Hunting for a Happier Holiday

It’s holiday Open Season! All grown up and no longer toeing-the-line of our parent’s agendas, obligations, and expectations, we have the locked-and-loaded license to see-who-we-wish and do-what-we-like. Sure, Hallmark-tinged moments remain desirous, but we now have free-reign to rein-them-in or let them fly.

Surprisingly, even with the maturity to stand-on-our-own, many of us still stumble down the same beaten behavioral paths of our childhoods.

Visiting Memory Lane

As mature adults, we have arrived at a better ability to reason – however, when we choose to travel down memory lane, the long-established family communication rules and operating systems (which are rarely updated) greet us along with the rest of our original clan.

At one point in our development, the family rules worked: During our adolescence, we needed external attention to build our way toward individuality. This validation-seeking was vital to our development because we needed others’ guidance and endorsement as we slowly developed our sense-of-self. “The best little boy in the world.” “The smart one.” “The bad girl.” “The funny one:” Positive or negative, the family/school roles we were cast into helped us access the emotional nutrients necessary for our budding identities to begin to blossom.

Given our histories, it’s seductively easy for old ways of perceiving ourselves and each other to resurface when we travel home for the holidays. When we are around the reminders of our pasts (despite our solemn pledge to ourselves not to) we often regress into the roles we played as children: We find ourselves expecting and abiding by the past instead of enjoying the present.

The Gift is in the Present

The great news is that a jolly-good time has less to do with Schedule and more to do with Approach: By remaining connected with who we’ve become, our holiday can be an experience that’s both fresh and festive. When we are solid in ourselves, others’ expectations can be met with acceptance instead of an obligation that leads to irritation.

Acceptance not “Expectance.”

People get the definition of acceptance wrong all of the time: Acceptance does not mean agreement. We do not have to agree with the politics, judgments or expectations of our families. Acceptance is about putting our struggle down – not needing to prove our point or get another to understand us.

The best way to feel closer to others is to stop trying to convince them to see things our way. When we entrench ourselves in the need to be “right,” what we are doing is imposing “wrongness” toward others’ thoughts and feelings, which creates emotional distance.

The healthiest goal of any interaction is not to prove or defend yourself but simply to be yourself.

So instead of setting an agenda, why not just decide to enjoy the many different perspectives and experiences your family members have collected and are excited to share with you.

-Consider it your opportunity to witness the show-and-tell of yesteryear from the comfort of being all grown-up.

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