Family time can be both a blessing and a curse. While we can love and appreciate our relatives, it’s not unusual for us to be completely driven up the wall by them at times.
Their expectations of us can lead to feelings of anger, disappointment or worthlessness. And differences in political, religious or moral worldviews can be a melting pot for heated discussions or unbridled arguments. So how can we mindfully navigate our group family interactions without pouring wine in our uncle’s face or running off to sob uncontrollably in the bathroom?
We asked Indigo Counsellor & Coach, Danielle Hanrahan for some advice…
How do you endure spending time with family when they make you feel like crap?
Let’s be real – even if you consider yourself to be an enlightened person, you’re likely going to be triggered by your family. It happens to the best of us. So, plan for it to happen. Have an idea of what your family might say or how they might make you feel, and rather than only having your reactions to fall back on, set an alternative plan around how you’re going to respond instead. You can then see this plan as a little awareness experiment. This will help to activate the observing part of the mind. Activating the ‘observer’ helps us start to objectively view our thoughts, feelings, and default reactions, rather than engaging with them. This is key in helping us disrupt our unfavourable reactions/behaviours.
The people who trigger us most are also our greatest teachers in self-awareness.
If we can bring a gentle curiosity to what is triggered in the moment, we automatically bring in the observing part of the mind.
How to navigate differences in worldview/morality in family dinner conversations (religious, political, etc.)?
One word – respect. This is the magic word when it comes to communicating, especially communicating differences. “I want to respect myself by sharing my opinions, ideas and worldview while also respecting that others may see my opinions, ideas and worldview in an entirely different way.”
Know there are multiple ways of seeing something, and if you, or someone you are speaking with, is getting aggravated in discussing differences, this might be reflective of an inferiority/superiority complex. If you are becoming aggravated, notice this and later (if you can’t in the moment) reflect on what’s been activated within you.
If you notice this in someone you are speaking with, bring curiosity to what could be sitting behind their need for dominance or to persuade others to be on their side. By being curious about this, we disrupt the emotions that may arise with confrontation.
A lot of us take things personally but if we depersonalise the reactions or comments of others and see their reactions/responses as a reflection of them, not of us, over time we become less emotionally activated..
But don’t forget respect. Respecting ourselves means acknowledging and voicing what we have to say, while also allowing someone else the space to do the same.
What to do when you and a particular family member really clash.
If there is history behind a clash, then all you can do is take personal responsibility for your actions and allow the other person to do the same.
It’s no secret that feeling out-of-control is not something us humans enjoy feeling, but sometimes that’s exactly what we need to accept. Sometimes situations or people’s behaviour are out of our control.
…But rather than feeling helpless, focus on the immense power you have.
The power to control your responses to a particular family member or to a situation. And again, that magical word from above, r-e-s-p-e-c-t.