You know that the minute you go “home for the holidays” the triggers are coming. Even the most independent, mature, and responsible of us can get easily triggered by our family members.
Beyond truly serious family dynamics (abuse – physical or emotional, addiction, verbal altercations and beyond) – which I will not be touching on – there are many low-key trigger areas that happen to the best of us.
And don’t get me wrong, TV shows, movies, and more make light of all this. The zaney-ness of Christmas Vacation or Home Alone make us feel less unique in our dysfunction and frustration.
But the cold reality is that these triggers leave us feeling disempowered and usually regressing, sinking inward, and picking at old wounds you thought had healed up. And in real life, when the holiday ends and the season is over, we’re left picking up the pieces as we try to acclimate back to our regular lives.
This holiday, empower yourself by starting off centered. Knowing your triggers ahead of time.
With the below Trigger areas, I have given you journal prompts that I use to walk into family get togethers in a mindful way. Use these to prep, use these when you have a free moment, but mostly use these because if you keep doing the same thing with your family year after year, and expecting different results…that is the definition of insanity. And you my friend, will be the one causing your own problems.
HOLIDAY TRIGGER AREAS:
- Parenting Dynamic
- Meeting Expectations
- Sibling Rivalry
- Routine & Regression
Parenting Dynamic: Expectations of our parental units
Everyone has a different relationship with their parents. For some, you may have a long-standing dynamic that’s only recently been disrupted. Your parents may be young and spry or older and wiser, and aging and in need of help. If you’re anything like me, you may have a modern family and have adjusted to new parental relationships.
PROMPT WORK: Am I actually present with my parents?
- Do I allow my parents to parent? Am I open to receiving their advice, their love, their gifts?
- Do I want my parents to make up for things that still upset me? (childhood wounds)
- Is that fair to them?
- What would allow me to see my parents as loving humans
Meeting Expectations: Questioning your personal growth or success
In a family or friend gathering setting, people are used to making small talk. “What are you up to lately?” “How’s your job?” “Are you seeing anyone?” They are trying to take interest in your life…so why does it trigger you so badly? It’s because it’s surface level…and from some friends or family members, you crave more than just that.
PROMPT WORK: Own your life
- What part of these questions am I scared to answer?
- Are there areas of my life that I’m not satisfied with? That are work in progress? That I’m insecure about?
- What would it look like to share that with the person who asks? Might they remind you that you’re being too hard on yourself and instead of berating you, reaffirm that you are doing the best you can?
- How can you connect closer with those you are sharing your feelings with (not superficial updates with)? What would it look like to be vulnerable first?
Sibling Rivalry: Projectile Vomiting
We’re used to this age-old dynamic – sibling vs. sibling, oldest vs. youngest, middle child syndrome, and more. Our siblings are typically not who we’d seek out as friends, yet they are our peers, bound to us by family.
PROMPT WORK: Disarm them of their perceived power
- Is there something your sibling does/never does that bothers you? What are ways you could tell them?
- How would you treat your sibling if they were your friend? Would you match snide comments with teasing back because their words don’t hold as much power? Would you accept their critiques as groundless instead of applying mass gravity to them?
- How is your sibling a part of your story? Your evolution?
- Can you accept who they are now, as you believe you deserve to be accepted by them?
Routine & Regression: Adult, Interrupted
I believe that part of why we regress when we go home is that we deprive ourselves of our typical routine – the one that we use to feel centered and mature and normal most days. Our self care, our ways of dealing with stress, and our daily habits that make us, well, us.
PROMPT WORK: Bring what you need, not just in your suitcase
- What can I do once a day to ground myself in my typical routine or mindset?
- How could I feel more like myself while at this event/at my family’s home/on this trip?
- Do I need to know the schedule from my parents?
- Do I need to have my own car while there?
- Do I need 30 min of quiet time to myself in the morning to be centered for the day?
- and so on…
Stewing: A bad habit of passive aggression
In addition to regressing, we have this made up belief that it is our responsibility to “keep the peace” at family gatherings. And given, it is good generally not to be too serious 24/7 with your family, lighten up, and enjoy the time together. However, if keeping the peace means you end up bottling up your feelings and being angry the moment you wake up, you’re not honoring your more adult ways of dealing with emotions.
PROMPT WORK: Break the habit
- What do you do every time to “keep the peace” or not cause a stir?
- Does it actually work?
- What’s something new you could try?
- Are you comfortable reacting differently than the others?
If you’re thinking, oh my gosh this is so much work just to be around my loved ones. Consider this.
You do love them. So why not enjoy them?
And why not enjoy them as the real you? Not the regressed version, triggered version, or insecure version of you.
Allow your family to embrace who you are today by being the true person you are today.
Does this mean you might be the bigger person?
Own it. Wear it proudly. And know that you may be the first person to break age old cycles in your family. And start new habits. Create new traditions.
Because you deserve to enjoy your holiday.
4 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season to Be Triggered”
Love that!!! The outcome that is less discussed…good communication and mutual respect!!!!
It Was a quiet holiday — one daughter and son-in-law are in LA (where all of us celebrated last year) and the other daughter and son-in-law are here in NYC. Alas, a bunch of us had colds on Christmas Eve so our usual celebration was cancelled/downscaled. But we got together on Christmas Day and all went well. We are pretty much past any drama at family get togethers — time and honesty have worked their magic, and we all really like each other.
Aw! Thank you for that! It worked out exceedingly well. I’ve curated these prompts after a few years of doing this prep work, so these are the best of the best. How did your family get together(s) go this year?
How did it work out this year? Such sage advice (and so hard to follow, LOL).