Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Navigating the Family Tightrope During The Holidays - Or Anytime

Navigating along the tightrope called "family" can be pretty tricky even during the best of times, but when it is the Holiday Season many of the spiritual lessons and ideas that we try so hard to incorporate into our everyday lives - well, they hit a brick wall.  They often seem to be much harder, if not impossible, to maintain.  I've noticed this year for some reason, many of the friends and acquaintances that I have were expressing quite a bit of family frustration and discontent.  I know there are no easy answers when it comes to family issues and that everyone's situation is unique, but here are a couple of thoughts that may help you with your individual balancing act.

First, I think it's really important for people to remember one simple phrase - 

 "They are not you... and you are not them".

True with your family, friends, and even in your work situation.
Yes, you may be a reflection of each other and have influenced each other at some point, true.  But you are "not" them and they are "not" you. Your choices of how to act, react and live your life are yours and yours alone.  Once you fully accept that fact that you are YOU, an individual human being and stop conforming automatically to a family group identity out of habit and history, your life and the choices you make will become much clearer and easier.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world".

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying:

"If you want to to change the world, first try to improve and bring change with yourself.  That will help change your family.  From there it just gets bigger and bigger.  Everything we do has some effect, some impact."

I believe that there are many lessons for us to learn from and work through during this lifetime, but for some people the toughest learning lessons stem from family situations.  Our family members are the people who can provoke emotion from us the easiest.  We often get frustrated with them the quickest, and the emotional buttons that they can push ultimately cloud our judgement and clear thinking.

Yes, that's what your family can do, but they don't have to.  It's all in how you choose to react to it.  Individual choice - individual - that word once again. How you choose to react to a situation "does" cause a ripple effect and effects those around you.  It can make things better, and it can also make things worse.  Even your very presence in some situations can diffuse a situation or make it much more difficult for everyone involved.

Which leads us to another point to consider...

"You don't always have to go somewhere and be with people just because you are invited, or because you are related to them."

or

"It's OK to say no".

How many times do we accept invitations from family and friends (Holidays or not) simply because we do not want to hurt their feelings or appear rude?  But the whole time that little voice inside of us is screaming NO, NO please don't GO!  Kids and younger people I can understand, but if you are over 30, even 40 years old and you still feel you can't say no to your parents, friends or siblings - or suggest a revision to their plans - then maybe that's something you need to seriously re-think.  The bottom line is, you don't have to always go because you are asked.  And if you do chose to go, you certainly don't have to stay.

I saw a perfect, but extreme, example of this in the movie The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo this weekTwo different times in the movie, two separate characters find themselves in horrific situations simply because they did not want to appear rude by saying no to an invitation to go into a house.  Even though most situations are not that extreme in life (I hope), there was a lot of wisdom written into those examples of what can happen to people who can't seem to say No.

"Don't keep making yourself feel bad wishing for a family situation you never had."

Not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up in a healthy and happy family situation.  So quit beating yourself up over it and move on.  People can find themselves in therapy for years over serious family issues, but at the end of the day it's up to you to let it go and MOVE ON.  Not necessarily forgive and forget (although that would be nice) ... but just plain old "move on".  You create your own reality in life.  The family that you were brought up in does not have to be the family that you create as an adult.

And finally:

I read a lot of quotes that come through on my Facebook page.  I know that a quote will often awaken something inside of us that we need to hear or re-think.  Right before Christmas I read a quote that said something like:  "Ask yourself this... During the Holidays, will the people who are around you find themselves better off by having been in your presence?"

Reflect on the last few days that you have had.

What's "your" answer?

And in turn, what was their affect on you?


~ diane fergurson



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