For some, Christmas was very beautiful, filled with wonderful memories, delicious food, alcohol, joyful decorations, alcohol, celebrations, prezzies, stuffed bellies, seeing family, alcohol, travel… oh, did I mention alcohol????
For others, holiday gatherings may have come with a huge serving of anxiety, panic and dread.
I know as a therapist, my bookings skyrocket after Christmas and Easter, with many a button being pushed by family members. You are not alone here.
It was all fun and games until someone had one drink too many and decided to have a poke… at your expense. They thought they were being hilarious, and you were left feeling embarrassed and shamed.
Families are renowned for their inner system dysfunction at Christmas, Easter and any other family holiday and when we were younger, we put up with it right?
We all have an Uncle Ted, who always gets obnoxiously drunk and becomes the expert on everyone’s lives and gives copious amounts of unwanted advice, coming straight from the bottom of his empty glass, as he licks the alcohol from his lips and takes a deep breath and lets rip a big burp.
Then there is the heckler… the family catalyst, let’s call her Karen. Karen thinks it’s ok to bring up every mistake you and everyone else has ever made, as she sits there holier-than-thou on her ivory thrown, cackling like a chook on heat. When challenged, she will say things like, “I was only kidding, can’t you take a joke… jeez, lighten up it’s Christmas!”. That is when you wish her thrown would open up and swallow her whole and send her straight to hell!
Here’s the good news!
You are an adult now, and guess what? You DON’T have to put up with feeling bad at every family gathering in the future… if you put some serious boundaries in place. People may be taken aback when you first begin to put boundaries in place, and some may not give two hoots about your boundaries, and they don’t have to agree, because the boundaries are for you, not them! Boundaries can also begin to give other family members the permission they need to do it as well, usually you are not alone in this angst, so by you setting firm boundaries, your courage can eventually lead to a change in family dynamics. Who says boundaries have to boring? They can be filled with wisdom and a slap upside the head! Here is what that may look like:
Not a boundary: “Uncle Ted you can’t speak to me like that!”
Boundary: “Uncle Ted, if I want advice, I will seek an expert. Did you know that humans live their life 97% in projection? That means we project our own unacknowledged issues onto others, so before you expose yourself any further, perhaps write all that stuff down so you can take your own advice.”
Not a boundary: Karen you are so bitchy, you need to stop!
Boundary: “Karen, I appreciate you are very perfect, and we all aspire to be like you one day. However, for the moment, we understand that mistakes are how we learn and grow. With each mistake, we learn how NOT to do it and do better next time. When we can forgive our own mistakes, and work hard at trying not to criticise our mistakes, we tend not to notice or be judgmental over others’ mistakes. You MUST try it Karen, as I see you notice a lot!”
So, next Easter, Christmas and for our US friends, Thanksgiving and Halloween, take your boundaries with you and breathe! No one has any power over us, except the power we give them. It’s mind over matter… if you don’t mind, they won’t matter.
Kaz Field Anderson is a Trainer in Transpersonal Psychotherapy, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Trauma & Clinical Resource Therapy at Hypnotherapy Training Australia.