They say the spiritual purpose of family is to force us to interact with and learn from individuals we would never choose to have in our lives. It makes a lot of sense to me as so many family relationships are rife with difficulty. And so, for many of us the holidays bring a mixture of joy and dread. We both look forward to spending time with the individuals we love and at the same time are filled with anxiety at the thought of interacting with them.
If you are dreading the holidays for this particular reason, know that we at Love Your Body relate! We hope to help with these three suggestions for surviving those tricky relationships:
1) Keep perspective. Stephen M.R. Covey said “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.” When I read the quote, I had a huge “aha!” moment because I admit it’s something I often do. I allow myself to view my actions and responses through the prism of my intentions, but rarely extend this courtesy to others.
While you’re with irksome family members, try to think of their intention. Are they really trying to convey that they are better than you or are they trying to impress you because they genuinely want your approval? Are they really oblivious to the fact that you are hungry and would rather get the evening going or are they truly enjoying the moment interacting with family members?
2) Express your feelings. Often we feel the need to remain guarded around troublesome family members, yet paradoxically, the way to disarm them is to express feelings. Most people will soften up when faced with an expression of feelings. Also, they cannot be challenged. There is no right or wrong when it comes to your feelings so it doesn’t open up discussions. On top of it, expressing feelings can help lessen the tension you feel, even if the others don't receive you. In the best case scenario, expressing feelings will actually shift the conversation into a more meaningful one.
Two crucial tips if you are open to trying this strategy: Make sure you are expressing your feelings, not commenting on how others’ actions are affecting you. So, for example, it's better to say “it makes me feel lonely” instead of “the fact that you guys can’t understand why I choose to be vegan makes me feel all alone in this family.” Also, start small. Focus on what is actually happening at the dinner table and stay away from long, deep-rooted issues.
3) Be an Anthropologist. If all else fails, just breathe and observe your own thoughts and feelings. See what you learn about your reactions. Swami Kripalu says “the highest spiritual practice is self-observation without judgment.” Don’t analyze yourself or worry about having to do something about the feelings. Simply observe and let them flow. Nothing has to be perfect, and tomorrow will be a different day.
And remember, you are not alone! We get your struggle! And we are holding your hand virtually.