Beliefnet
As a psychologist who helps people deal with their more difficult relatives, I've found that at holiday time these stresses and personality clashes with certain family members come out more strongly than at other times of the year. To make sure your family gatherings are more harmonious this year than in the past, there are specific--and spiritual--things you can do.

1. Say a silent prayer or meditate silently right atthe moment when your family is acting up. The prayercan be, "Please God (or Spirit), give me strength to be patient with the difficult members of my family and open me up to the possibility that I will have a few sacred moments of connection with those family I love and whom I don't get to see often enough." Or, humorously, it can be, "Thank you God (or Spirit) that I don't have to see these people 24/7."

2. Choose to bless your most troubled or difficultfamily member rather than cursing this person. In mostspiritual traditions there are blessings you can sayto regain your peace of mind and your ability to speakrespectfully to even the most unpleasant individuals. For example, if you silently say to yourself, "May Godbless and keep this person," it gives you an extra 10seconds of impulse control so that you can negotiatecalmly with this difficult individual rather thanerupting in anger or insults. Instead of provoking awar with this person, you can silently bless him orher and then say respectfully out loud, "Let's worktogether to figure out how to improve the way weinteract at these holiday gatherings. You go first,and I'll listen to your ideas. Then I'll go second,and I hope you'll listen to my ideas, too."

3. Look for the wounded soul that is often hiddendeeply under this person's toxic comments andpersonality traits. You may need to do some informalresearch ahead of the next visit to find out fromaunts, uncles, cousins, or others when and how thisdifficult family member changed from being a kind soulinto an angry or self-absorbed individual. Thatdoesn't mean you need to whitewash or minimize thehurtful things he or she does, but rather it will giveyou the compassion and perspective to realize thisperson's woundedness is old and deep, having nothing to do with you.

_Related Features
  • Are You the Black Sheep in Your Family?
  • Surviving a Red-Blue Holiday Bash
  • 4. Experience gratitude for each small grain ofprogress. Rather than hoping your difficult relativewill become perfect or stress-free, you can seek tonotice each small moment of connection or decency thatoccurs between you. If last year you could only standthis person for 5 minutes and this year yousuccessfully enjoyed 10 quality minutes with thistroubled individual, that is a huge improvement.

    5. Recognize the growth that this person stirs up inyou. In the 23rd Psalm, there is a mysteriousstatement that "You prepare a table before me in thepresence of my enemies." Some spiritual teacherssuggest that just as an oyster needs sand to irritate,polish and create a fine pearl, so does life give usdifficult relatives who force us to grow and learnmore about patience, compassion, kindness,limit-setting, strength, and the release ofexpectations. If it weren't for your difficultrelatives, would you have ever been forced to work sohard at becoming the kind of person you are today? Ifit weren't for the unpleasant ways you were treated bycertain members of your family, would you have knownto be so careful so as not to mistreat your spouse,your kids, your friends, or your co-workers? Ratherthan dreading your encounters with your toughest ormost insensitive relatives, you can view each currentand future interaction as another chance to be testedand see how far you have come on your personaljourney. You don't need to be perfect, but you canremind yourself to stay open to what each stressfulsituation with your family is trying to teach you.

    6. When you're feeling trapped, call a "lifeline." You can regain your sense ofhumor and your inner strength by phoning a supportive friend and saying, "Could you please remind me if I'ma worthwhile human being...I'm with my relatives rightnow and I've completely forgotten." Just that onesentence of ironic humor can snap you out of thefeelings of victimization and aloneness that could causeyou to shut down, overeat, or drink too much atfamily gatherings.

    _Related Features
  • Are You the Black Sheep in Your Family?
  • Surviving a Red-Blue Holiday Bash
  • Join the Discussion
    comments powered by Disqus