Although the festive season is said to be the most wonderful time of the year, this isn’t always the case for many adults. Between financial struggles, stressful responsibilities, and toxic family members, there are a lot of people who simply strive for survival when the holidays come around.
Whilst most people talk about delicious dinners, generous gifts, and treasured traditions, we often hold back on discussing the expensive expectations and ruptured relationships. Dealing with toxic family members is made more difficult by the fact that they are family, and we may feel obligated to tolerate their behaviour because we are related. Remember that “family” sometimes simply refers to a person who is related to us. If you want to go beyond being blood-related, then great! However, if this relationship is nothing more than an aunt, uncle, sibling, or cousin, you should not feel obliged to accept their toxic nature.
Below I have created a holiday survival guide so that you can better manage to be around toxic family members during the holidays!
1. Alter your expectations
Although it’s often helpful to think optimistically about a bad situation, it’s important that you understand how toxic people operate. Generally speaking, these unpleasant individuals never really change. By learning to accept that your family member isn’t going to act any differently than last year, you can avoid those feelings of disappointment. You may anticipate that this person will learn to accept your life choices and be pleased to reunite, but we both know that year after year, this has never been the case.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect the holidays to be a complete disaster as this would potentially ruin all the festive fun. However, it may be a good idea to maintain low expectations regarding certain people and situations. A pleasant surprise is always better than bewildering disappointment.
2. Minimize your alcohol intake
If you usually enjoy a drink during special occasions, you’ll understand that sticky situations always seem worse when you’ve had a few too many. In some situations, alcohol may seem like a comforting comrade. But in the real world, it’s frequently a false friend. Although reactions may differ depending on the person and setting, it’s not uncommon for alcohol to make an anxious person feel upset, angry, or daring. It may make you want to spill your thoughts and feelings toward this toxic individual, which we all know won’t go down too well. Feeling drunk and brave, you may say something which you will regret so it’s important to keep the alcohol intake within a reasonable level.
3. Ask your partner or close family member for support
Having a supportive loved one on your side will bring you some much-needed comfort during the family gathering. Talk to your partner or another family member and tell them how you really feel. It’s also liberating to know that they will have your back if an argument or disagreement occurs throughout the family event.
4. Avoid controversial conversations
Although sometimes hard to avoid, try to stay away from conversations that may create controversy at the family table. If a political discussion occurs and you know that you have different opinions from your family, perhaps try to change the conversation or nip to the toilet whilst they discuss what you don’t want to hear. It may seem like a shame that you can’t voice your own opinion, especially as controversial chats are often seen as an easy way to communicate. However, given that you are in the company of a toxic person, this is one of the easiest ways to reduce their chance of declaring their unwanted, egotistical judgments and attitudes.
5. Identify trauma triggers
In some cases, family gatherings can initiate flashbacks of past traumatic experiences with certain family members or situations during the festive period. Trauma triggers are things that lead up to the emotional reaction that trauma produces. These triggers might be anything from a sound to a smell or to a person or a place that makes us feel emotionally unsafe. Knowing what generates an emotional reaction is a useful first step toward being able to manage those reactions. You may know what triggers you based on how much trauma work you’ve done. Some triggers don’t appear until you’re confronted with a circumstance that makes you feel emotionally vulnerable. When you recognize, you’re getting triggered, try to figure out what’s causing it. If you are aware that a certain family member is causing you to feel this way, it’s important that you are around another person who makes you feel safe.
For additional advice on how to deal with trauma, check out my service Beyond Quantum Healing.