Although on Facebook, social media, and in movies I see the act of gratitude and a display on intense and meaningful family love, I rarely experience this in real life or hear about it from my clients. The holidays can be fun or uneventful, but more often than not feelings that have been lingering under the rug for years can be brought to the surface with one passive aggressive comment or judging attitude. Even if it’s not super dramatic, most people seem to have difficulty finding and practicing gratitude after holiday get togethers and family time.
How much of this is because of our attitude going into the event? I think we tend to set ourselves up to experience drama or ill feelings towards a family member by thinking too much about it or getting mentally ready days before the event. We create a self fulfilling prophecy by making predictions about what will happen and how terrible it will be. Then it doesn’t really matter what mom’s attitude is or how dad asks a question, we read it as negative and respond negatively back. It really is important to go into situations with as few expectations as possible to prevent yourself from either seeing everything through a negative lens or setting yourself up for disappointment.
Sometimes it won’t matter how positive you are or how strong your boundaries are, how compassionately you communicate or how clear you assert yourself – there will still be sensitivities and discomfort at times with family. Think about what you can control versus what’s out of your control. You can’t control distasteful questions or judgy eyes staring you down, but you can control your response and how you communicate a boundary around asking such questions or your feelings about being judged. And when you’ve done everything you can do, it still may not be enough to break through to your family or get the respect you’ve been waiting for. In those moments, all you can do is sit with the discomfort and flip the script.
Flipping the script is thinking about what you are able to gain from these experiences and how it can help you become a better person. For example, maybe you didn’t realize there was a sensitivity or shame attached to a certain issue, and your aunts invasive questions have allowed that feeling to be brought to the surface so now you can face it and learn to deal with it. That’s something to be grateful for even though it’s difficult in that moment. Maybe solidifying the idea that certain relationships will not change and you can now label them as toxic and work to get them out of your life. It could be that you’ve gained insights as to why you are the way you are, or you have opportunities to practice empathy and compassion (or self-compassion). If you allow it and are open to flipping the script, any interaction or moment no matter how horrible it feels at the time can become meaningful or helpful, and that is something to be extra grateful for.
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If you are looking for someone to help you understand yourself better, help with conflict resolution with your partner, or need a listening ear in regards to infertility, postpartum depression and anxiety, new parenthood, or perfectionism, please know I am here for you. My practice is located in League City, Tx and I offer couples therapy, individual therapy, and online therapy. Call me for a free 15 minute phone consultation at (832) 827-3288 so we can talk more about how therapy works and determine if we are a good fit.