4 keys to use in order to deal with difficult family members during the holidays
The holidays are supposed to be times of peace, joy and good tidings. But for millions of families around the world, it will be anything but a peaceful, relaxing occasion.
From bickering relatives, to alcoholic moms and or dads, to siblings that have never let go of years of resentments… The holidays can be quite challenging – far from “The Hallmark card” description of bliss and inner peace.
So what are the patterns that you noticed in your past holidays that don’t seem to work for you? Most of us, if we look deeply enough, will see a repetition over the years of the same issues, the same challenges, the same problems… But we keep going back for more.
Too many times, we will not look at our role in the dysfunction of family holidays. We want to blame everyone else. But, the only common denominator in all of our dysfunctional holiday events is our return to these events expecting that this year something different will happen. It never does, and it never will, until we do something that will change our approach to the holidays ourselves.
Perhaps you might be imagining right now, running through your brain thoughts like “but I can’t do anything about Uncle Bill’s drinking… It’s out of my control that mom enables my dad to be angry and like Scrooge during the holidays. None of these things are in my control at all. So what’s my role?”
Number one best-selling author, counselor, life coach and radio host David Essel has helped hundreds of individuals to learn how to deal in a different way with family members that may not represent what the holidays are all about.
Below are four essential keys to help you deal with difficult family members during the holiday season.
Number one. The first problem with many holidays, when we return home, wherever home might be, is that we have unrealistic expectations of how this year might be different than the past. We have to stay in reality. No matter how all optimistic you might be – if family members have not done the work to heal their past you’re probably going to walk into the same environment this year as you have in the past.
So if you catch yourself asking “why did so-and-so have to get so drunk again” or “why did Uncle Sam or Aunt Pat had to continue bickering over dinner” or “I can’t believe mom cooked a main dish I love and forgot about my food allergy” then take notice and ask yourself was this a first time occurrence or was this a problem that you ran into before? Most likely it will be the latter
So why doesn’t it ever change or how come you thought this year would be the year that nobody gets into a shouting match at the dinner table or that you hoped at least you can make it to dessert without quarreling?
It might be that perhaps your expectations are unrealistic. You might be hoping for a “Hallmark card” family gathering, when in actuality, you have a comic book history of holiday experiences.
So before you go home for the holidays let’s get real. Have you struggled in the past with mom and dad? Sisters or brothers? Aunts and Uncles? Grandmothers and Grandfathers? In-laws? And if so don’t expect things to be different. Accept the reality that you’re from a dysfunctional family and if you choose to go home that most of the past will be repeated again.
Number two. Don’t stay in the house with everyone else! One of the biggest challenges we face is that we don’t want to offend people so we stay in the insanity where everyone else is staying. Get a hotel room! I don’t care if you have to stretch your budget. It will be one of the smartest things you’ll ever do. Then you can leave when you want to leave, arrive when you want to arrive, and skip all the chaos and drama that has happened in the past. You have an escape route. This is one of the smartest moves you could probably make this holiday season.
And what if people push back? What if your family members get upset because of the fact you’re setting boundaries by having a hotel room? The independent person, which is you, explains in advance what your plans are this year. You don’t surprise them by walking in and telling them that you have a hotel room. You let them know in advance. The best way to do this? Via a family e-mail. Include everyone. And tell them why, instead of staying in your home this year, you’re going to stay in a hotel. Can you be honest? Can you risk rejection? You see, this is the beginning of becoming an independent versus codependent person. The codependent person is more concerned about what everyone else thinks than taking care of themselves. The independent person understands they’re going to get pushback. There will be people who will be totally unhappy with this decision, but they do it anyway. They know sanity is much more important than anything else in this world. And they also know, that this year, they’re going to have the best holiday possible by removing the triggers from past holiday experiences that create so much drama and chaos.
This takes confidence. This takes self-esteem. And I promise you it will be more worth it then you could ever imagine. Even if people push back, and give you a hard time in the beginning.
Number three. So many arguments escalate because we have a desire to be right and we can’t let someone else be right we have to set people straight. Whether you’re talking about politics, religion, or why the economy is so good or so bad… If someone at your event has a different opinion allow them to have a different opinion. There’s no need to go to battle as you have in the past over conversations that in reality mean nothing. Bite your tongue!
David was confronted by someone who upon returning home every year would listen to her mom consistently berate her father who she divorced 10 years ago. It’s an unending series of dramatic conversations, insane conversations that she used to engage in for a number of years.
