Family… you don’t get to choose them, right? Especially over the festive season we sometimes have a bit of a perfect storm that looks something like this:
- Family members who have not seen each other for some time are thrown together for more time than they usually (comfortably) spend together, sometimes for multiple days.
- It’s the end of the year (and 2016 has been more challenging than most) and everyone is tired and a bit cranky for the first few weeks as they decompress from work-mode.
- Expectations to “relax and unwind” are high, and everyone does this differently – mostly clashing with someone else’s idea of what that looks like.
- Your kids, other people’s kids. They’re lovely… until they’re not.
Throw in some shopping mall madness and a few silly season tantrums and you have a situation that could end up somewhere quite far from where you wanted it to be.
So with that in mind I thought that a few choice tools would assist you to get in the mood (and stay there) this festive season!
First some amazingly simple, but powerful theory to put into your toolbox. Then we’ll look at how to apply it.
In the novel The Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield, he highlights the four Control Dramas and challenges the reader to look at their own lives with an intensified level of honesty. According to the book we have all been conditioned to play one (or more) of four parts in a game that resembles cat and mouse. All of this in order to gain energy from one another. And we don’t even know we are doing it – which is where the challenge for extreme honesty comes in.
The four parts we play are ranked from highest energy to lowest energy. See if you can recognise some of your family members when reading:
Intimidator – Interrogator – Aloof – Poor Me
- Intimidators want to take energy from you by force (either verbally or physically). You feel threatened and comply with their demands by paying attention to them. They play out the most aggressive kind of Control Drama. Do you feel scared of certain people?
- Interrogators want your energy through questioning and eventually, judgement. They speak a lot and want answers to various questions. They’re not talking with you as much as they are talking to you. Do you feel judged when talking to certain people?
- Aloof people flip the energy dynamic of the two types above by being a bit secretive. These people will hide away and want others to engage. They drain your energy by “forcing” you to work hard to get anything from them. Does it feel draining trying to engage with certain people?
- Poor Me’s have the lowest amount of energy and try to make you feel guilty about their situation, thereby “forcing” you to listen to them or save them. They love to moan, but do not offer any solutions. Do you want to try and fix someone’s situation all the time?
Did you recognise any of your family members in the four types? The uncle that always seems to pick a fight (Intimidator)? The aunt that incessantly questions your decisions or life choices (Interrogator). The sibling/cousin that ignores you when you try and connect (Aloof)? The child who moans non-stop (Poor Me)?
Did you recognise yourself? Can you see the different Control Dramas you are a part of and the different roles you play with different people? Who are you at work, at home and with your various family members?
The four types create each other and are part of a cycle of repetition (until someone like you, with expanded awareness, stops the cycle) starting with our childhood:
Intimidators create Poor Me’s (e.g the strict parent –young child dynamic, until the young child (sometimes) rebels and also becomes an Intimidator). Poor Me’s create Intimidators – ask any parent that shouts: “That’s enough! Shut up!”
Interrogators create Aloof’s (e.g the questioning parent – teenager dynamic). Aloof’s create Interrogators – one word answers to questions aimed at getting some dialogue going.
So how do you go about using this?
STEP 1: Awareness. Knowing you are caught in a Control Drama means you are gaining power over the seemingly impossible situation.
STEP 2: Understand which role YOU are playing and take responsibility for at least 50% of this Control Drama.
STEP 3: Step out of the Control Drama by asking yourself if it is a) serving you best and b) what that energy is doing to your body?
STEP 4: Congratulate yourself for forming a new thought-and-action pattern – this is not easy work!
STEP 5 (optional): Build the energy you want through your favourite mindfulness exercise (some healthy contemplation about your purpose in life, meditation, yoga/exercise, a good laugh, gratitude journal etc.)
So go out there well prepared this festive season. Know the Control Dramas, know yourself and create a more empowering holiday where you a) protect your energy and b) raise your energy through better interactions with the ones you love.
Your family will feel the difference!