Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries is essential for a reduced-stress holiday experience. I think of boundaries not as walls that keep others out, but as healthy expressions of your truth and preference that keep you in safe space.
Last week, this beautiful message came through during a client session: "Rather than being the family healer who tries to make sure everyone's okay, what if you were the family truth holder, who knew everything was okay."
Those of us who are highly sensitive, intuitive, and loving creatures tend to take on the role of family healer, family feeler, or family caretaker. This feels good for a while, but eventually we reach the point (and a lot of people are reaching this point right now) where the veil is lifted, we see the dynamic clearly, and we no longer want to participate. As a matter of fact, once we see the dynamic clearly, it becomes painful to participate.
And although most of us love our families dearly, the truth is that in many cases they are representative of the origin of our deepest wounding, and therefore are full of triggers and challenges. Add the high stress and expectations that tend to accompany the holidays, and you've got a minefield to walk on.
So if this feels familiar to you, or you think you might be on the road to this discovery, I hope some of what's below can help inform your decisions and support you in a happy and healthy holiday season.
::: CLARITY :::
Ideally, before entering a situation, you have clarity around these questions:
1. What is the role you want to occupy and what are the roles you don't want to occupy?
2. How do you want to feel and how can you do that on your own without placing the responsibility or blame on others?
3. What's your plan for recovering when things don't go your way, you get triggered, or someone is invading your personal space or experience?
4. What is it "your place" to dictate and what is not?
(Hint: if it has to do with anyone else's experience, it's not your place to dictate. If it has to do with your participation, body, or experience, that's all yours.)
Your answers to these 4 questions are your guidebook. It's up to you to stick to your own truths. When you feel out of alignment, take a few moments to center yourself around the intentions and truths you set above. Be loving and forgiving with yourself as you learn how to operate according to your new guidebook.
::: MAJOR PROBLEMS WE FACE AT FAMILY GATHERINGS (and some possible solutions) :::
1. Wanting others to be different than they are
This is a pretty basic one. No matter how maddening it may be, your relative or friend is who they are, and you have the choice to either accept (and love) them or bang your head against a brick wall trying to make them be who you want them to be. Which one sounds like more fun?
Set an intention for your time with your family.
Examples could be: That you see people for who they truly are and are able to accept and love them authentically and genuinely | That you won't take the actions and words of others to mean anything about you | That you seek to understand where a person is coming from rather than jump to judgment | That you remain in your own experience instead of getting caught up in others'.
Notice when you wish someone was acting or speaking differently. Remove yourself and re-center yourself in your intentions (without blaming it on them) or recenter yourself internally in their presence.
2. Wanting yourself to be different than you are
When you start feeling judgmental or frustrated or controlling, it is easy to jump to self judgment. But you are exactly where you are for a reason. There is learning here. There is an opportunity to soften and love yourself more. Instead of feeling like a failure, see if you can step into self love by giving you what you need, even if that is simply forgiveness and understanding.
When you begin to feel that dissonance or confusion, step away. Journal or get clear on what exactly the dissonance is. Is it really simple (like I want this thing and he wants that thing and so we're in disagreement) or is it more complex (like this situation reminds me of that time I was really hurt by so-and-so's behavior so I feel myself getting defensive in anticipation.) See if you can track the origin of the issue and de-mystify it so that it loses its charge. It's easier to step back in once it's understood in your mind.
Have some affirmations and reminders at the ready. Take some time to remember what you love about yourself. Write a list on your phone, in your journal, or in cards you keep in your wallet or pocket(book) so that you can remind yourself of these truths.
For example: I am a sovereign being of light and love | I am human and sometimes humans feel confused or disappointed | I am not what others think of me, I am not what I think of me, I am just me | My heart is powerful and fluid, and it continues to learn how to love more | I am resilient, beautiful, and forever aligning more with my truth | It's okay to feel judgment, despair, disappointment and confusion. I will always find my way back to my heart and my truth.
3. Thinking you can fix (control) the situation or another person's experience
It is so tempting to jump in and arrange everything so it goes the way we think it should. You know best, right? The problem with that is it takes away others' ability to choose how they want to show up, and to have their own experience. Best to choose how you want to show up and stay centered in that. You don't have to fix every problem. Just like with kids, let them figure it out on their own. Then they'll know how to move through it next time. Teach a man to fish...
When you feel yourself wanting to manage, control or fix, step back, son! It's not your job! Literally take a step back. Remove yourself to some extent, allowing others the space to have their experience, reaction, or make their own mistake.
Encourage others to take the lead. Especially if they're used to you taking charge or managing situations. Ask how they would like something to go, or if they have any suggestions. (You have to actually be open to taking their suggestions if you try this one.)
Write your story. If it feels like it's killing you to give up control, let the clusterf**k happen and then go write in your journal about how it "should" have gone and why. Review and see how reasonable it sounds.
Stay centered in what you want to experience and create it within yourself. Want peace? Take some breaths and try one of my short meditations. Want joy? Think of something that makes you really happy and have a laugh! Want freedom? Step outside, take a walk, or take 5 minutes to yourself.
4. Over-giving your own time, energy, and care
Feeling drained by the end of the holidays? Is it possible that you over gave without the balance of receiving? The balance of giving and receiving is crucial for staying happy and healthy at all times ...including at the holidays. Think of your energy reserves as a tank that you can fill and empty. You never want your tank to be too far below 1/2 full.
Even Joey knows.
Only give what YOU actually want to give.
If you are giving because:
a) you think it's expected
b) you're afraid to displease someone
c) the person who should be giving isn't stepping up
d) you feel obligated,
then either don't do it or get really clear on why you're doing it and your expectations attached to it.
When you give something you don't want to give, it depletes your tank. Find a way to refill it!
If you are giving because:
a) you want to
b) it feels like a genuine expression of love, appreciation, thanks, good wishes, etc
then go for it and still be clear on any expectations you have attached to it.
You've probably set a precedent of being the giver and not the receiver. It might take some training and learning for your crew to understand you are open and willing to receive. You'll have to speak up for what you want and need.
Ask for (or declare) what you want. Even when it feels risky. Even when it means being louder or taking up more space than you usually do.
Graciously receive. Practice receiving with love and grace and appreciation whenever you can. Don't ask for something and then dismiss it or deny it when it comes to you.
If you have more questions, or want individualized support, schedule a session or join me for my IGLIVE boundary class where we will talk about all this and more.