And she always loses. No matter how many times she tries to stick up for her dad her mom comes up with another experience proving that her father is deadweight unreliable and unkind. So this year it’s going to be different. She’s already made up her mind. After Essel asked her to do a series of writing exercises of what she needs to do differently this year to make the holidays more pleasant she decided that she’s going to just shut up whenever her mother brings up how terrible her father is as a former husband and even current dad.
She realizes that unless her mom decides to get help and counseling to let go of her intense resentments, the conversation is always going to go down the same path. And why do we follow that path? Why do we engage with someone who we know has a totally different opinion than ours? Well, read above. We want to be right. We want to set the record straight. In this case, she’s been trying to defend her dad for 10 years and the end result has always been intense arguments. Nothing but chaos and drama.
David also recommended that she email her mom ahead of time and tell her that this year she doesn’t have any desire to get into arguments or discussions about dad. She asked her mom to agree with her and to leave her father out of conversations while she’s at her mother’s house for the holidays. She never received a reply from her mom which tells us a lot about her mom still being in that angry, angry state.
If this is similar to how it goes in your family, then don’t expect your mom to change. Accept her as she is. She’s angry, bitter, and will not see any side other than her own until she gets help. And if she never gets help? Her opinion about this woman’s father will never change. Stop smashing your head into the wall and learn to let it go!
Number four. Forgive yourself and forgive others now. This is one of the most challenging things that people face. Forgiveness is powerful. It’s free spirit. It releases anxiety, resentment, anger, guilt, and shame. Forgiveness, as an action step, is an essential key to being able to live a healthy, productive and passionate life.
Before going home for the holidays you’ve really got to do some work to let go of the past. That means you! Not your parents, not your brothers or sisters, not your relatives, but you. If you do the work now to begin to forgive people from the past, you’ll go home with an open heart and you’ll be less argumentative in the process.
It’s not easy to forgive. If forgiveness was that easy no one in this world would ever carry resentments forward. But being a counselor for over 26 yeas and as a coach, Essel has helped thousands of people to forgive individuals who have raped them, parents who have sexually molested them, lovers who have cheated on them or stole money from them.
Forgiveness is not simply turning the other cheek. It’s much deeper than that.
Probably the most powerful form of forgiveness that David Essel believes in is done in the form of written letters that will never be sent to any of our family members, relatives or friends over the holidays.
So get out your stationary! It begins with writing about your frustration, your anger, or maybe even your rage over the years at the way people treat others or us during this time of year. It’s something in counseling called “desensitization” or rather that we continue writing about something that’s bothering us until we become bored… Numb… We become desensitized to the issue. In that state we have released our rage and anger to the point that we can probably see people who have upset us without having a knee-jerk reaction.
After we write about these people, and these situations that really bother us and we reach that point of feeling a lack of emotion to those experiences, then and only then do we begin to write letters of forgiveness.
Now when we write letters of forgiveness, just like our letters of anger and frustration, they are never sent to anyone. The reason for these letters is to be able to remove the anger and in it’s place put forgiveness. In the forgiveness letters we write to the same people and we specifically forgive them for the things they’ve done in the past that have upset us.
We forgive people first by going deeply into our anger, resentment, rage, sadness…And once all of those emotions are cleared out, then, and only then, do we even begin the process of forgiveness.”
A number of years ago David worked with a client who was so frustrated with his parents because every time he went home for the holidays they reached out to all of his former friends to let them know that their precious son will be home. So he comes in the door just wanting to spend a couple days with his family= and there’s a list of people that his mom shoves in his face year after year and tells him to call them because they want to see him.
Now, from the outsider’s point of view this is cute. Precious. Thoughtful. Sweet. His parents were doing the best they could but he wanted nothing of it. He wanted family time not to try to resurrect friendships from 30 years ago.
But because he never put his foot down and told his mom 20 years ago when this started that he wanted nothing to do with these people he would just take the list and go into his bedroom and throw it away. When his mom asked him about calling his friends he would make up some excuse of why he couldn’t do it this trip.
But after 20 years of this nagging by his mom he finally one day just lost it. He blew up. Screaming, yelling, and telling his parents he would never return home again for the holidays.
See this is what happens when you don’t take care of the issues on your own, by standing up and talking to people in a calm voice about what works, or what doesn’t work for you during the holiday season.
So I took him through the series of exercises I stated above. First he wrote about his frustration and anger at his mom and dad. After that had been released from his body he went into forgiveness.
And then he sent them a loving letter before he arrived telling them that he only had two days to spend with this precious family and he would not have any time for his friends so please don’t reach out to them.
