This is one of the most common questions I get asked by my clients and students in the lead up to the holiday season. December can often be a stressful time for many people as they catch up with family. Different personalities, childhood wounding’s, ancestral karma, blended families, new additions and more all gets thrown into the mix with the high expectation to “have an amazing day”. Which for many people it end’s up being the opposite and they can’t wait until family gatherings are over.
From the soul’s perspective we CHOOSE our family that we incarnate into as they hold a unique vibration that will allow us to grow in the way we need to. Growth isn’t easy, its uncomfortable most of the time which is why often we will clash with different family members or struggle in family dynamics.
Many of the people I work with are often the black sheep’s in their family. They have a different way of viewing the world and operating from the rest of their tribe and might find themselves in conflict with other people within the family that don’t see the world they do. Alternatively they play the role of peacemaker who is constantly putting out fires and dramas all over the place, sacrificing their own needs and draining their own energy in the process.
Perhaps this is this you? Or perhaps you just have family members you have difficultly with? Would you like to do things differently this year?
Below are my top tips on how you can deal with difficult family members over the holiday season.
Let go of expectations and assumptions.
Check in with yourself and see what stories are playing in your head about your family members. Often when you have grown up with someone and known them for a long time you fix a character on them and then each time you see them you project that same character on them every time. Leaving no room to learn something new about them, or change your way of relating with them.
So how about dropping the expectations, assumptions and predictions about how your interactions will play out and go in with a clean mind? No expectation. Go in with an open curiosity, pondering, “I wonder how the day may go.” Rather than closing your mind and anticipating every interaction to be the same as it’s always been. Things will never change if YOU don’t change in some way. Start with letting go of putting people in fixed boxes of expectation.
Practice acceptance, non-judgment and compassion.
It makes me laugh when I hear “spiritual” people complaining about family members. Isn’t the key to being “spiritual” that you hold non-judgment, compassion and acceptance for all human beings? Knowing that ultimately we are all one and all the same? It’s often very easy to do this with people that are like-minded or easy to be around. Not so easy around challenging or difficult personalities. Often though they are exactly the people that need it the most. Under gruff, cranky and toxic behaviors is often a wounded, traumatized child just needing love.
So rather than resisting being around family, wishing you weren’t there, wanting them to change or judging them for the way they are, How about practicing non-judgment and being compassionate? Accept that you are there and make the most out of the interaction. Chances are what you experience this year in terms of the people that are there, what happens, etc. will never be lived again. You never know when family members will die, marriages will break down, changes that will shift your family dynamic permanently. Appreciate and accept what is NOW.
Be in PRESENCE.
There is so much focus on PRESENTS over Christmas, when really what everyone is truly craving is PRESENCE. So how about offering that gift to your family members this year? Stay off your phone, stay out of the stories in your head and just BE in the moment.
Part of being in presence is actually listening to another human being. Not just waiting for your own turn to talk. When you practice presence and taking more of an observing role across your family you will often learn lots of new things about your family, or see quite clearly how different dynamics play out.
Often what you will notice is that when people talk they are only really talking to themselves. So practice actively listening to them and really connecting properly.
RESPOND, Don’t REACT.
When you are in a state of presence it will give you the space to RESPOND to others, instead of simply REACTING. There is a difference. When you respond you are conscious, clear and heart-centered. When you react you are unconscious, ego-based and play out childhood wounding.
So if you are asked a question, or something happens that triggers you. Take a moment to pause before speaking and acting. This gives you a chance to feel into your body and tune into your inner compass on the best way to navigate the situation.
I understand with some highly opinionated people they may actively try to get a rise out of people, or instigate conflict by poking and prodding. I have found in the past I prefer to stay quiet around those personalities, and let them have their moment in the spotlight. If that’s not enough and they still poke and prod I will then say, “Are you asking for my opinion, or are you just sharing your own?”
This puts the responsibility back on them and clarifies communication intention. Many family fights stem from everyone just wanting to share their own opinion and getting upset when it’s not acknowledged, or when everyone doesn’t conform to their beliefs and expectations.
One person’s opinion isn’t better or worse than anyone else’s. It is their truth. You don’t have to agree with it, but you do need to accept it’s their truth. Just because it may be different to yours doesn’t mean its wrong. It’s just how they are viewing the world from their level of awareness.
Introduce new traditions.
I am all for honoring family traditions as I think it is a beautiful way to honor ancestors and keep a continuity across time. However, some times family traditions can keep things stale and create toxicity. Just because something has always been done, doesn’t mean its healthy or the best thing for it to continue.
I think there is a way that old traditions can be honored and new ones can also be integrated. Example. In my family we all used to buy each other gifts. It made Christmas time expensive and stressful as you would run around trying to come up with 10+ things to buy and feeling the financial pressure to do so. When it came to xmas day everyone would open their gifts and it would be a bit hit and miss on if people actually really loved their gifts, or more just appreciated the offering.
So two years ago we introduced a KK (secret santa). Rather than everyone buying everyone a gift, instead everyone just buys one person a gift, and they get a gift in return. We use the website Elfster which is fantastic. Each family member is added to the draw and then the website draws a random name out of the draw and emails it to you. There is an option of everyone adding in their own wish list, so they can add in items they are actually needing, or desiring.
I can’t begin to tell you how much more fun, easy and less stressful this has made Christmas. We still get to honor the tradition of gift giving, without plugging too much into the whole consumerism brainwashing that happens around this time of year.
Watch alcohol consumption.
While it can be very alluring to want to numb out while with family, however too much alcohol often always fuels arguments, misunderstandings and dramas. Coming from an Australian family that uses alcohol to celebrate, I totally understand the lure of binge drinking with family. It is something I constantly have to be aware of. I get it. But if you are concerned about dealing with difficult family members and want to change that, then just watch how many alcoholic drinks you consume. You can’t practice any of the above tips if you are heavily intoxicated.
Remember you always have a choice.
Arguably the most important point of all! YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE. You have a choice on if you do, or don’t spend time with your family. If your family is really abusive, toxic and difficult then perhaps you need to seriously consider NOT spending time with them. Or significantly limiting the time spent.
I know many of my clients have made this choice and it has been one of the biggest gifts of self-love they have ever given themselves. You may choose to stay home and just have a quiet Christmas by yourself, or with your partner (or dog! Hehe), you may decide to go travelling, or work at a homeless shelter. You may choose to make adjustments with how long you spend at each function or choose to catch up with family members on a different day.
Whatever you do. Always remember. YOU HAVE A CHOICE.