a later date, or talked about one on one. Resolving deep conflict takes time and the holiday season is not a great place to start.
The following are strategies that help to reconnect family.
Go for a walk together, or create some structure. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that taking a group nature walk is associated with a whole host of mental benefits. It helps to clear the air when you feel stress. It is a huge stress buster. It improves the mood, and builds the positive emotions. This in turn impacts our bodies. It enhances the nervous system, endocrine, and immune systems. It reduces anxiety and those helpless feelings. Nature reduces anger and fear. It also helps us cope with pain. The fresh air and trees distract us from our underlying concerns. When you are having a pleasant experience, you associate that with the people around you. Walking together, even for a short while, builds stronger connections.
Pick a neutral environment, and avoid heavy topics- Meet in a location that is different, not in someone’s home so the environment is different for all involved. This reduces the stress of getting the house clean or decorated and also reduces the worries of things getting broken. New adventures bring new light to old relationships and that way you are all in this together, maybe even feeling the same fear of the unknown, keeping all involved humble. Also this new adventure requires courage or being out of our comfort zone, yet we are all there in that same experience. Another benefit is that a new place will keep families from getting bored and perhaps this new adventure will be the start of a continued adventure unique for your family. Such an experience will force you to grow together and you will develop a new attitude, giving you a new perspective of yourself and your family. Most people have shown not to argue when on an interesting adventure. Also a new environment opens the way for fresh new conversations.
Let it go- Our family can trigger our core fears like no one else can. They mean well and they are doing the best they know how at this level of awareness and understanding, so we need to learn to accept your family for what and who they are. In order to avoid bad habits and pitfalls of our usual arguments we need to stay in the present and not worry that you have to deal with them again or not. The past is behind us so let it go. Instead we need to look at and learn to enjoy their eccentricities or dysfunction; you may even find humor in what they are doing. Even though they are family and we have known them forever, they are people and are in a different path in life than you. So, it is imperative that they make choices according to their personal experiences and growth. It really is ok to be different. We can still love them where they are, even if we don’t agree with them or their actions.
Bob, a friend of mine, told me about a conflict experience. A person continually harassed Bob, calling him names and demoralizing him. One day this person got in Bob’s face and said, “I am going to beat you up.” Bob said, “If you beat me up, we will never know if we can be good friends or not.” That comment changed the direction of their relationship and they became lifelong friends.
Stay Present- Most of us have a tendency to live in the past. We remember past hurt and misunderstanding. Constantly thinking about the past and worrying about the future can make it difficult to enjoy the good things in your life here and now. Notice what people are saying, notice the atmosphere in the room. notice the mood. All of things will keep you in the present and enjoying the moment. When you are in the present life is lighter and it’s easier to communicate with love. Try to savor each moment as it passess.
How can our family be lifelong friends if we don’t try? We could be missing the best adventure in our lifetime.
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