What would happen if you chose to create your own holiday this year and didn’t go home to your family? After all a “holiday” is supposed to be a festive time of no work.
Does going home to your family of origin feel like a festive affair to you? Does it feel like “no work,” or is it actually a lot of work? If it feels like a lot of work, you’re not alone. Many people feel anxious or depressed around the holidays.
Going home can be hard
It’s not uncommon to be living away from your family and feeling pretty good in your own right, and then when you go home for the holidays you end up embroiled in old family dynamics. Self-doubt creeps in, judgments arise, rivalries resume, and either you stifle your feelings or express them and live with the fallout.
For some people the answer is to go home and do the best they can to set boundaries and care for themselves while also respecting the needs of other family members.
But it’s okay if you choose to stay away from your family of origin. This can be an act of self-respect and a step in your process of individuating from your family. To individuate means to become an individual—self-defined instead of defined by the people who raised you. It involves discovering your own values and no longer assuming that your parents’ values are your values. And this process continues throughout our lives.
Individuating also involves establishing appropriate and healthy boundaries. Maybe you need more space and alone time than the rest of your family. Honoring that need is one step toward becoming your own person.
What if you choose not to go home
If you choose not to go home for the holidays, the crucial thing is how you communicate your decision. There are two things to avoid:
1) Don’t make excuses about how busy you are and tell white lies. Some people do this and then justify doing so by saying something like, “I don’t want to hurt my parents.” Well, maybe you don’t hurt your parents, but you’ll hurt yourself, and very likely others, if you’re not honest.
2) Don’t use the actions of your family as a justification for not going home— blaming them for your decision. This kind of thing is reactive instead of proactive.
Both behaviors—making excuses or being reactive—are actually childish behaviors that reinforce your role as a child within your family. If you decide not to go home for the holidays, the key is to communicate your decision in a respectful, self-empowered way.
When we want to create space or distance from other people, we often assert our power by using some act of force—blaming or rejecting the other party. But there is another way we can exercise our power, instead of relying on the power of force we can rely on what I call the power of presence.
The difference between the power of force and the power of presence is the subject of a webinar we’re offering and you can find more details here.
To summarize—I’m suggesting that a decision to not go home for the holidays can be a positive step in your process of individuating. However, the way in which you communicate your decision is as important as the decision itself. When we individuate we can create drama and pain or we can do it with grace and respect. The latter may be the best gift you can give to yourself and your family this holiday season.