“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Stressing at the thought of spending time with your extended family over the holidays? For many, the dynamic can be disappointingly predictable. Family situations tend to trigger emotions – an
offhand comment from a parent or sibling can cause a cascade of painful memories, insecurities and emotions. This year, I urge you to treat these trigger points as opportunities to break dysfunctional behavior patterns that (like Jacob Marley’s chains) hold you back from approaching the holidays – and every day – with joy and love.
Experience your own holiday breakthrough with these four simple steps:
1) Manage Your Expectations. Thoughts and words are powerful things, so don’t set yourself up for failure by imagining what could go wrong. If you anticipate that your sister will make a snarky comment about your outfit or your father will grumble that the turkey you slaved over is dry, the law of attraction will deliver those things right to you. Instead, imagine how you want things to go – you’re more likely to attract a good result! But don’t expect one day to heal the wounds of a lifetime. That leads us to step 2.
2) Stay in the moment and take things at face value. If a friend or relative is being polite and helpful today, don’t look back to a time when they were not. Also, don’t take things personally. A friend asked me for advice one year because she was considering “uninviting” her favorite cousin and her husband from Thanksgiving dinner because the husband’s behavior was “offensive.” When I asked her to describe the behavior, she explained that he didn’t engage in conversation, ate very little, and never complimented the food. I advised her to try not taking anything he did personally – assume he wasn’t hungry, was shy, had food allergies, whatever it took to coexist with him so she could continue to share the space with her cousin. After the day was over, she called me and said “Everything went fine! We ignored the fact that Bill was quiet and didn’t eat much, and just let him be. After a while he actually seemed comfortable, and after dinner he opened up to us more than he ever had before.”
3) Ask yourself – “What is the lesson here?” Create a new tradition for yourself and declare Thanksgiving the time to give gratitude for lessons your family has taught you. If Dad can’t help himself from criticizing your choice of careers, be thankful that his actins have forced you to be strong in your determination to live your own life. If your sister acts like a spoiled brat, silently thank her for teaching you how be an adult and take the high road.
4) Remember to push the pause button. Without anticipating them, be mindful of your triggers. If they occur, hit the pause button. Stop, take a few breaths, and look at the entire situation. See it for what it is and ask yourself how to use this OPPORTUNITY to break a past behavioral pattern. Don’t react the way you always have. Instead pause, look for the lesson, and send that person your love and compassion.