surviving family drama

Surviving Family Drama & Conflict Around The Holidays

How can we adopt an attitude of gratitude when conflict is in the rearview mirror?

First of all, let me make this one thing clear – my family is not perfect, nor are we free of drama (great and small) when we all reunite for holidays.  A holiday that revolves around gratitude and an abundance of food is right in alignment with our core family values, so in theory, there should only be joy.  In reality, trying to coordinate a family meal (for someone who likes control and order) creates friction with my brothers who go with the flow.

Translation of “go with the flow”: after insisting they would help with Thanksgiving preparations, there is a good chance they will be at the grocery store Wednesday evening.  I fear that I’ll eat stuffing or mashed potatoes out of a box. Their fear? I’ll bring some anti-inflammatory green dish that is devoid of taste but induces gas and bloating.

When I admitted my battle of control, I surprised the new team members in my organization, “you mean you are like everyone else?”  Yes. Then add the battle of the Indian Aunties in my mind and in my life – and you can understand why I let myself eat carbs during the holiday season!

What triggers your pain?

We all walk into the holidays with emotional scars and battle wounds from the year prior.  Negative emotional states such as depression, loneliness, anxiety tend to amplify during the holiday season.  What does this mean? If you were feeling sad from a failed relationship or setback professionally and didn’t take the time to process your emotions, there is an increased risk of emotions erupting during the holidays.

Add in family members who knowingly or unknowingly push our buttons, and there is the perfect recipe for conflict.  Bottom line, we have to be aware and work to heal the conflict within us, or conflict will surround us.

Holiday brainSHIFT Tip #1:  What pain or stressful life event is consuming your life right now?  How do you feel about the circumstance? Take the time to be honest about your situation and feelings to yourself.

Is it worth the battle?

Driving to a family holiday dinner is not the time to start assessing your triggers.  I recommend a licensed mental health therapist to help with the process. But as you pull into the driveway, you can ask yourself, is it worth the verbal battle?

If you go in prepared knowing you will be asked about your single status, whether you are going to have children, or why you chopped your hair off, you are already in the process of gaining control in your mind.  While we may be preparing a clap-back in our minds, know that expressing sarcasm or anger will create a verbal and emotional battle.

Holiday brainSHIFT Tip #2:  Keep the clap-backs to yourself. Instead, ask yourself, is it worth the verbal and/or emotional battle over a holiday get-to-together?  It doesn’t matter who starts the conflict – you can be the one who chooses not to engage.

Carbs, alcohol, and pecan pie will not change political viewpoints

With a 24/7 news cycle, social media, and lack of regular connection- holidays are sometimes the only time families are together.  Insert a controversial topic and suddenly the mashed potatoes are not the only item steaming at the dinner table!

Recognize that internal steaming feeling when someone is spewing their opposite viewpoint? Say hello to your ego. Our egos are not our amigos at the holiday dinner table.

Your ego is taking over and emotionally hijacking our minds to make someone else agree with your point of view.  If anyone at the table has been drinking alcohol, their brain and mouth’s social guard is down. If someone starts talking about a controversial topic, take a moment to pause, breathe, and say nothing.

You can vent to your spouse or BFF over Black Friday shopping, but at that moment, all we can do is listen. By listening to someone spew their steam, we allow them a release. If no one engages, then the conversation is more likely to turn to a more agreeable topic.

Holiday brainSHIFT Tip #3: Can you pause to listen?  Listening to someone else’s viewpoint does not mean you have to agree with them.  The best gift we can give someone is allowing them to be heard.

Pause for gratitude

What gratitude exercises can you start the meal off with?  If we shift to a place of gratitude, fun, and laughter, we are less likely to open the door to uncomfortable conversations.  I would love to hear your ideas.

This year, I have thought of specific examples of how family members have supported me as I’ve scaled my business.  I am going to thank each one of them for these moments as we sit down for dinner. I’ll also pause to be thankful for whatever my brothers placed on the dinner table because it gave me the time to rest during the holidays this year.  And yes I’m leaving the kale casserole at home this year!

From our family to yours, may gratitude outshine the darkness.

Dr. Romie

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