Home for the Holidays - Managing Family Triggers

Christmas is a time for visiting family, but so often, traveling home can bring to the surface triggers from our past. How we react to those triggers can be the difference between creating beautiful holiday memories, or spending years remembering where it all went wrong. Communicating in a healthy and loving way is more important than ever at this time, so we must be prepared and plan ahead for how we can manage old triggers during the holidays.

I found this Christmas my greatest trigger was put to the test. There is a tendency in my family to not listen as well as a penchant for the need to always be right. There is also a tendency to be critical and quick to blame others. All of these tendencies serve as triggers, meaning I really have to work hard to stay in my loving center and not fall into old patterns and behaviors that don’t serve me.

At one point, I faced a communication breakdown with a family member, and I worked to repair it as quickly as possible. It didn’t mean I wasn’t affected by it, it just means I implemented what I have learned: that if you want to avoid communication breakdowns being recorded into long term memory which can affect the relationship for years to come, you have to work to repair the breakdown within 24 hours, before it becomes hard-wired into our subconscious psyche and processed in the same way as our bodies process “trauma”. By apologizing and making amends within a few hours, we had one rather melancholy day together, but within two days, things returned to normal. Not only that, the discussion that followed the incident has had a longer term positive impact on our relationship, because there was greater awareness on the part of the other person as to how their behavior was affecting me, and they seemed to take it to heart and work to improve the situation, even complimenting me and acknowledging my effort, which I greatly appreciated.

In another incident involving a non-family member, that kind of repair wasn’t possible. Although I worked to immediately repair, the person chose a different path that made repair more difficult - blame. This is when we must accept that relationships are 50/50, and repair without an ability of both parties to see their role is almost impossible. That’s when all we can do is say, that’s OK, I accept this situation for what it is and I hope to learn something from it that helps me in future. However, when it comes to family, we can only hope that repair is possible.

I learned a lot about myself and how much I have progressed in the area of building better relationships this season. I also learned where I am still the weakest. We must use our failures as tools for learning and developing further. It is often through our breakdowns that our greatest breakthroughs in personal development occur. May 2018 be about breakthroughs and not breakdowns, and may you continue to build stronger relationships.