Ever wonder why your family can push your buttons like no one else? . . Because they installed them of course! Your pet peeves, triggers, and hot buttons (your Passengers) got programmed into the subconscious of your mind-body vehicle from repeated experiences along your journey. So of course the holidays are an utter breading ground of triggers around expectations related to family.
AND opportunities to practice your skills! Good new is, just in time for the holidays, there is a new series of Mindful-Mastery video clips to help you practice!
As you plan your holiday time this year, your mind is likely to start offering up a whole buffet of expectations, assumptions, and judgmental thoughts about the festivities. Before you know it, you’re on your third (fourth, fifth) wine glass, taking a second and third helping of food, and endlessly checking your phone. Anything but staying truly present to the litany of small, and not so small annoyances, which contact with the programmers of our passengers can elicit!
This Year Will be Different
But this year, I got your back! We are not going to let you wake up the next day hating yourself for loosing control! Not another year of insufferable complaints from relatives about how your reacted to Aunt Betty. We are not going to go down that same road of trying to explain your feelings to your dad (which he never understands!), leaving you feeling intermittent waves of anger and sadness the entire visit! Nor are we going to wallow in our justified sadness as our mind tells us how things ‘should’ be.
We are not going to let you repeat the same old patterns of struggle that have left you miserable and exhausted every year!
Instead, we are going to be skillful!!
Steps for Skillfulness with Family
Step I: Cope Ahead!
The key is to be prepared! This means knowing your passengers around family and the holidays. Can you identify the specific family situations/behaviors that trigger you? Can you label the precise emotions, thoughts, and impulses that arise when the trigger event happens?
It’s essential that you identify them before you go into the trigger zone (i.e. home for the holidays)! Not sure? Then, go back and use the Dashboard form to identify the specific thoughts/beliefs, emotions, and autopilot reactions that tend to get you into trouble.
Step II: Practice Ahead!
As with any skill, you can only master effective emotion regulation skills with practice. Once you have identified the triggers and passengers that you will be up against, you will need to practice with them. So we have to take the scenarios you imagine triggering you and couple them with skillful responding.
For example, imagine that every year you get triggered when our aunt Judy asks you about your dating life.
Practicing ahead means:
1. Actively bringing this scenario to mind.
2. Labeling the thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations/impulses.
3. Attending to these reactions mindfully and skillfully.
Step III: The Skills!
Mindful-Mastery skills, and effective self mastery, always come back to 3 Basic Steps:
- Validate your EMOTIONS with Willingness.
- Check your THOUGHTS, and keep them in check.
- Control your ACTIONS, cause they are the only thing in your control.
Skillfulness with Emotions: Willingness Hands.
Fighting the difficult emotions that can come up with family is likely to just make them worse. This practice will teach you to balance opening up to your emotions, while taking an opposite action position in the body.
Skillfulness with Thoughts: Using a Mantra to Anchor Attention
Notice when you start getting pulled into a mind habit of judging, time traveling, or spacing out. Practice this mantra (or one that works for you) to anchor your mind in the present moment. This will help you reduce vulnerability to emotion mind and related unhelpful behavioral reactions.
Skillfulness with Actions: Paced Breathing
The only thing truly in our control is our actions. The practice of proper breathing can help us elicit the relaxation response and prevent anxiety attacks.
The Holidays and Beyond
This time of year can bring up so much for so many. For some it is a joyous time. For equally as many, this time can carry a burden of memories of lost loved ones or ideals, judgments about how it should or shouldn’t be, or anxiety about expectations.
The holidays also highlight a singularly important awareness; it is not what happens to us, but what we bring to the experience that causes suffering. Each of us has our own difficulties on our journey. With skillfulness, we may begin to see beyond the old programming and lessen the addition of unnecessary suffering.
If you have questions about how to be skillful in your life, I hope you will send me a message in the comments section! Or sign up for the Mindful-Mastery SKILL WEEKLY newsletter, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube for the NEW SKILLS CLIPS for guided practice!