Every year the Holiday season brings us a combination of joy and pain. Students in our counselling programs are learning how they can dramatically affect the experience in their families by changing their mindset. This is simple but not easy. Years of patterned responses make us vulnerable to fall into familiar conflicts. Perhaps your mother always comments on how you look. Instead of feeling criticized, you could interpret this (and probably correctly) that she loves you and wants you to be your very best self. This year you can enjoy your family with a few changes to your own attitudes and behaviour
- Become more ”zen”. When you are anxiously anticipating a family member will do something annoying – it is more likely they will. Instead practice expecting anything and rehearse your response. Use the family gathering as a chance to practice your own mindfulness. You don’t have to react to anyone if you choose not to.
- Remember that if someone is critical – it is a reflection of their own pain or unhappiness. It has nothing to do with you. If you understand this very important fact, you can meet criticism with curiosity. Be “surprised” rather than defensive. “Wow, I’m surprised you would say that” rather than “you ALWAYS say that”.
- Ask for what you want. Sometimes we expect those who “love us” to guess what we want and need. Take the risk and ask in a friendly way for someone to help you. “I would really love it if you would help me out with babysitting instead of buying me a present. It would mean a lot to me”
- Resolve to enjoy moments in each day. You cannot have this day back. People in your life are doing their best and often reacting from their own unhealed wounds. If you can start to see anger and judgement as a reflect of pain, you are on your way to healing your life.
- Do your best to have a loving connection with your family. Some families, however are so damaged, that you may choose to create your own new “family” composed of friends and others you love and care for. It is okay to NOT be around people who are destructive and damaging.