The holidays are upon us. For some folks, that means increased interaction with family, which may or may not mean increased levels of stress. A good friend of mine intentionally limits the amount of time she spends with her family throughout the year because of the stress they bring into her life.
Families can be really complicated because there's so much that's wound up tightly together--overwhelming love, expectations, miscommunication--the list goes on. Additionally, many of us bring our own wounds to the table that we never healed properly. Our own wounds affect the way we interact with others.
But there's also such depth and richness in family. There's a shared history, a shared future. Figuring out how to separate the good from the bad can help us realize the full benefit of our "family of origin" while sidestepping the drawbacks.
One strategy that comes to mind is a pillar in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea is to distinguish our "Circle of Concern" from our "Circle of Influence." Our circles of concern are huge; they are full of all the things we wish we could change (including the things we wish we could change about the people around us or the families we came from). Our circles of influence are smaller; they contain the things we can actually change.
If we focus all of our energy on the things we wish we could change, we end up wallowing in frustration and disappointment. However, if we focus on the things we can change and then actually work on changing them instead of just complaining about them, our lives become much more empowered and content.
When it comes to family, there's a lot that is not within our circle of influence. What is absolutely within our control--however--is how we respond to our families. While we can't necessarily control the way our families act, we can completely control our responses to their actions. We are in charge of ourselves. Instead of responding in ways that escalate the situation, we can simply attempt to let go of our emotional responses. Internal dialogue can be really helpful in this situation, such as saying to ourselves, "So-and-so is doing the best they can. They are probably coming from a place of pain or fear. Just let it go."
Here's wishing you a holiday season full of light and love!
Give the gift of wedding planning sanity this holiday season (to others or yourself!). A Priceless Wedding: Crafting a Meaningful, Memorable, and Affordable Celebration is now available.