The air is crisp and the days are shorter. It’s that time of year; a time when we prepare for the Holidays. What a wonderful time to reconnect and celebrate life and family with our traditions. If this were only true for everyone, life would be grand. The ideal picture of the Holidays is a sentiment in which some people are not able to obtain and they find themselves asking,
“Why do the Holidays hurt?”
“Why does time with my family trigger so many negative emotions?”
Something to Ponder
Feelings of anger, stress, resentment, unforgiveness, resistance, and a general feeling of dread can play dominate roles during the Holidays. Finding yourself unable to regulate so many negative emotions can be exhausting to carry during the Holidays. While others seem to beam with Holiday cheer, you are drowning in a pool of unresolved issues and conflict. The feeling of being overcome and pinned down by emotions lends further to your angst as it seems as though NO ONE is even aware of your struggle.
If your loved ones only knew how suffocating it is for you to be present. If they only knew that your smile was forced and that your tears were actively being kept at bay. Watching others laugh and enjoy themselves seems so foreign to you as you “white knuckle it” through dinners, parties, and gatherings. Even worse,you may have a hard time placing your finger on why you feel so bad. It could be any of the following and/or so many more:
- Family gatherings seem to trigger past hurts that have never been explored in a healthy and healing way.
- Being with family may invoke feelings of shame and regret, as you have not “performed” as expected.
- You may feel as if you will never measure up.
- You may feel belittled or criticized in the presence of your family.
- You may feel that your family is antiquated and stuck in the dark ages while you long for a new way of doing things.
- Unbearable family secrets may be very present during the Holiday season.
- You may feel overwhelmed and as if you are being taken advantage of.
Activating the Power of Thought
The first step to addressing these uncomfortable feelings is to accept that this is how you feel. Lying to yourself and/or denying yourself the right to feel is counterproductive. You can’t begin to heal until you acknowledge the wounds. The second step is to identify the actual feelings you are having. There is a huge difference between anger and sadness or between resentment and hurt. So naming your concerns is pivotal. Third, you will need to ask yourself some hard questions. Questions like:
- Is it healthy to subject myself to people who trigger memories of traumatic events?
- Do I need to establish better boundaries?
- Am I harboring negative thoughts longer than necessary?
- Is my pain and internal conflict originated in truth?
- Is there a healthy perspective in which to re-frame my current perspectives?
Here are some things NOT to do during this Holiday Season
The Holidays ARE NOT the time to confront unresolved conflict. Emotions are high and unregulated. Even if you feel as though you just have to get somethings off your chest; STOP and THINK. You may feel better when it’s over, but how will others feel? Will your outburst or need to confront foster Holiday cheer for others who are innocent and/or oblivious to your plight?
Avoid talking about your inner conflicts with your children. While your emotions are valid and worthy of exploration; however, they are just that–yours. Unloading on your children, even adult children, may induce unnecessary stress for them. Instead, try journaling. Writing your thoughts down can be very therapeutic, as it allows you to release your thoughts in a safe place.
Avoid creating alliances within your family. It is healthy to want support during the Holiday season. Make sure it is healthy support and not that of division.
Try not to shut down, detach from and ignore your emotions. You may not be the type of person to cause a scene at a Holiday function, but bottling up your concerns can be just as detrimental. Being physically present yet emotionally absent is a disservice to you and your loved ones.
Feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the Holidays is more prevalent than one would think. All families have history; some pleasant and some not so pleasant. Each family member is left to make heads or tails of the same painful history. How you process life events and how you think about circumstances within your family, may be an indicator of a need for further exploration.
As long as there are humans in your family there will be conflict.
It’s how you navigate the unique nuances within yours, that will allow you to find peace within your family and your Holiday hurts.