A Wonderful Holiday Opportunity
By Dr. Sheri Rosenthal
Around holiday times we're presented with a most wonderful gift - and that's the opportunity to look at ourselves though the eyes of our family dynamics. Our siblings and parents act as mirrors for us to see ourselves and our emotional reactions more clearly, and observe where we have wounds, judgments, opinions, and emotions.
The holidays can be delightful no matter what personalities your family contains! The only thing that can make your holidays traumatic is your reaction to your family based on what you believe about them and your unrealistic expectations about what a holiday should look like.
I'd like to share with you a series of questions that will give you a better understanding of your emotional state and beliefs regarding your family. After all, this is the perfect time to recapitulate how you feel about each of your siblings and your parents. In your journal create a couple of separate pages for each family member.
- What is it about each of those people that you judge to be inappropriate behavior on their part?
- What behaviors or actions push your buttons?
- The judgment that you have towards your siblings, does it remind you of how one of your parents judges?
- Is the way that you behave the right way as opposed to the way your siblings or parents act? Is your answer really the truth?
- How is your judgment interfering with your ability to love your family unconditionally?
- Can you love unconditionally if you maintain judgment toward your family members?
- Why are you denying yourself the experience of loving your family in favor of your judgments?
- Are your judgments that important? Are they actually "right"?
Our need to be right and make others wrong prevents us from having compassion and respect for our family members. If we could detach from our personal point of view about our family, we'd be able to see them as they are, simply as humans that have their own issues, pain, and sadness. Isn't your father, even if he is still nasty and harsh, just an old man suffering from the pain of life's events? Isn't your mom, even if she's still controlling and opinionated regarding your life, an old woman just trying to deal with her disappointment with what life's dealt her? How can you not have compassion for them? Are you so self-centered that you cannot let go of your opinions and love them just the way they are?
These are very powerful questions. I encourage you to end your year by doing a recapitulation of how you perceive and judge your family. It's a worthwhile endeavor and you never know what will come up for you. You might be quite surprised at what you find!