The holiday season is upon us- and no matter what and how you celebrate you’re likely going to face some family stuff! And, while this time of year is meant to be full of joy and excitement, for many of us it’s also the harbinger of family tension, stress, weight gain, and emotional upheaval. So much gets triggered at this time of year, especially for those of us who are empaths and feel all the subtle forms of energy around us, and the obvious not so subtle energy as everyone behaves in extremes.
Over the past week, it seems everyone I’ve talked with is on edge about the holidays. So, I’m going to share how you can create a better experience for yourself this holiday season, and any other stressful time for that matter. First, let’s talk about the joys of family gatherings.
A friend was recently telling me about her trip to visit family for Christmas a while back. Growing up, holidays had always been a disaster (I won’t even go into detail!), but she convinced herself that this visit would be a new beginning—after all, over a decade had passed and all those old issues were long gone… at least, it seemed. Determined to have the warm family gathering she’d always longed for, she arrived at her parents’ festively decorated country home to find mom was completely worn out and had started smoking again, dad was holed up in the TV room with his third beer, and her brother and sister weren’t talking. As they all sat down for dinner that night, the bickering drowned out the holiday music and all the old personal grievances and grudges surfaced. Everyone reverted to their old roles as if it were 1990 again. It was so bad that no one spoke for the next month.
Can you relate to my friend’s experience? I certainly can. In the past, a lot of my own family’s get-togethers during the holidays came with sorrow and loss and fighting and booze and opinions and accusations shouted without cause like we all had Turrets. We were all at the same time trying so hard to make it different to no avail. Who put acid in the ice cream and sarcasm in the sauce?
Even gatherings of so-called happy families can simmer with tension during this time of year, with everyone’s personal “stuff” knocking against each other.
But, beyond the rivalries, judgments, and letdowns, our relatives often beckon us to look at parts of ourselves that we thought we outgrew. Decades after we leave home, our families tend to pull us back into old roles that have little to do with who we are today. Even for those of us with relatives who have passed on, those old family legacies have a way of creeping back into our psyche during this time of year. Memories, regrets, and unresolved pain can make the holidays difficult.
So, what can we do? I know from personal and professional experience that with the right tools, you can use the holidays as an opportunity to rise above old family patterns, dial down the drama and grow into a stronger, more loving person in the process. Here are my best tips for doing just that:
1. Love the Goblins:
We have our wounded egos to thank for all that stuff that comes up during holiday gatherings—the drama, anger, judgment, resentment, criticism, competition, victimization, abandonment, shame, and so on. If you’re familiar with my work and have read my book- The Map, you might remember that the Goblin is the character I use to represent this wounded ego we all have. Filled with repressed emotions and experiences (often from childhood), our Goblins try to protect us by repeating false ideas and patterns, as if to prove to us that they are true. Holidays are one of the prime party seasons for our Goblins—they just love to come out and get together over drinks to bicker! The good news is that when you love a Goblin, you put it to sleep. In other words, when your mom snaps at you, remember it’s her Goblin and send love to that wounded part of her that longs to be acknowledged. And, if your sister gives you the once over and you find yourself automatically assuming that she must be thinking you’ve gained weight, once again, recognize this is your Goblin’s assumption. Send love to that wounded part of you and let it go.
2. Hold your fire:
Emotional reactions just draw us deeper into negative patterns and feed our Goblins. Yet, when you’re mindful and think before you react, you come from a place of calm power. So, think before you speak.
3. Set boundaries:
You may feel you “have to” to do something or just live with poor treatment, but you don’t. If someone is being disrespectful, take a deep breath and calmly say something. Or, take a breather from the situation and go for a walk. You might even want to calmly discuss boundaries with your family ahead of any gathering. And, when a situation is truly toxic for you, staying away may be a crucial act of self-care.
4. Accept what you can’t change:
You cannot change what has been or what is. So often we unconsciously try to change or fix what has happened in the past through holiday gatherings. Healing comes with accepting what is and changing our reactions and perceptions about it. Many of us also long for a relative to change. You cannot single-handedly get your mother to take a chill pill or your father to be more loving, but you can change how you react.
5. Forgiveness sets you free:
Resentment, anger, shame, and all those negative emotions keep you stuck in the past and feed your Goblin. The more you see yourself as a victim, the more you stay stuck in pain. Remember, you can make a choice to forgive—it’s a gift you give yourself.
6. Be realistically optimistic:
When you approach something with dread or certain expectations, you set the stage for whatever you expect. So, be realistic about your particular situation, but also stay positive.
7. This too shall pass:
Remember there’s a beginning, middle, and end to everything: Holidays dramas will pass and you’ll be back to your usual routine.
8. Look for the opportunities for growth:
No matter how different you are from your relatives, you were born into this particular soul family for a reason. Such close relationships help us evolve. So, turn your family into allies to help you grow on your path. What do they have to teach you? What do they show you about yourself? Our family members are some of our greatest mirrors. Often when we strongly react to one of their traits, it’s because we’ve disowned that part of ourselves.
I know it’s sometimes tough to fit meditation into your busy day, but you’ll thank me for continually reminding you to keep at it. With meditation, you experience a clear conscious connection with the Divine and your intuition. Meditation also decreases stress and has been shown to help people experience more happiness and better health. I guarantee that if you make more time to meditate this holiday season, you’ll more easily detach from the dramas around you.
10. Surrender to Spirit:
Remember, once we’ve done what we can, we have to let go, surrender to the present, and be grateful for all of our experiences… even the tough aspects of our lives. So, write a letter to Spirit about your situation. Acknowledge that you’re letting go of control and pray for guidance.
I am not writing this from theory. I have done every single thing here and it has changed me in ways I wasn’t even expecting. My memories have changed because my compassion for myself and others has enabled me to change my perspective and perception. What was once so painful then has now had a chance to heal. Love the whole holiday hairball, practice self-care and know this too shall pass!!!
Have a beautiful one!