For most of us this time of year brings us closer than usual to our family. While the holidays can be a time of celebration, and coming together, being together can also provoke feelings of anxiety for those of us whose families don’t quite live up to our hopes and expectations.
Families are the tribe from which we come from, and the desire to be with family and stay connected is deeply compelling. The other truth is that our relationships are often fraught with unresolved issues that may carry simmering tension and ambivalence. The holidays can exacerbate this built-in tension.
There are ways in which we can satisfy our need to connect and also take care of ourselves in the process. Family time cannot always be controlled or curated into a meaningful or joyful experience. Sometimes not even a peaceful one. There are always different agendas and personalities at play, knowing and respecting your limits can be critical to maintaining emotional balance. This may mean setting a boundary or stepping away if you find yourself feeling triggered.
Being Mindful is the ability to be in the present moment, without judging your experience. Mindfulness is a practice of simply observing your thoughts, feelings and sensations. It can help to free us from over-identifying with emotional reactions. Mindfulness can help you stay grounded and create space from thoughts and emotions that arise, that would otherwise derail you.
Most of us cannot be our full authentic selves in the family context. If we reduce our expectations and separate our desire for acceptance and closeness from what is actually present, we may suffer less. If we accept the inherent limitations of being with our families, we don’t have to superimpose and experience disappointment when our family doesn’t live up to our fantasy.
You cannot find peace by avoiding life.