5 Ways to Replace Holiday Fighting with Loving Don't jump to conclusions on how your holiday visits will unfold. It's a new year and you can take the following steps to make it a great, loving holiday season. BY SHARON RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
The holidays are a time to rejoice, not fight.
Are you tired of feeling stressed and angry during the holidays? Do you want this special time of the year to be filled with peace and joy? Do you wish for a fight-free holiday season with your loved ones? Make your Christmas wish come true by following these simple guidelines that will turn your holidays from tense and stressful to peaceful and loving:
1. Write down your recurrent, usual and predictable fights about the holidays. For example, "Mom always wants me to come to her house first and gets mad if we go to my in-laws’ house before hers."
2. Write down your usual, predictable response. For example, "I always try to please my mom and in-laws, and I end up feeling angry and resentful. I sometimes don’t want to go to either house."
Expressing your feelings in written form enables you to problem-solve more effectively. Writing down what happens each year with a family member and how it makes you feel allows you to see the seriousness of the issue and how it affects you emotionally. It breaks the "mom scenario" that continuously cycles in your head by shifting it from head-to-paper, enabling you to get a clearer picture of what you want and what you don’t want so you can take the necessary steps to resolve the issue and restore harmony in your relationship.
3. Rather than dwell on the resentment regarding one’s craziness about the order of appearance or your in-laws’ inflexibility, think about the love, appreciation and gratitude you feel for them without thinking about their behavior that drives you crazy.
4. Make a decision right now, to remember two things: 1) When dealing with your mom or in-laws, don’t react like you always do. When you feel the old resentment popping up, immediately breathe into your heart and think about your love for them, or anyone or anything else that brings love into your heart: your dog, a beautiful sunset or favorite song. Keep breathing and thinking about this love and soon you will feel it in your heart. 2) After you’ve felt the love in your heart and are more peaceful and calm, talk to your family. At this point, with a feeling of love and compassion for yourself and them, you’ll be able to relate to your family and not react to the triggers from past holidays. This helps your family let go of their usual argumentative responses because you’ve let go of yours. It takes only one person from an entire family to begin a behavior change.
5. Remember that your goal is to be fight-free this holiday season. However, if this is difficult and you’re unable to feel loving in the throws of a tense conversation or situation, try approaching your family member in a different way. Set an intention that you want the conversation to end up with all those concerned feeling heard and more connected. Don’t mask your feelings, but don’t clobber people with them either. If your mom is driving you crazy, you say, "I have to be honest with you, Mom, I really don’t want to hear about me coming to your house first this year. It puts me in a bad position with everyone, especially myself. Let’s talk instead about how we can make this holiday fun and enjoyable for everyone. Remember we’re family, and we want to be together relating… not fighting." The main idea you’re now getting across is that you want to feel loving to your loved ones, versus wasting precious time arguing.
This holiday season, decide to be here now… it’s this year, not last year. With thought and effort, you have the opportunity to change some old patterns and behaviors that haven’t worked in the past. Make a conscious effort to do something different this year that renews love and kindness rather than anger and hostility. Recent studies indicate that by coming from a loving place in your heart, the immune system is strengthened, facilitating a stronger body that is better equipped to fight off illnesses. Fighting simply makes you weak and sick, but loving makes you strong and healthy. So start today. Make a decision from your heart, and not your head to practice love and watch your Christmas wish come true.
Sharon M. Rivkin, Marriage and Family Therapist, and author of "The First Argument: Cutting to the Root of Intimate Conflict," (www.thefirstargument.com) has worked with couples for 25-plus years. Her unique insight into the first argument was featured in "O: The Oprah Magazine" and "Reader’s Digest," and has attracted people throughout the U.S. and abroad for consultation, workshops, and courses. For more information on Sharon Rivkin visit www.sharonrivkin.com.