The festive season usually has either a very positive or a very negative connotation: you are really excited to be spending time with your loved ones, or you are dreading it. And the reason for that, is that we all have very powerful and often subconscious family dynamics at play.
Every person in a family fulfills a certain role, and this is usually a role that was pressed upon you as a child. Which is why it makes sense that even when you are all grown up, when it comes to your family, you are still the ignorant child, or the caretaker, or the troublemaker. And as luck would have it, we slip into those roles the moment we step over the threshold – whether we want to or not.
But you don’t have to dread the festive season this year. You might have to deal with the black sheep of the family who makes inappropriate comments after a few glasses of wine, or the whining and complaining of the perpetual negativist. But here’s how you can do it on your own terms.
Change your attitude
Gandhi said that we should all be the change we want to see in others. Make a concerted effort to go in there with the best intentions of joy, merriment and cheer. Don’t allow anyone or anything to get the better of you, and you will find that you are soaking up whatever positive energy there is. And just because you traditionally play a certain part, it doesn’t mean that is the part you MUST play.
Prepare yourself for what may happen
Instead of being despondent and going into the day expecting the worst, rather decide before the time which situations you may find yourself in and plan a best-case scenario outcome. Decide how you will react when someone touches on that old subject again; when you get cornered by the unsavoury character; or when someone is obnoxious. How will you handle yourself when you get irritated? Always remember that the only person who can make you feel anything, is you. If you do not respond, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else does or says.
Always remember that everyone is just playing their part
Just as you will step into your historical role, so shall everyone else. The difference is that, now you are aware of it and it is your choice whether you play that role or not. Identify which traits your character usually displays. Maybe you end up doing everything because if you don’t do it, no-one will. But the problem is that you end up exhausted and resentful. So, consider what will happen if you don’t do everything: will Christmas be cancelled? Or will someone else take over the reins and give you a break? And even if nothing happens because you didn’t do it, is that such a bad thing?
Choose your company with intention
You might not be able to choose your family, but you can certainly choose who you actively engage with. If you just cannot listen to another conversation about politics or your extended family’s problems, or if someone is purposefully trying to instigate a reaction, do your best not to rise to the occasion. Rather change the subject or walk away. This takes a lot of discipline, but if you went through the exercise in step 2, you already know that engagement is not going to end well.
Remember what it’s all about
Christmas is a time when we are reminded about the things that truly matter. It’s not about presents or eating and drinking too much; it’s about love and friendship and connection. We live in a world where we are very disconnected from everyone physically and come the holidays, we suddenly find ourselves crammed in a room full of family. It’s an unusual situation at best. Let go of all baggage that you carry with you and embrace these connections: both physically and emotionally. It’s only for a short while before everything goes back to what we have come to know as normal.