If we are being truly honest, the holiday season can be a very awkward time.
There is all this social pressure around being together and being happy. There is a deep conceptual groove that we are going to somehow magically feel “all aglow” in this season. But in reality, it is a season of heavy emotional triggers.
We are all unique, we have different values, and we are diverse. On top of that, some of us have very little “family” which is painfully triggering around a season of “family” traditions. And so many of are navigating some rather hard blows, big losses. Some of us are grieving loved ones, some of us are in the clench of existential grief from world politics, etc. So the holiday season is not really a time to push all that aside and come together with as much booze, food and sugar as can possibly ingested so we don’t feel anything. Yes, holidays can trigger very sweet heart connections… and yes, more of the time they tend to magnify large disconnections. And this holiday season especially, coming off a lot of challenging world politics, the disconnections might feel very pronounced.
So, here are some practical tools for navigating that disconnection. In my private practice with my students I talk a lot about how to navigate relationships with sanity, with clarity. That means knowing where the values are different, and knowing where they are the same. Where we have the same values, is a great place to naturally, easily connect. And for the holidays, when the pressure is towards that connection, we can gently step around the places our values are different. Here is how to step gently:
1. Accept how you feel
Its 100% okay to feel frustrated and angry and ornery about how another voted, or feels, or acts. When we really allow for these feelings, we can hold them in a compassionate way. Then we will naturally find that we won’t need to start challenging others about “why?”. It is only when we are in resistance with our own feelings, which is to say, still fighting internally with our feelings that we start pointing fingers at other people. Whenever you judge another, it is solely because you are in the habit of judging yourself. And honestly, we are all exhausted of the debate. Equanimity in relationship means having the bandwidth to not like the actions of another, but recognizing they are fundamentally equal to you. We are all One. We must grow up enough to be able to say, “I can fundamentally accept you will be you, even if I don’t appreciate your actions.”
There is nothing wrong with a little silence. It’s okay if there isn’t a lot of talk. It’s only in the silence that we can take in the energy, take in the overall scene, and make room for being present with each other. Don’t feel like you need to say something; just sit back and enjoy the overall vibe.
Be aware beforehand of the really charged or fear-filled topics. Before a party or gathering, set up some ways you will handle these conversations if they come up. For instance be sure to use I statements. “I am heartbroken by the racism, the accusations of sexual assault and bulling. I am hurting for my more vulnerable friends and so it’s very saddening for me to talk with you about this. But I would like to talk with you, I really want to ask you about your summer vacation…”
4. Aim to make the holiday event about connection
Connection is easy when you have common ground, so know where that ground is. I don’t mean the superficial ones—like, you both have dogs—but what is really true about this relationship? Tip: Most of us can all connect at the level of loving. For example: “We both try our best to love humanity, sometimes they are even better at this than I am… I can love that they are a good person, who really extends themselves to love most of the time…” Most of us on either side are feeling battered and wounded. 18 months of insanity, and many more to go. So talk about what you both love.
5. Action can be better than words
Holidays events are awesome to engage in activity. Seeing choir events, visiting gardens full of holiday lights, wandering down streets with window displays. Engage together in activities. Plan them ahead of time, or bring them to the party and let the host know you are going to lead some games. You can also listen to music, go bowling, sing carols, etc.
Enjoy the holidays. If you booze, eat and sugar yourself into oblivion, come join us for the Delicious Body class in January!