We are at the height of the holiday season. Many of us have attended the company office party or have finished out the school semester. Shopping, wrapping gifts, and preparing food occupy our time. Christmas Eve and Christmas day festivities are around the corner.
For some of us, the prospect of family gatherings is daunting and dreaded. How can we manage the aunt who badgers us about not being married, the uncle whose radical political opinions he cannot keep to himself, or the parent who compares us to our much more beautiful and/or successful sibling(s)? Not to mention the internal talk that often accompanies these gatherings; “I should’ve lost 10 pounds before I came to visit!” or “Why don’t I have a better job?” or even, “My political opinions are much more sound than crazy Uncle Alvin’s!”
These kinds of scenarios can quickly cause us to lose our equanimity; the quality of feeling calm and balanced in the face of chaos. How can you maintain your balance? Here are some suggestions:
- Remember that your path is your path, and your (insert family member’s) path is his path. You do not have to apologize to anyone for the decisions you are making in your life. You are an adult and you have every right to live as you see fit.
- Do not compare yourself to the outward appearance of others. You do not know what battles they may be facing privately.
- Give yourself credit for doing the best you can at any given moment. No one is perfect, even if it looks that way to you.
- You are allowed to take a neutral stance about hot button items like politics, same sex marriage, nutrition, medical care, family member’s opinions, etc. In other words, you do not have to have an opinion. Things do not have to be polarized as good or bad, positive or negative. They can just be as they are.
- You may or may not ever resolve the hurts and injustices of your childhood, but you do not have to revert to old family patterns of behavior. Notice how you might slip back into the role you had in your family growing up. Were you the clown? The peacemaker? The overachiever? This behavior may have worked for you in your family of origin and it might not serve you now. Notice and allow yourself to be different if you desire.
- Don’t take anything personally. Most of what people say in criticism of others is about themselves anyway. You have my permission to repeat this mantra, silently to yourself, until you believe it.
Above all, relax, and take time to enjoy what you do love about the rest of the holidays. The New Year will soon be here and you can focus on the renewal and opportunity January brings us. And if you do want to address old wounds, giving yourself credit, or not taking things personally, give me a call. I can provide the calm and expert counseling that encourages equanimity. Peace, friends.