Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays probably mean get togethers with your family of origin (or even more loaded -- with those of your spouse!)
While there are many comforts and joys of spending time with your extended family, sometimes it can mean interacting with people who control, frustrate, criticize, or burden you. With all the stresses you are facing this year, cross ‘family conflict’ off your list with the following perspectives:
What is the “real reason” you are aggravated with a difficult family member? You wish your difficult family member could just “get it” and behave differently in their own life and towards you. Their behavior may legitimately take up a lot of time or show insensitivity to you. But know that you are angry with them because you are hoping and expecting that they will be more evolved than they are at this point. You are hoping that one of these times they will give you the validation you richly deserve (but they are likely incapable of.) When you say to yourself that they should be different or vent to a confidant about “why do they do that?”, you are hoping that they will heed your advisement and magically do it differently next time. You are ‘living in hope’.
As soon as you accept that they are “where they are on their journey” (and so are you), you know it is not fruitful to try to change them. As long as you are hoping and expecting they will be different, you can continue to act in your same patterns and expect the change to come from them. Even though its painful for you to standby and watch someone you care about not be happy, you must appreciate part of you wants them to act differently in order for you to feel at ease or comfortable with yourself and your situation. The answer of course is to focus on your 50%. To the extent that you can feel ‘good in you’ no matter how your family members are acting out of their limitations, you will no longer be aggravated by them.
How can you make family interactions more harmonious? There are many things that you can do to take responsibility for your part of the interaction. Some examples include:
* Know exactly what you want from the situation so you can ask for it instead of hoping they will read your mind.
* See it from their point of view, make them feel understood, and phrase your requests to them in terms that motivate them (and don’t just assume because you want something they will want to be that way for you.)
* Do things that are easy for you to do that help them get their needs met even in their rigid ways. For example, show appreciation to a narcissistic person and make them feel special. If it means acting out of integrity for you, don’t go along with them. Let a narcissistic, controlling, or off- color person know your limits. Tell them you in a neutral, respectful tone that you don’t tolerate that behavior, and that you will talk to them or spend time with them when they are not acting that way (then walk away and come back later).