Why is it that some people feel excited about going home for the holidays, but end up feeling disappointed after the visit is over?
Love, joy, fun, happiness, feeling connected, and being part of something bigger than oneself is part of the package called “belonging to a family.” For these reasons most of us get hyped about going home to celebrate with our tribe.
Competition, envy, guilt, unhappy memories, feeling left out or put down can also be part and parcel of the package called “belonging to a family.” Because of these things some people feel disappointed by the time the visit ends. Emotions tend to run high during holiday celebrations and high emotions aren’t always equated with great behavior—-ours or our relatives!
Many people report looking forward to going home for the holidays. They feel hopeful that this year things will be different. Aunt Martha won’t make rude remarks. They’ll get along with Dad. Older brother or sister won’t put them down. Mom won’t be critical. No one will tease and remind them of awkward teen-age embarrassments. Everything will be rosy and happy.
Holiday time ends and once again you leave, walking slowly, pulling the suitcase as if it weighed 100 pounds, and resolving that next year you’ll go away with friends instead of seeing family. Occasionally a spouse will say an infuriating thing such as, “Your family is really nice. I had a good time. How come you got so quiet toward the end.” Or worse yet—-“How come you fight with everyone.”
Families are complicated and the role of each individual within the family is complex. We may believe we have matured. We may exercise self-control in difficult situations. Perhaps with friends or current family we no long act pouty, stubborn or crabby. Then we go home and lo and behold we find ourselves reacting in the same way we reacted when we were ten years old. We snap when Mom criticizes and pout when Aunt Martha patronizes. We react the same old way to big or little brother or sister, Mom or Dad. And they in turn will tease, criticize, put down or simply irritate us in all the “old familiar ways.”
My advice: This year be prepared!
Family relationships have a great deal to do with overall physical, emotional and mental health. Getting along with “those folks”— the people we grew up with — can help us to gain maturity and give a feeling of increased self-confidence. We tend to repeat family interactions with friends, current significant others, and co-workers. Handle your emotions, therefore, your interactions, with your family well and you’ll be on easy street.
Relationships and physical and emotional health are intricately connected. Begin at the beginning—-resolve to change your reactions to the members of your family of origin and other relationships will improve as well. A side benefit of improved relationships is the blossoming of your overall health.
This year take some time and consider the family interactions that trigger you. Think of the manner in which you respond to old familiar feelings. How might you respond differently?
The only interactions that can truly make you feel bad are your own. What other people say and do can make you initially feel a rush of anger, hurt, or sadness but if you respond in a non-reactive way you will benefit. The negativity that has been aroused will pass almost immediately. Responding in a way that is “good for you” means —–be objective, not reactive.
Make a plan for how you will respond to the interactions that bother you. In other words—the music isn’t going to change—but you don’t have to dance to it.
Your goal is to come back to your current home with energy in your step and feeling good. So this holiday season take your ideal self home with you. Behave the way you have always wanted to behave. Recognize that you might well get upset or feel negative but that you can choose a different way of responding. You can respond carefully and you can respond in a manner that is in your best interests. This doesn’t mean you don’t stand up for yourself. It does mean that you don’t dance to the same old music in the same old way.