The Challenging Family Member Dilemma
The holiday dinner has been carefully planned, the grocery list skillfully crafted and the dreams of a night sharing love, laughter and good food with family and friends dances in our head
.¨ until we remember that ______________ is coming. In an instant, the dream becomes a nightmare.
You can fill in the blank with any name of the person in your family who makes you cringe when you think of spending the holidays with them in closed spaces with little to no chance of escape.
We all have someone in our family we think we can’t stand .¨ someone we roll our eyes at and someone we sigh, ever so heavily, over when we find out they are coming to dinner. They laugh too loud, they dress weird, they say inappropriate things, they preach about the latest health craze and they talk politics all night.
Maybe they screwed us out of money 10 years ago or lied to us 25 years ago.whatever it is, we don’t approve of them. The last thing we want to do is spend another holiday together. And it’s no secret either.
As the holiday season brings more panic and chaos than it does peace and quiet, we are tested physically and emotionally. We end up on a short string for tolerance and acceptance of just about everything that doesn’t go according to our plan. Due to our level of mainly self-inflicted stress, we tend to snap at others over insignificant issues leaving us ill-prepared to handle the family member who rubs us the wrong way. So, we perpetuate old patterns of thinking and acting out towards the one we all talk about behind their back in a judgmental, condemning and negative way. But, does anyone really deserve this kind of treatment, especially during the holidays?
It’s show time and “you know who” will be arriving any minute. Our internal mind chatter goes from nervous anticipation of wondering “how long we’ll go before an incident breaks out and ruins the whole evening” to planning how quickly we can get rid of them. It’s not pretty and it’s definitely not loving, but what else can we do?
Well, for starters, we can make a decision to handle this situation different than we have in the past. It won’t change otherwise. And though we can’t control other’s actions, we can control how we react to others. Instead of perpetuating the message of “you’re an outcast, an idiot and we disapprove of you”, why not make a decision to send a different message this year?
Why not send a message that says, “we accept you, we know you are doing your best and we love you”?
Who Deserves Love?
The answer to that question is: everyone. Everyone deserves love. We aren’t taught that perspective. What we’re taught is that some people deserve love and some don’t and we get to decide who does. As if.
Why do we withhold love? We withhold love from those who do not meet our expectations, rigid requirements and limited point of view.
Why do we do this? Fear.
We fear what we don’t understand, we fear that which is different from us and we fear what we consider the unknown. Most of us live life through the ego or the false self. This is a thinking system that is separated from reality, truth and, most of all, love. Living life in our heads, through our ego, makes our lives seem so fragile, so unpredictable and so unsafe that we find really strange ways to feel like we are in control. Judgment is one way and withholding love is another. But, both are based on non-love. There is an alternative.
Why do people act out, for a lack of better terms? It’s because they feel unloved and unworthy. Pointing fingers at them, acting as if they don’t exist, demeaning them and shaking your head in disgust are all just more signals of disapproval. To the other person, it’s further validation of what they already think about themselves which is “I’m not good enough.” To overcome this, each person acts in a way that may be considered unacceptable or hurtful to others as they project their internal pain onto the outside world. So, the one thing they need most is not more negativity, but more love.
We can change anything. We have the power in our hearts to do so. During this holiday season, don’t listen to your ego, listen to your heart. Don’t dole out love based on who you think deserves it, give love to everyone. This may not seem possible, but it is.
Dig deep. Find it in your heart to have compassion for those family members who are different. Know that we all struggle in life. We all feel unloved, unworthy and not good enough, we just express it in various ways. This holiday season, let’s support each other. Let’s come together and embrace each other, sharing, not just food and drink, but kindness, understanding and compassion.
5 Ways to Have a Truly Happy Holiday
Here are five tips for a truly Happy Holiday. You may think of others, but this is a short list to help get you going in the direction of doing something that makes a positive impact on the holidays and exemplifies the true meaning of the season.
Instead of focusing on what you think is wrong with that person, look at the things that are great, interesting, kind, loving or helpful about them. We get in the habit of thinking the same negative things about people year after year. We take something we don’t like and make that the story we tell about them in our heads and to others, similar to a caricature. But, people are more than that one thing you’ve decided to focus on about them. And let’s face it, we all struggle with some form of feeling bad about ourselves – it just comes out in different ways.
That makes us more alike than different and more connected than separate. Focus on this.
EQUALITY: Put the people you don’t like on equal ground with you. It might not make any sense to you to do so, but no one is truly less worthy or valuable than another and deep in your heart of hearts, you know this is true. Our ego training teaches us to see someone who doesn’t look or act the way the family does as someone who doesn’t measure up .¨ someone who is less than the rest of us. We see them as not good enough in our eyes. Let go of this old pattern of thinking. We are all the same underneath. We all have a beating heart and we all want to be accepted and loved. That makes us equal.
FORGIVE AND FORGET: It’s amazing that we can’t remember what we wore last week, but we can remember what some family member did 10 years ago at a family holiday gathering that made us mad as hell. Whatever was said or done is over. Check to see if there are any lessons in that event for you. If so, see it for what it is and then let it go. Forgiving others for anything doesn’t let them off the hook .¨ it lets you off the hook. Holding a grudge or feeling bad about someone or something that happened holds you back in life. When you carry this with you, you add another boulder in your cart of life. Each boulder makes your journey more difficult and heavier. Lighten the load, free yourself of the stress that goes with grudges. Let go, forgive and be free to have a great time.
We overreact to the smallest things during the holidays because we are stressed out and exhausted from all of the planning, buying, wrapping, cooking and partying. We are over-extended and over-worked trying to have a wonderful holiday season. (Is that sentence an oxy-moron?)
Wouldn’t it be simpler to cut back on all of the hoo-ha of the holidays and pare down quite a bit, keeping things easy and manageable? If we did, our tempers wouldn’t be so short making us less likely to argue with loved ones over the silliest issues. Then we’d have more room to get out of our heads and connect with our hearts finding acceptance and compassion for that family member we “hate” seeing during this time of year.
PERFECTION DOESN’T EXIST: No one is perfect, not even you, which is fine. In fact, nothing is perfect so we can all stop trying to make the perfect holiday meal, buy the perfect gift or create the perfect holiday experience. You see, there are two issues with perfection. One is that it causes a lot of stress trying to live up to the fa‚àö√üade of perfection.
Two, perfection isn’t real so we are trying to live up to something that doesn’t exist. Yet, we judge that one person in our family as if they are less than perfect. So, let’s get real this holiday season. When you see that person that makes your skin crawl and you want to automatically judge them for anything at all, stop. Don’t do it. There is a human being in there who deserves love. And remember they are doing their best, just like you are.
The true gifts of the season cannot be wrapped, but they can be given and shared. They are peace, kindness, compassion, understanding and connectedness. These all fall under the category of love for that is what love truly is. If we can give this to ourselves and others this holiday season, we will give the best gift of all.