Perry Como sings us his classic Christmas song each year, “Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays...la la la la...”bringing us all into to the holiday season and spirit. Christmas music fills the radio stations, holiday themed shows occupy the major networks, and shopping lists are being built. The Santa station was set up in the mall evenbefore Halloween to remind us to GET READY because it is that time of year again, the holidays!
In my conversations with my clients it is clear the holiday may bring warm feelings of happiness, as many know that it is a time to spend with family and friends. Some find themselves using this time of year to look back on all of the accomplishments from the current year and then looking forward to the upcoming year. The holidays are often seen as the time to shop all the good deals, eat all of the good food, and watch all the good holiday classics. For some, however, the holidays may start out this way, and then they go home for the holidays. Or even just the thought of the holidays immediately causes anxiety!
Many people find that their separate life from their family is balanced and orderlyonly until they return home to their families. There is something about walking through that front door that triggers old feelings of angst with family members (or with yourself) causing you to feel like the confidence you once had is now uprooted. Now that balance has turned to emotional chaos and anxiety, stress, and overall unhappiness can be the result. It is not uncommon for all of those unresolved issues to suddenly resurface just in time for when the turkey is to be served or the presents to be opened. The emotional stressors you have been trying to avoid are staring you and that turkey right in the face.
If you are connecting with this, you are not alone. Manyof my clients struggle with this and we talk about the a concept of “going home again.” This is a concept from a family therapist that reminds us that there are ingrained issues and differences from our families that we can overlook when we are on our own as individuals but they tend to resurface when going home again. Maybe there are old unresolved issues, challenging family dynamics, insecurities or just general differences that you are able to overlook when rolling solo, but not so much when around family.
If you feel like every holiday season creates similar obstacles for you I think approaching this holiday with this motto may help:
Don't react. Respond.
So what’s a good way to react? The good way to react is to not react at all! I love this passage from the book, “Boundaries”by Dr.Henry Cloud and James Townsend:
When you react to something that someone says or does, you may have a problem with boundaries. If someone is able to cause havoc by doing or saying something, she is in control of you at that point ad your boundaries are lost. When you respond, you remain in control, with opinions and choices.
Start to plan ahead
Think about what potential triggers may exist when you go home for the holidays and have a game plan for what you are going to do if you’re feeling the inner turmoil or urge to react. I think the most helpful tip is to step away from what is triggering you to find a place to calm down. I think it is good to look inward and focus on all you are proud of versus all you aren’t during this moment.
Staying around family when triggered may unfortunately lead to your family members causing you to say or do something you really hoped to avoid- which only violates your separateness. Now isn’t the time to solve all the family’s issues or differences, rather it is a time to be together (but as separate individuals) celebrating the holidays.
When you react, they are in control but when you respond, you are in control.
Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays…with all the good and all the bad...so now it is time to return home being emotionally prepared for what home may bring. Start setting those emotional boundaries now!
To schedule an appointment with Mandi Roarke, LMFT-Associate, call 512-537-0995