Mom and Dad got the message clearly. And they never again tried to push him into seeing his past acquaintances. He had done it in an extremely forgiving way after he had exorcised all of his frustrations that had been building up over the years.
But it’s not simply turning the other cheek. It’s much deeper than that. Work with a counselor, therapist or a life coach to help you truly understand how to forgive your self and others now and this holiday season will be much different than the rest.
About the author:
David Essel, M. S., Is a number one best-selling author, counselor, master life coach, and international speaker whose mission is to positively affect 2 million people or more every day, regardless of their current circumstances. David’s work is also highly endorsed by the late Wayne Dyer, chicken soup for the soul’s Mark Victor Hansen, as well as many other celebrities and radio and television networks from around the United States of America. Celebrity Jenny McCarthy says “David Essel is the new leader of the positive thinking movement”. www.DavidEssel.com
Healing Stories: Counseling – Did 2017 Exhaust You? Let’s get healthy for 2018 now.
The year 2017 will go down as one of the most stressful ones that many of us will ever remember.
Ethnic cleansing near Bangladesh. Massacre in Las Vegas. Hurricane destroys Puerto Rico and Saint Maarten. Hurricanes that severely damaged Houston and Florida.
And by now many people are both emotionally and physically exhausted.
Number one best-selling author, counselor, life coach and radio host David Essel says there’s a lot we can do starting right now if we want to 2018 to be a powerful year for us all.
David’s 2 keys to letting go of the past and preparing for the future:
Number one. ” I think the most important place to begin,n as we round out 2017 and go into 2018, is to try our very best and feel the emotions surrounding all the tragedies in order to let them go. This might sound like a strange step number one but without feeling the depth of our sadness, grief, anger and maybe even rage… it will get stuck in our bodies somewhere.
Several of my clients in the last several months have come in complaining deeply about the atrocities in the world. They’re angry. But unfortunately, prior to doing work together, they vented the rage and anger on social media. At their family. Even their pets, without taking responsibility to process these emotions inside. The most effective way to begin to process emotions so that we can let them go is in the form of writing.
If we write about the sadness, rage, anger, that has occurred at any of the above mentioned tragedies, we begin to release its grip on us.
After this step, we can go into another form of therapy which is being of service in our community. It does very little to continue to complain about the unfairness in life, without actually trying to do something positive about it.
Number two. Look deeply at your self-care, or lack of it. It’s very normal with the way we are bombarded by the media, social media, radio, television, the internet like blogs etc. to forget about the need to take care of ourselves.
What are you doing for yourself physically? Mentally? Spiritually? Relationship wise? Are you involved in an exercise program? Yoga? Meditation? As I mentioned above service in your community?
Several of my clients in the last 60 days of our work together have noticed that they’re drinking much more on a regular basis. Others have noticed they’ve gained 25 pounds as they continue to shovel sugar down their throats as a way to mask the emotions that they’re feeling.
In other words, both of these are poor emotional coping skills. Self-care is the exact opposite.”
For more information of how David can help you one on one to deal with the tragedies of life, visit his website at www.davidessel.com
Healing Stories: Sexual Harassment and Abuse. When Will It End?
The news is filled with recent stories, as well as age old stories, about sexual harassment in the workplace. At home. College campuses. What will it take for it to end?
From accusations against Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein… The list goes on and on and on. And let’s not forget Bill Cosby.
Women, with the #metoo symbol, are starting to stand strong in unification together. Is this the first time this has ever happened in the history of United States?
We wonder, why did it take so long? How come people in positions of power, both men and women, haven’t become more actively engaged to stomp out sexual harassment and sexual abuse before now?
Number one best-selling author, counselor, life coach and radio host David Essel has been helping women in particular heal from sexual harassment and sexual abuse for the past 28 years, and yet even he has not seen the attention given to it right now.
“It seems like we finally have reached a tipping point. The point in life and society where individuals are saying enough is enough. I applaud everywoman, every man, who has decided to take a stance against sexual harassment and sexual abuse.
But is it enough? When the president of United States, and leading power figures in the world of movies and television shows, as well as political talk show hosts are finally called out… Will this be what it takes in order to heal and move forward in life, to create a society where women feel safer?
In family counseling, just like in the world of business, we say everything is top down. And by that we mean that whenever there are problems in society especially when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual abuse, it starts from the top and trickles down. What does that mean? Well let’s look at the presidency. Bill Clinton went through it. Donald Trump bragged about his escapades with women before becoming president. That’s as high in society as we can get.
