I am a grown woman with years of therapy under my belt, but every time I go home for the holidays, the stress of being with my family makes me feel like I'm 5 years old again.
If you're anything like me, you love your family... you just hate being around them on the holidays.
For one thing, the holidays are absolutely dripping with expectations. These expectations are fed by numerous holiday specials on TV, in movies and even in the sweet stories you listen to on "This American Life" in the car on the way to your family home.
But none of these examples of holiday cheer are anything close to real life.
In real life, your sister has a budding pill problem, your uncle says weirdly inappropriate comments about what a "healthy woman" you've become and your dad's new wife voted for Donald Trump.
Outside of your unfortunate blood relationship, you would not elect to spend a moment of your free time with these people. So here's what you do about it:
Stop trying to change their minds.
If you decide to suck it up and go spend Thanksgiving with your family, you can rest assured people in your family will say or do things that offend you, or that you disagree with.
It's not your job to change your family, or to prove them wrong.
It's not your job to change your family, or to prove them wrong. It isn't your job to get them to see your side of things. It's not even your job to TRY to do any of the above.
You are there because you're doing your part... by simply showing up.
Accept that you can't change the outcome.
We, as humans, are wired to feel the need to step in during moments of crisis. When someone brings up politics at the Thanksgiving table, it's natural to want to jump in and squash the conversation, or to throw in your two cents.
It's not wrong to want to do this, but if your goal is to maintain some semblance of inner peace and to just get through the weekend, my best advice is to stop trying to change the outcome of the conversation. Be an observer.
See what you learn from observing. In other words, shut your mouth and just eat something.
Shut your mouth and just eat something
Don't judge others.
Chances are, while you detach from these familial entanglements, your ego will step in and start talking to you. "Woah, look at you," it'll say, "You're a picture of sobriety and peace and these people are all slaves to their emotions. They're so silly and frivolous. You're better than all of them."
...Well, you're not.
Truth be told, silent judgment isn't any better than the judgments you make out loud. What's worse? They can lead to you storing up your emotions in a way that could bring about a full-blown fight.
Your family knows how to push your buttons. They're the ones who installed them. So stop judging your family and focus on your own reactions.
If you feel anger or pain, take note of where it's coming from. You could learn something about yourself in the process.
Detaching from your family is a nearly impossible task. We are often so entangled in their ways of thinking and communicating that detaching from them often feels like it has to be a forced, cold-hearted act of self-control.
In fact, it's only through gentleness and patience that we can succeed at detaching from our families. The only way to do it is by not stepping in when any of your family members seem to be having a hard time.
You can detach from your family members' shortcomings by not making up for them and by not criticizing them. You can step back and allow every family member to play their role while you play yours -- and your role, this year, is to be silent.
Quit taking everything personally.
If you've taken this advice to heart and you've followed through on the actions I've spelled out above, some members of your family may react with hostility.
When the guilt they are experiencing explodes, it could explode on you, and it's important to know whatever vitriol is being directed at you only reveals the pain they are in.
You don't need to take their words seriously at these times. You can walk away. They'll be all right without you.
Take this advice. If you take it to heart, it will help you not just in your relationships with your family, but in your relationships with others.
You'll learn a lot about yourself when you cultivate the ability to pause and take a step back without reacting out of anger.
...Most importantly, though, you'll be able to make it through Thanksgiving weekend.