That Holiday Strife Is Not About Them, It’s About You

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Family tension is not uncommon during the holidays. In some households, family bickering can be as prominent as turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie.

One of my clients, David (not his real name), once asked me what he should do about the fast-approaching holidays, where family gatherings always included his brother-in-law with whom he never gets along. His wife is very close to her brother, putting an additional strain on their relationship.

After chatting with David about various holiday conflicts with his brother-in-law over the years, he began to understand an essential ingredient for his healing: stop the blame game. David needed to stop blaming his brother-in-law for all their disputes.

You can never truly be free of personal problems until you let go of the part within yourself that has the issue. So, when facing a difficult situation, rather than asking “what should I do about this?” or demand change from the other person—which suggests the conflict lies outside of you—ask yourself: “Why does this bother me?” Or, “What part of me is bothered by this?”

Blaming external factors for your problems may offer a temporary solution for an issue, but you’ll likely continue to face similar problems down the road, each disguised as something different, depending on the circumstances. For example, David could have continued to avoid seeing his brother-in-law, which would have been a temporarysolution, but he would still have the same emotional issues within himself that his brother-in-law merely triggered. It would be like having a wound, someone bumping into it causing you pain, and you blaming them for your wound.

When you look within yourself for a solution, you take back your power. You acknowledge and recognize that you are the only one who has the power to change or reframe a situation, and what you do—or how you respond to it—does not rely on the other person’s behavior to make you feel better. Only then, can you truly be open to learning life lessons and experience a deeper healing.

As we dug deeper into David’s irritation with his brother-in-law, we discovered that his reactions were triggered by jealousy, echoing what he often felt in his childhood toward his older brother, who he perceived as his mother’s “favorite son.” With some additional work, we cleared and healed this part of David’s unconscious mind.

David soon discovered that not only could he converse with his brother-in-law, he even likes parts of his personality—something he had never been open to seeing in the past. David confessed that he may never be best friends with his brother-in-law, but their relationship has vastly improved. For the first time, David is actually looking forward to their next family gathering this holiday.

While it may be much more expedient to blame others for conflicts, looking within yourself for solutions is the most reliable source of healing. If you can’t do this on your own, ask for help. Find the therapeutic or healing modality that suits your needs. To do this ensures that the holidays stays jolly and that the only turkey at the next family gathering will be the one on the table.

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