“We must be willing to let go of the life (holiday) we planned so as to have the life (holiday) that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

The holidays can be challenging on many levels when it comes to family gatherings, food, drink and gifts. Before you know it, you’ve had too much of all of them!

What is the problem?

Many families avoid each other through the year and then come together with unrealistic expectations of ‘connecting’ and dealing with life long patterns relationship patterns in the family. For many adults, going home means giving up years of maturity…regressing to being a teen or younger, or possibly a young adult. The pull in the family to ‘give up self’ is no less than the pull of gravity, at least as I’ve observed it. It’s automatic, predictable, and exceedingly annoying and frustrating. Learning to hold your own is not meant for the faint hearted but can be done. But the holidays aren’t the best time to try to address this problem. It’s best addressed during calmer, less anxious times throughout the year. What happens at holidays is happening all year long…it’s just easier to avoid contact and forget that it happens at all.

So…for the holidays, ask yourself what YOU want and don’t want to do…and plan accordingly and plan in advance. If contact with family is part of the plan, decide what parameters will be most helpful…i.e. how long do you want to go…announce in advance what your plan is…go out of your way to talk with a least a few people directly, or one on one at the gatherings — truly make an effort to be interested in their lives, their trials and tribulations…talk with family members that you can stay calmest with.

Or this year, maybe you decide not to attend the family gathering. If so, let the host know you’ve made other plans this year without criticizing or blaming others. This decision is about you and what works best for you. But be forewarned…you will get a reaction and in some families, it’s a very strong reaction from others who want you to go along with the usual program. The decision is yours: change back or blaze a new trail for yourself that is defined by you not the family! Once you start paying attention, you’ll realize they’ll be many more opportunities to think and act for yourself instead of ‘going along.’ Eventually, most families calm down when they realize their efforts to get you to change back are futile…this could take weeks, months, or years. The hardest part is defining self while not cutting off but instead, staying in contact with family. Most individuals and families have an untapped capacity to adapt to more mature behavior. You might be surprised!

Have a thoughtful holiday!