April 24, 2017

How to Survive Family Gatherings.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

We all know the complaints when an extended family gets together: the dredging up of old grievances, the pitting of alliances against each other, leading to sore feelings, blame, and a sense of fatigue and defeat. Familial love is strongly mixed with stress. So let’s change this picture. The secret to changing the dynamics of these events is actually quite simple. As with any change, you must be the change you want to see in others. But how does that come about? Here are some suggestions:

The first thing is to stop doing all the things that never worked to begin with. Placating the difficult people in a family doesn’t work. Acting nicer than you feel doesn’t work. Giving lavish birthday presents to stingy relatives and resenting their lack of gratitude doesn’t work. So just stop. When you stop trying to revive your failed expectations that everything will be better this time and just let others be who they are, much of your frustration will fall away.


Second, look around and give others what they psychologically really want. Don’t project on them what you think they need or should have. Don’t push an agenda for change. Most people want simple things: appreciation, gratitude, validation, affection, someone who will listen. When you consciously provide any of those things, magic occurs.


Third, don’t blurt out your hidden feelings. Nobody wants to be around a ticking time bomb. Yet psychologically, many people approach their family like time bombs of hidden emotion. They can’t wait to blurt out the feelings they’ve been suppressing since the last gathering. Resist this impulse, no matter how much hidden resentment or criticism or payback you feel entitled to.


What you are entitled to is releasing those feelings so that they aren’t stuck inside you. Aiming them at another person never works, because blame and resentment, once created, are very difficult to heal. Take responsibility for your own feelings; no one can change them but you. Do the necessary releasing in private. Write a letter, give a speech, rant and rave, cry bitter tears–but do it all for yourself, in a space of safety and security. If you sincerely release those toxic emotions in advance of the family gathering, before they have a chance to hurt anyone, you will escape one of the worst traps.


Next, stay out of the box that others want to put you in. Why do you feel that your family has stuffed you into a box? Why won’t they treat you as a person who has changed and moved on? Let’s be honest. When we see our families, the past takes over. We have a mental image of children, parents, and relatives that is rooted in behavior from childhood. Clinging to the past is the same as clinging to a false perspective.


If you don’t want to be stuffed into a box, the answer is fairly simple. Treat others as if they have moved on, and they will do the same for you. That bratty kid brother is now an adult. That sister whose boyfriend you had a crush on is no longer a girl competing for dates. See everyone in the light of the present moment, and encourage a positive future together. If you can identify where anyone wants to go tomorrow, you have the best chance of relating to them today. So see today as the beginning of the future, not the tail end of the past.


Next, tolerate what is difficult, and engage in what is simple. Some people are difficult, and there’s no getting around it. You must tolerate their flaws, whether the irritant is a bad temper,

a tendency to drink, cutting remarks, an air of superiority, lethal self-importance—the actual flaw doesn’t matter. Difficult people won’t get under your skin once you realize that they don’t need to change in order to make you happy. Let them be. Don’t react. Don’t argue, and most of all, don’t act judgmental. It’s not your job to change people.


Engage instead on simple things. This doesn’t mean throwing up distractions about how good the dinner is or what the weather is doing. Simplicity means going back to basics. Ask about something that interests the other person. Sympathize with their problems without dwelling too long on them. Offer appreciation by noticing something that the person feels good about. In other words, tune in. I know it’s tempting to tune out difficult people, but that’s the main reason they keep being difficult. If you simply tune in to how they feel, a bond is established. Then they will feel less inclined to being difficult.


Up to now, all my points have been about coping. But your family won’t grow in loving harmony until you go beyond coping. The fact that you survived another gathering of the clan isn’t really a victory. You will feel victorious only when you rise to express an ideal, such as love, kindness, giving and caring. In other words, you need to be inspiring.


Sit down and think about how this can happen. I know one middle son who felt embarrassed that he could never express the tender side of himself to his family. They assumed he was a rather tough customer, actually, and treated him that way. So one Christmas he wrote a poem that expressed his most tender feelings toward his mother, who was getting on in years. He printed the poem in a graceful font and had it framed in a silver frame. On Christmas morning, he stood up and read the poem aloud, much to everyone’s amazement.


Did he turn into a saint at that moment? Did all his siblings offer glowing praise? No. He got a mixture of reactions, from his mother’s tears to his brothers’ envy. Yet he knew that he had done something inspiring, and that was all that matters. Other people’s reactions are up to them.


I think that’s a good model for any inspiring act. Go inside yourself and find those idealistic impulses “they” won’t let you express—and realize that it was your own reticence, embarrassment and timidity that have kept you suppressed. If you don’t want to write a poem, you can offer a heartfelt toast, give a present that’s a touching remembrance and provide appreciation to someone who is normally overlooked. Make someone who feels depressed laugh. Make someone old feel like the life of the party. You already know what raises your spirits. With that knowledge and a little forethought, you can raise someone else’s, and then real change can come to pass as a reality rather than one more missed opportunity.

Write Your Comment

  1. Dilip Kumar

    Family gatherings is like experiencing galaxies of a milky way coming togather as one unit and collision of stars and planets do happen as designed by nature......

  2. Dilip Kumar

    Family gatherings is like experiencing galaxies of a milky way coming togather as one unit and collision of stars and planets do happen as designed by nature......

  3. Dilip Kumar

    Family gatherings is like experiencing galaxies of a milky way coming togather as one unit and collision of stars and planets do happen as designed by nature......

More Comments
How AI Can Elevate Spiritual Intelligence and Personal Well-Being
September 17, 2024
Scroll Up