The Art of Navigating Toxic Family Members this Holiday Season
Ho Ho Ho! Christmas is here!
As it's customary for families to come together around this time of the year, the gathering of relatives can be a joyous occasion, but it can also be a challenging one. As the saying goes, you can choose your friends but you sure as hell can't choose your family, so with that in mind, here are a few strategies that might help you navigate your way through the holiday season with your sanity intact.
1. NEGATIVE VISUALISATION
The Stoic philosophers of ancient Rome practised a cognitive technique of visualising the worst possible outcomes in order to induce a feeling of gratitude for all the good things they had in their lives. This method of contemplating the worst is not intended to invoke fear or anxiety, rather it is to help prepare us for the challenges in life.
2. BE COMPASSIONATE
A shift in perspective can make a big difference to your wellbeing. Show compassion towards others, even those who deserve it the least, as their attitude is most likely a reflection of their own inadequacies. And have gratitude that your own path in life has been one of openness and kindness.
3. SET BOUNDARIES
You do not have to engage, and it’s absolutely ok to get up and walk away. Calmly tell them that you simply don’t want to participate in this conversation. And if that doesn’t work, nothing says ‘your opinion means squat’ more than walking off in the middle of their next sentence. Hey, you tried right?
4. BREATH WORK & MEDITATION
Not unlike swimming, martial arts or yoga, both breath work and meditation are activities that you get better at the more you do them. Carve out 15 minutes each day for the next seven days to brush up on your mind over matter skills to keep calm during difficult or triggering conversations.
5. BE POWERFUL
In Ancient Greece, intellectuals and those in power were made to drink psychedelic potions before walking down a road lined with people hurling abuses at them. This exercise was to check the egos of the blessed ones. So if someone is being nasty towards you in a situation you cannot avoid, use this time to build resilience and recognise the power within you.
6. DON'T TRY TO FIX THEM
Some folks are simply not worth your time. Yes, calling out racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry, climate deniers, trump supporters etc. is vital to enacting change, but perhaps a boozy Christmas lunch is not the right time to turn your family gathering into a political discussion group. As much as we like to think we are in this together, we are shaped by a lifetime of experiences, which requires both time and a willingness to unpack.