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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - December 2016 - Kansas City
Create Holidays of Connection and Joy
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
We are approaching the longest night and shortest day. We are also approaching the holiday with the greatest expectations and, sometimes, the greatest stress. The question for many is, “How will we walk through these days?” Will it be with fear, dread and depression, or joy, connection, and excitement?
A holiday is defined as being exempt from work, a vacation, or a commemoration of an event. For some, getting through the holidays may be work of a different sort. We may be reminded of former holidays that were not so happy or of the recent struggles we may be having with family members. Our lives may be challenging in financial, relationship, or emotional ways. It may require some effort on our part to face the challenges creatively.
Dr. Mark Sichel writes about some ways to confront family issues in Healing From Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off From a Family Member. His ten points have some good suggestions for all of us going through holiday struggles. He begins by suggesting that we acknowledge the shock of the problem and determine to “start to live, laugh, and be happy now.” This seems key for any problem.
Next, he encourages us to look at our family roles and myths. It may take you some time to think about the roles in the family and the stories or myths your family embraces. Are you the family caretaker or mediator? How about the rebel, the loner, or the “baby”? Does your family carry on inaccurate ideas about the family like, “We all get along,” or “Don’t make waves. It is better that way.” Think about the constructive or destructive, healthy or unhealthy aspects of these roles and myths. It is also important to take a “fearless inventory of negative traits I need to temper and control to improve relationships with the family” and “stop taking inventory of family members faults.”
The hardest part is to begin to let go of resentments, making the first move, and learning to employ active measures to reconcile with your family. In my experience, it is always hardest to take these steps as we may feel our resentment is a boundary that protects us and that the other person should make the first move as it was more his or her fault. As Michelle Obama said in her speech about injustice, “When they go low, we go high.”
Hopefully, as we declare an amnesty, we can “find ways to better build relationships with family members” as we creatively plan, sharing experiences on “building blocks for a newly defined relationship.” He suggests we “cultivate gratitude and emotional generosity” and “make meaning out of our experience.”
I hope all of us can find new ways to have relationships with those we will be around during the holidays. Maybe they will never be our best friends or even the first pick of people we want to be with, but these family members will be in our lives for years to come. We have something to learn from these challenges and perhaps we will be better people for it.
Sometimes the biggest obstacles offer us the richest path to growth and greater happiness in our lives. If life has taught me anything it is to be deeply honest about my own patterns of behavior, both negative and positive, and be open to life-long learning, especially in the area of relationships.
Here’s to happier holidays as we accept the challenges Dr. Sichel suggests in repair and rebuilding of relationships.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to
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