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How To Withstand Distressing Family Encounters Over the Holidays!!

13 Dec

Hi Belleruth, I'm interested in your suggestions for CD's and other approaches that will help shore me up internally when I am in contact with my Mom and sisters. I do all the right 'things' to support my mental health when it comes to them, but when I speak to them, some of the tension and worry they create inside me just seems to happen and makes me feel bad, regardless of my best intentions and all the tools I've tried... and there have been a lot!

Recently, I've had less and less contact with them. This helps quite a bit, but isn't always a good option; and with my Mom aging, and knowing my sisters and I will be responsible for her care , I feel fear of being overwhelmed by them, as often a simple phone call with them is unsettling.

Thanks for your help, Belleruth!

Hi, Janie.

This is probably the issue that gets mulled over more than anything else in therapists’ offices around the world as holiday time approaches!!  So, scant comfort though it may be, you are in good and plentiful company here.

As you’ve said, you’re already doing many things “right”.  You’re self-aware and paying attention to your internal discomfort levels; you’re on the lookout for tools and techniques to support your mental health; and you’re limiting contact, so as not be become overwhelmed.  At the same time, you’re not cutting yourself off completely from your family, nor are you looking to shed responsibility for them.  Hats off to you for all of that!

A few additional suggestions:

  • Listen to the Relaxation & Wellness imagery. Its central image is that of an imaginal cushion of energy surrounding and protecting you, insulating you from whatever you don’t want or need. And it’s filled with your favorite well-wishers, supporters, fans and allies.  This imagery is made to order for this situation.  And before you knock on their door or they show up at your place, close your eyes, take a deep breath and evoke that cushion!  Make sure it’s in the room with you!
  • Not only should you limit contact, but you should structure contact with them too.  Plan things that divert their focus from you.  Take ‘em all to the movies; bring chatty friends with you when you visit; have a cocktail party in their honor; plan an activity, like recording an oral history of the family for posterity; or have them show you how to bake their favorite cookies.  Be creative, enlist your friends and dilute the intensity!

  • Have a friend ready to debrief you when you slip into overload after one of these encounters (which you of course will; it comes with the territory and it’s not fair to yourself for you to expect otherwise, in spite of your best efforts).

  • Remind yourself that you don’t have to love them or feel good about them every minute of the day or even most minutes of the day; you just have to do the right thing by them (which you do).

  • Before and after one of these exasperating encounters, you might want to try one of the EFT affirmation-tapping protocols – check out Mary Sise’s wonderful DVD and follow along with her tap-tap-tap sequence as you affirm, “Even though I feel overwhelmed and frustrated with my mother and sisters, I fully and completely accept myself”. .. something along those lines.

  • Ask for help before entering the fray.  Pray, if that works for you.  Invoke the “invisible forces” itching to help, but who politely wait to be asked before interfering in your business!

  • If you can be patient with yourself and forgive yourself for not getting this exactly “right”, you’ll be better able to eventually forgive them too – although it may not happen for years. That’s okay. What’s important is that you’re trying and you’re behaving decently, in spite of all the challenges.

Good luck!!!

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award