You know that anxious feeling you get when you realize you have to spend a day or weekend with that relative? Is the realization ho-ho-horrible? We’re with you, friends. Extended family can be like kryptonite. (Superman is weakened by kryptonite, and you feel weakened… You get the idea.) But don’t resign yourself to the idea that “it’s always been this way and will always be this way.” It’s all fixable if you will practice some simple tools.
From our experience in working with 1000’s of people, there are a few things that you can do to have the best holiday ever, despite your old hurts and having to face those difficult people. And the most powerful things you can start doing today is to begin tracking your feelings (emotions), forgive, and speak your truth when it’s safe to do so. That way you’ll be practiced and all ready for game time!
First, why track your feelings? Because the more aware you are of how you are feeling, the better you will be at not allowing those feelings to control you. Brene Brown, an incredible researcher, author, and speaker says this about not processing your feelings, “When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us.” And we developed an awesome Feeling Wheel in 2000, and it has helped thousands of people find better ways of communicating, as well as find freedom from the feelings that have owned them for their entire lives. And it’s going to help you, too!
“How?” you may be asking. Just like this:
1. Take a look at the Wheel. For now all you need to know is that they are all real feelings, and the nine in the middle represent modes. Modes are the “automatic” ways we function (remember the amygdala response of fight, flight, or freeze from your Psych 101?), and the main reason that there is that one relative that always makes you want to scream, or cry, or run away. The goal of the Wheel is to drain the shame out of the middle of it using forgiveness and replace the shame with love.
2. Now identify the three feelings that you feel when you have that usual, aggravating, or downright hurtful, interaction at the holiday gathering, i.e., that passive-aggressive comment from your mother-in-law about being thankful that she made an extra pumpkin pie since you forgot it was your turn…
3. Feel them for a minute. Sit with them. Notice how your body is reacting. Are you feeling nauseas? Do you have a tightening in your chest? Are you flushed and warm? All of these reactions are signs that you need to release this before it makes you sick.
4. Now move them out and release them from owning and defining you by forgiving those feelings, and the person and/or people around them. Note: a) Forgiveness is a choice before it is a feeling. b) Forgiveness is for you. c) Forgiving does not mean giving a toxic person access into your life, nor does it mean allowing them to keep hurting you. Once you forgive, you will find that you have an incredible freedom that allows you to have good, and strong, boundaries around these difficult relationships. d) Forgiveness is more than just saying, “I forgive.” Write your feelings and forgiveness out with a pen and paper, then read it out loud and burn it!
5. You’re ready to look across the Feeling Wheel now, to the direct opposite feeling. If one of your feelings was Anger then Respect is your goal. Respect for yourself enough to speak your truth when you are ready. You will know you have chosen enough forgiveness when you start to feel respected, and then have compassion for the other person. It isn’t easy, and it is always worth it!
6. And finally, if you do end up feeling hurt by your difficult family member this holiday season, simply say so as long as you feel ready. Ready means you aren’t attached to a specific response that you think they “should” give you, and that you don’t have any shame around the relationship. Keep it very simple, and do not let the conversation go beyond what you want. Simply say, “When ________ happens” (be as specific as you can), “I feel ________, ________, ________.” (three feelings from the Wheel).
· Example using the pumpkin pie analogy above: “When you point out that I forgot to bring the pumpkin pie after I’ve already said I’m sorry I feel hurt, frustrated, and guilty.”
Remember, the most powerful things you can start doing today is to begin tracking your feelings (emotions), forgive, and speak your truth. How are you feeling about that? No fear. Obviously some people will respond better than others, if you do not feel safe or there is any expectation of this person lashing out or becoming vindictive, hold back make sure you are ready for the worst, keeping yourself and everyone else safe. With practice you are going to rock this! These positive changes are not easy, but they are worth it. Be patient with those who are moving slower than you are in this area. You’re going to have more freedom than you’ve ever had before. Promise.
Want some more tools? Check out our blog from last year: 3 steps to help you deal with family during the holidays. . You can always contact us if you’d like some help doing this. We are available for a free, 20 minute discovery session so call us at 208-853-8888 or email us at [email protected] (www.passionprovokers.com). What are you waiting for?