One of my mentors, Arlene Englander,LCSW, wrote an article about holidays, families and what triggers people in one of her newsletters at The Wellness Source. I had planned on writing a post about the same issue. However, Arlene explained it all so eloquently, I decided to include her rendition instead. Read on…
Bumping Into Parts of Ourselves
“The gathering of families, including the relatively happy ones, evokes memories, rivalries and disappointments of our childhood. And suddenly, without warning, there we are, bumping into parts of ourselves that we thought we had outgrown years ago; unconsciously reverting to the role we once played even though who we are now has little to do with who we were then!
The trigger comes when family members relate to each other as if nothing has changed from the time when parents and siblings lived together. Invariably we see each other through the myth of “the family story,” regressing to the years when we were perceived as kids growing up. Regardless of how successfully ‘the family stuff’ has been worked through, layers of unspoken feelings, issues and hidden resentments can burst out as family members slip into the old personas that each held and continue to reflect for each other.
The trick is to see the family’s holiday gathering as a teaching experience rather than an upsetting reminder of the painful feelings associated with growing up. It takes some doing to show love when you feel hurt, to see good when the energy is negative and to hold your tongue when being provoked, but when you manage it you create an opening for recognizing what needs healing in the family heritage. Observe your mother’s compulsion to control every situation; watch your sister gossip incessantly; recognize your father’s patronizing attitude toward your opinions… then instead of churning in frustration ask yourself, what do these people show me about myself, what do I have in common with them, what do they teach me about how to live? You may discover that accepting your family’s quirks (and strengths) can help you accept yourself for who you are.”
Got It Girl Takeaway:
I love the part in Arlene’s message that talks about observation. Observing is not reacting. It is choice. Sometimes, just trying to observe what might be “riling you up” could be the first step towards separating yourself from uncomfortable reactions. Have you turned to drinking too much rum laced egg nog or are you trying to cope by noshing on hundreds of cookies? Try observing yourself and your family members instead and see what happens.What triggers you about your family gatherings? Have you dealt with this “stuff” or do you just try to avoid it? How have you handled these situations in the past?
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