Reuniting with family this year?
Alongside the gifts and good food arrives a big box of expectations – all creating an atmosphere that feels highly-charged and which could be explosive.
What if we do not wish to conform this year? Is it hard to risk disappointing others? Does it feel too challenging to do something different or to not fall into line? What happens to family preconceptions if we change the script?
Are you left feeling bad, anxious and uncomfortable? Do you feel responsible for the reactions of others when they express confusion and disappointment?
Do you end up conforming to the expectations to avoid conflict or tears – but then feel resentful and angry? Do you say ‘Yes’ when you wish to say ‘No’? Are you able to explain to child that they will not receive the presents on the list? Can you tell a parent that you will not be staying as long as they wish? Can you protect separate ‘couple time’ for you and your partner while looking at a mountain of demands?
When everyone gets together for the festive season, unresolved issues from childhood can surface and difficult family dynamics can get replayed. It can be hard to be calm and confident, and still caring, in the face of emotional blackmail. In the face of others trying to make us feel guilty can we remain authentic, be clear about our motivations, and see the bigger picture?
When facing unmanaged hurt, and coping with the induced guilt, we often find ourselves succumbing to a pressure to fall back into old patterns of behaviour. When we stop to think, we realise that our reactions to the current situation are actually rooted in past experiences. We can revert to childhood roles when we feel flooded and overwhelmed with emotion – and lose our competent adult sense of self. Are our reactions those of a rebellious teenager or, even more embarrassingly, a frustrated toddler?
If only we can be clear about our own motivations and intentions, pause a moment, stand back a little, take a deep breath, stay in the moment… Taking an overview, side-stepping the fray, helps us see the wood as well as the tree!

Kathy Rees