As much as the holidays are times of gratitude, giving and getting together with our loved ones; I have been a therapist too long not to know, they can also be stressful.
When you are with your family and friends for holiday gatherings, and especially when you are not usually spending this amount of time with them, the rules of behavior change.
I spend a lot of time teaching about setting healthy internal and external boundaries. For instance, having a good internal boundary and not over-disclosing, especially with people you just met, is a good idea. Setting boundaries with those who are inappropriate, mean, rude or hurtful is also important.
In the case of the holidays though, when you are together with a group (even family) that you are not around much, sometimes rather than setting a boundary it may be better to be neutral.
The reason I say this is the holidays are a time to be harmonious, grateful, share a meal together, and exchange gifts. It is also the time to celebrate in the way that you choose, depending upon your religious and spiritual beliefs.
Setting boundaries are important and come from high self-esteem. Setting boundaries in front of a group though, during a holiday gathering, can make everyone uncomfortable. We have all seen sit-coms where the holiday dinner explodes in chaos and accusations. Even with all the humor, if the television show mirrors your family; it can be awkward for everyone.
Rather than having a witness or an audience to your dilemma with someone, it may be better to communicate with the person in private at another time. So rather than reacting to the one person who “ruins it for everyone,” you may want to try this.
This is a neutrality/amusement practice that I teach in my meditation class called The Center of the Head. The more you practice this now, the easier it is to do when you are in the middle of a situation and need to choose to react or detach.
Close your eyes and take a big breath from deep in your belly. Bring your attention to the center of your head. This is behind your eyes and up a bit and between your ears. This is your own sacred space. Now open your eyes and notice the difference when you look out from this place. Close your eyes again and bring yourself into the center of your head. From this place, now with your eyes closed and later with them open, when you look out, you can see other people and situations from a place of neutrality. It is like watching a movie.
What others are doing does not have to affect you personally. It is just one scene in the entire film. You can look at what is happening around you with amusement. Think about how it is others are behaving and see the amusement in it all. Say to yourself, “this is an interesting way to do that.” It may not be how you would do it, but you see them with neutrality and amusement.
So, when you are with others around the holidays, when needed, bring yourself into the center of your head. Look out at the people and situations and as you are involved with them, practice being neutral and being amused. You always have this sacred place within yourself and you do not have to be involved with others when they cross your boundaries, or the boundaries of others. If someone brings up an old “story” that may be thrown at you in a prickly way, you can just remain neutral and be amused. You can wonder why it is they continue to stay stuck in the past, and just watch with amusement. You do not have to affect change or correct anyone this holiday season. You can just take time to be loving, gifting and care for yourself by practicing neutrality and amusement. This may be the best gift of the holiday!