With the holidays fast approaching, family is likely on your mind. Maybe you look forward to spending time with your family, and maybe you dread it. Therapists talk a lot about dysfunctional families – but at one level, there is no such thing. There are only dysfunctional individuals. Your problem isn’t your crazy family. It’s when you allow yourself to interact with your family in crazy ways.
Families tend to be predictable. Use this to your advantage this holiday season. If your mother comments on your weight every year, this year will be no different. If your uncle talks politics at the dinner table, or your sister likes to criticize your parenting skills, then show up knowing this. Arrive prepared. Make an intentional plan, a strategy for dealing with likely family “incidents.” Of course, one strategy is to forego spending the holidays with your family. But if you do choose to see your family for the holidays, do so with realistic expectations. Hope for sunshine, but plan for rain. Think through effective survival strategies in advance. Plan to drink less eggnog, or at least to avoid Uncle Frank when he’s six mugs along. Plan friendly ways to redirect tense conversations. Decide on certain topics you are simply unwilling to discuss, etc., etc.
If you put your head in the lion’s mouth, and the lion bites off your head, you don’t blame the lion. This is especially true if, year after year, you keep putting your head in the same lion’s mouth. You – not your family – are ultimately responsible for your holiday experience.