Dr. Meagan Stanley
Q: How do I have a peaceful holiday with my family?
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Help with handling difficult situations during the holiday season.
Happy holidays everyone! We are in the thick of the holiday season and by now we have made it through Thanksgiving. I wanted to hold off on this post, hoping that some of the answer would involve some self-reflection on your part.
Think about last week and take an inventory on how it went: Was there conflict? If so, how did you react to that conflict? Why do you think you reacted in this way? Were there old familial roles that were being reenacted?
The last question is highly important and deserves further explanation. This may not be the first time you are hearing this but let me quickly explain the function of roles. Family roles are ways of maintaining order, which may be functional in some ways. Mom does this, dad acts like that, and children do this. It’s familiar.
We encounter problems when individuals deviate from these roles, either by growing up, evolving as a person, or changing in some way. The working system gets thrown off. To maintain the status quo, individuals get placed back in old roles, either by others or by self. It’s important not to blame yourself or your family for this happening. Everyone wants the system to work like it once did. There’s nostalgia and some level of comfort in this.
However, here are the issues that may arise when people are placed in old roles:
1) This does not allow people to be more complex than their assigned roles
2) This does not acknowledge growth and change of the individual or family
3) It can cause anyone to act in ways that are consistent with the old role (i.e. role of child, role of troublemaker, role of disciplinarian, role of peacemaker, etc.), despite them knowing on some level it’s not how they would like to act
The goal here is to be aware when this is at play. In some scenarios, this self-awareness may be enough to shift the paradigm. In other situations, it may be necessary to limit your time in the system (in a compassionate and loving way, of course, knowing this will mean more quality time with your family rather than sheer quantity of time). It’s very challenging so be patient with yourself and your loved ones.
Other helpful tips: try your best to avoid debates where the goal is to win or be right. If this is the intention of both parties, this will guarantee that no one will leave this conversation satisfied. Also, it’s important to remember that our culture expects everything to be perfectly joyous during this time of the year. Much like the rest of the year, this is an unrealistic expectation. Things will not go as planned and that is okay.
Even if there is chaos around you, there is always an option to connect to inner peace (something that takes practice! We can talk more about this in the future). Remember to be kind and trust yourself.
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