4 simple steps to manage that frustrating family member…just in time for the holidays
FAMILY…Can’t live with or without ‘em , right?
I mean how many times does a conversation with your friend turn to family? Sometimes it’s soaking in laughter about a family gathering or something cute your youngest niece or nephew did. Other times, it’s venting and even crying out your latest frustration with your mother or the annoying pattern your family gets into when they’re all together. Right? You with me? I know, for sure, even though I feel like I got lucky with my family, they can definitely keep me up at night! Family relationships cause joy and they cause pain, I mean REAL pain. But today, what I am going to offer you will change your life when it comes to suffering around family. These strategies have helped me immensely and I hope they’ll do the same for you.
Today, I’m going to REFRAME family for you.
And when we see things differently, we change our experience, trust me! I can’t change your actual family. If I could do that, I’d be more valuable than Dr. Phil and then Oprah would make me part of her posse…(Ok, that’s a dream and I would take that gratefully but for now, I’m going to stick with the realistic present.)
I can’t change your family, but I can change how you look at them!
Ready?! Let’s go…
#1…A mantra that my mentor gave me when I was sad beyond able to function about a family dynamic.
“Expect nothing, be grateful for everything.”
Ok, I hear you, you’re thinking, that sounds depressing. Expect nothing?? Why shouldn’t you hold the people who you love the most to a higher standard? Why shouldn’t we all strive to improve ourselves? Ok, I’m with you. That’s what I thought initially. But let me break this magic mantra thing down…
It shifted everything for me.
When we hold on to expectations, we create OUR own agenda. We ATTACH to what we want to happen.
And what happens when we ATTACH to things? We suffer when they don’t go the way we wanted them to.
So, if I want one of my brothers to do something for me and he doesn’t (of course, my sweet brothers wouldn’t do this—Ha! Just seeing if they’re out there listening!), then I’m sad. I’m frustrated, disappointed.
Be grateful for everything.
But what if I expect nothing? Then I'm grateful for anything and everything he does. See what I’m saying? You kind have to walk out on the limb with me and trust me. Try it out, what you got to lose? If you’re already suffering when it comes to a family relationship, this can only help. It changed everything for me.
My heart is lighter and my mind clearer.
#2…Assume the best intentions or at least that your family is doing the best they can in this moment.
Ok secret here: these are all life lessons you could apply to everything.
But let’s stick with family for a second…we are usually upset because we think the other person is trying to hurt us or at the least, doesn’t care enough about us to change their behavior.
But what if we just assume they’re doing the best they can? Often, they don’t even know they are being jerks. They’re just so caught up in their own lives or their own suffering to be honest. Why not assume they are trying the hardest they can? What do you have to lose?
And the caveat here is that if you’re not able to assume the best in them, it’s ok, you’re doing the best YOU can as well and it just takes time. Self-compassion, always.
#3…The beauty of family…it’s the only place we can all be our truest, most real selves.
So why are we surprised when we are messy and real with each other?
Seriously, I want you to check yourselves here. When else can you be messy, vulnerable and real? If not with family, I’m not sure when.
For any parents out there, I can’t think of any place this is more obvious than with kids, right? Have you ever had that experience where your child is super tired or over stimulated but they hold it together at a friend’s house and then the second you get in the car or back home, they throw a meltdown as confusing and tornado-like as all get out? You don’t even know where it’s coming from.
Well, that happens in real adult life too, my friends. We “hold it together” at work, with friends, at holiday parties. Everywhere. Until we’re around close family, our nervous systems take a big breath and we release our real selves, sometimes lash them out, on the people we love the most.
It’s real. It’s messy. And thankfully, we have a place to be that way.
#4…If you want the good, you need to accept the challenging.
Another life lesson right here my friends…
I’m not saying it’s fun. I’m definitely not saying I like it. But it’s the deal. You take it with all the good. All of the love, the unconditional support, the laughter. These are the people who stand by you when you lose your job, your spouse, when you are at the bottom and don’t want anyone else to see you.
Family is a big package. And sometimes the ribbons come undone.
But whatever’s in there is ours. And we can’t sort through it and choose only the parts we enjoy. We have to take ALL of it. Fair and square.
(Now, if you have a family member who only gives you the bad things in the package, you may need to reevaluate that package and whether it needs to be in your life. That’s a much bigger blog post. But here we’re talking about family who give us the whole meal deal.)
Life is messy. It’s beautiful, amazing, unfair, cruel, sad and magnificent all at the same time.
And so is family!
Yep, it’s the truth.
So, I’m asking you to take a step back today and put on a different lens.
Look at your family, especially the ones who drive you crazy, a different way. See what happens when you wear this lens of gratitude. It’s a much brighter picture, trust me.
If you found this helpful, send it on to at least two friends (or family members!) so you can spread the gratitude and love. And please, please, comment below and let me know if there’s.a family member you can apply this to today and how that goes. None of it works unless you really try it.
Thanks for reading and I’ll look forward to hearing from you. And thank you for being part of my chosen gratitude family.