And the family is no different. The core family. Which is where my work has been for the past 28 years. Whenever I work with someone who has sexual challenges, either they are overly engaged in sexual activities, or they completely have shut down sexually, we always look back to the patriarch or the matriarch of the family for clues as to why their child, a son or daughter, is facing sexual dysfunction.
I’ve worked with countless women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who have suffered their whole life from sexual dysfunction, only to find out that it started with their father. Or their brother. Or their cousin, a male cousin who took advantage of them during something as innocent and simple seemingly as hide and go seek.
And when they finally open up to me in our sessions, which can often take 2 to 3 months of counseling sessions before they feel safe enough to open up about their childhood tragedies to a male, there’s a trail of distraction they left behind them. And the number one person destroyed? Themselves.
I worked with one young lady who was sexually abused by her father from the age of 11 until 21. That’s right age 21. She felt incredible shame, guilt, in saying no to her fathers advances even when she was in college. He had convinced her that she was dirty. She accepted it. And after 12 months of working together she finally rose up and shared her horrific story with her mother, Who dismissed it. Seriously, once again, damaging her daughters self-esteem.
But she didn’t give up. As we worked together she became stronger and stronger and stronger until she finally approached both her mother and father together and blew the door wide open.
Her strength was enormous. She shattered the family secret. And in doing so, protected generations down the road from having to go through the same abuse from another family member. She decided not to visit her parents in their house any longer, but rather stayed in hotels when she went home. The message was given. And on his deathbed, her father apologized profusely with tears running down his face as his life ended.
She is a born-again woman. Filled with strength and fortitude, and has use this to help others in life as well. She has encouraged me to share her story, over and over again, with some of my clients that are as young as 12 years of age who have been sexually molested. Her story has given them strength as well.
How about my interviews with Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison, who was sexually abused by her judo coach from the ages of 12 to 16? In my interviews with her she said it was one of the hardest things to do at that young of an age, was to point her coach out for what he had done. But she is at peace, and has become an incredible role model for young women in athletics everywhere.
Recently, I started working with a woman in her 40s, that openly shared her extreme sexual dysfunction that was manifested through promiscuity her entire adult life. When we looked at the core issue, her brother had sexually molested her for four years as a little girl, and had threatened her with harm if she said anything to anyone.
After our work together that lasted almost 12 months, she healed, and for the first time in her life became involved with someone who is healthy. A man who could listen to her past story, without judging her, accepting her as she is today… A powerful, confident, healed woman. Her shame and guilt gone, her desire to be free and do the work necessary has allowed her to become a role model in her community as well.
There are thousands of women who have come forward, and walked into the light of healing. It takes incredible strength. I hope that through all of the media attention that is now being given to the most prominent of names, that individuals from all walks of life will seek help, assurance, and assistance in healing any type of sexual harassment and or abuse that they have experienced .
When a woman is sexually harassed or abused one of the following can easily manifest if she does not do the deep inner work to remove the shame, guilt, anger and resentments:
Weight gain: which is a form of protection, being less attractive to men to protect yourself from any future harassment or abuse
Alcoholism: as a way to numb, and submerge the experiences
Drug addiction: the same is alcoholism, a way to mute the severe emotional damage
Anorexia/bulimia: form of control. Most women who experience on going anorexia and or bulimia do it because it’s the one thing they can control in life. Women who have been sexually harassed or abuse will also do the same. Here’s one way they can control their body after others have misused their body.
Depression: in our practice we see that most depression is caused by repressed anger and or resentments which makes sense in all forms of sexual harassment and or abuse
Anxiety: often created due to feeling out of control, and afraid to face the ramifications if they were to out the abuser.
If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed and or abused, reach out to David Essel who has been helping women in these situations for the past 28 years. David offers a free 20 minute phone consultation in which his desires are to help all women begin the process of becoming free from their past.
Number one. Ask for help. Whether you go to a woman’s shelter, a spiritual center or church, or to professional counselors, the time is now. Please don’t wait any longer.
Number two. Read about women like the clients I’ve mentioned above who have broken through incredible amounts of shame and guilt to become free. As women read more about others who have healed it will give them incentive to walk down the same path of healing as well.
I don’t believe that we can totally eradicate the dysfunction of sexual harassment and abuse from our society, but I do believe maybe for the first time in my 28 years as a professional, that we are on the brink of something big. A tipping point. Let us all hold hands, men included, to expose the dysfunction in our country in order to heal it for good.”