“We all have tendencies to see people in the light of past experiences.” –Cloud and Townsend, Boundaries
I wrote on this topic last year. I am just coming back to look over what I wrote for Christmas 2020, and it strikes me how much has changed. So much of our emotional experience has had to stay beneath the surface since the world turned upside down. We haven’t had the chance to process all that we have just experienced. But those emotions are still there: the uncertainty about the future, the self-doubt in our decisions, the fear, and the outrage at other’s decisions about politics or wearing a mask.
Not only are we processing the Covid-world, but the holidays always stir up our past family experiences. We can be sent back to that child-version of ourselves when we get around family. (You can read more about this in my post about this from last year) As we try to make plans for the holiday this year, it can leave us feeling frozen in making decisions, or wanting to run away, or wanting to say yes to everything to please everyone.
If there was EVER a time to get clear about what you need (our boundaries), it’s now. So I encourage you to take a minute and listen to your own voice- what you need. I list a few ways to do this below. It can be so easy to get swept away in our family’s plans or our own fears. So when you think about how to handle the holidays, where to spend your time, or what to say no to, take a pause before you respond. If you’ve already responded and regret it, it’s ok to change your mind. Of course we have to consider our physical health and other’s health. But then make sure to consider emotional health. What your heart might need this year is to celebrate with people safely or what you may need is a quiet holiday with a few loved ones. It’s ok to speak up for those needs.
This year will be the ultimate test in boundaries for us all. You are forced to speak up for what you need knowing you might disappoint people. You might take more risks and face the judgement of friends. Or you might be more cautious and face judgement from family. But listening to your needs will ultimately lead you to a place of confidence and security. You’ll feel happier and more authentic in your relationships. You’ll be able to be present during this beautiful and restorative season.
If we can be reflective and slow down, we can embrace this season with our whole hearts. So when you have a quiet moment of reflection, here are some ways to acknowledge your emotions during the holidays without letting them run the show:
- In a safe, quiet place (so probably not in the laundry room while everyone is waiting for you to come back so they can open presents), try to identify your fears, anxieties, and needs.
- Remind yourself you are not that child anymore. You have more tools, more control, and more awareness now.
- Reflect on what your own nuclear family needs and make space for those needs.
- Open up your hand to what the holiday can be now so you don’t get stuck in what it used to be or what you imagined it would be. Stay flexible.
- Know the difference between wisdom and fear. Wisdom can take a calculated risk- it can image a positive outcome, as well as an unfortunate outcome. Wisdom is slow and reflective. Fear is reactive and visceral. It can’t image a positive outcome and gives you tunnel vision. Wisdom is the path that leads to more joy even if it’s uncomfortable sometimes. Fear leads to anxiety and hiding.
Have a truly MERRY Christmas!