The holidays are here. And while everyday life is triggering after trauma, the holidays take those triggers to another level. We are inundated with the imagery of a perfect family. Even though we may grasp the idea that no family really lives up to the image in the media, we also know that our family dysfunction went above and beyond the norm. We would give anything to have the annoying uncle or the overly competitive sister as the worst of our problems. But that’s not what is happening for us. Whether we choose to continue navigating the family dynamics, limit contact or cut off contact completely, we will be spending the holidays without real family – literally or figuratively. For many of us, we will be alone. And while we have tried hard to count the blessings we do have, we know there is something missing.
But what can we do about it? How can we change the holidays into a time of inner peace? Many of us spend our time trying to create better external circumstances. But our holiday situation is not going to meet society’s standards. There is hope though. We can find a way to make the holidays pleasant and peaceful even if those around us don’t support that plan. Here are some suggestions for bringing new peace to your holiday season.
Conquer the guilt. Whether or not you are in contact with family, you will deal with guilt if you do things your way. The guilt will either come from external people or it will come from the internalization of the guilt trips you have received since birth. Either way, you must address that guilt in a new way. Most importantly, you must NOT do what it says. But you can’t ignore it either. It will just get louder and louder. If it is coming from others, let them know the guilt isn’t going to work. Respond from an empowered place, call it out and let the other person know you will not be swayed by it. If it is coming from within, bring awareness to it by writing from it. Let those parts of self express. The more you do this, the more you can let the guilt go and make the right decisions for you.
Address the fear. When you guilt yourself to do things for others, there is almost always an underlying fear driving that guilt. Those fears will keep you focused on avoiding rejection and abandonment. You will be driven by the need to be “normal”, to fit in with others and to have approval from society. While these beliefs were critical to surviving childhood, they are not helpful now. They will hold you back from the peace you desire. Get to know the fears and let them express in writing too. As you release these fears, you will be able to avoid the societal trap that keeps you focused on the wrong priorities.
Set boundaries. Nobody gets to create your holiday experience for you. Only you get to do that. You don’t have to say yes to any request. I understand you might have children and traditions you have set around your immediate family. But you get to say no to whatever isn’t working for you anymore. I have dropped traditions that were taking too much of my time and energy at home to a surprisingly calm reaction from my children. And when it comes to extended family, you don’t have to do anything they request. You get to say no if it is adding stress. Family gatherings? No. Christmas cards? Nope. Baking? That’s what bakeries are for. If it adds stress, throw it out. And when you feel the guilt and fear start in, refer to the previous steps.
Get to know and accept yourself. There is nothing like the holidays to get to know who you are and what you want. This isn’t just about self-care (but that matters). It is about understanding what you want and focusing on your needs. But it also means exploring those parts of self that have been rejected, first by others and then by yourself. The more you can know who you are, the more you can create a holiday experience that fulfills you. When the requests start to flow in, don’t answer right away. Take the time to check in with yourself first. Check in with how your body and psyche are reacting to the request. Write from the reaction. Make your decisions based on what you want and not others. Build a relationship with yourself this holiday season. Give yourself that gift.
If you’re tired of struggling through the holidays and would like to discover the peace and joy of the season for yourself, then why not join my Making Peace with the Holidays after Trauma masterclass this December? You will be added to my private Facebook Group where you will meet others who are on a similar healing journey. Give yourself the gift of peace this holiday season and join this supportive, learning masterclass today.
*Please note if you’re a member of my Survivors Guide for Life you are automatically enrolled.