A recurring theme I encounter as a therapist with clients during the holiday season is shame. People who feel inadequate about visiting with and dealing with family members over Thanksgiving, the Christmas holidays and Hanukkah. It’s usually a combination of dealing with failed expectations and poor boundaries with family members. Which amounts to being between a rock and a hard place. Below I outline three strategies for moving past shame this holiday season.
On one hand, your family members may force you to deal with unresolved shame-based feelings when you visit them. On the other hand, if you choose not to visit with family for the holidays, you may end up dealing with feelings of loneliness or isolation.
The following are three effective ways on how to move past your feelings of shame, especially if it relates to your family of origin.
Learn to Accept Yourself Unconditionally
This means that you learn and practice shedding yourself from all automatic thoughts and feelings that bind you to shame. Fundamentally, you should see yourself as worthwhile and lovable simply because you exist.
Learning to accept yourself unconditionally is a process. It starts with you recognizing positives about yourself and consciously acting on those positives. An example would be if you came to recognize that you have good organizational skills. You then pursue interests in your life where you leverage your organizational skills to experience success. This mindset also involves you working on your flaws. Where you work on improving your identified flaws because you desire to, and not to impress anyone.
The next step requires setting healthy boundaries.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
The first rule to setting healthy boundaries within the context of any relationship is to understand that you are a social creature. This means that at your very core, you value social interaction, especially with members of your family. It is important to acknowledge this, because the fear of losing familial relationships keeps people from setting necessary boundaries. If you refuse to set boundaries due to fear, you will likely lose the relationship if your feelings of hurt go unaddressed.
To set a healthy boundary with a family member involves scheduling a peaceful time to talk about whatever your grievances are. Most people who agree to schedule a time to speak with family members about difficulties in their relationships often choose to wait until the offense happens again. If you wait for the offense to occur again before addressing it, it will not go well. This is because you will likely be too angry to properly get your message across. Further, your relative will likely be defensive and not capable of properly receiving the message. This may lead to a quarrel that may be difficult to resolve.
The next step is to follow through with your stated boundaries.
Be Prepared to Follow-through
It’s one thing to set healthy boundaries with loved ones, yet it is another thing to follow-through. So if you set boundaries with a parent or sibling regarding what topics to address, you need to consider what are you prepared to do if those boundaries are violated. Your boundaries should not be based on retaliation. Whatever you are prepared to do, must be based solely on protecting and taking care of yourself.
Ultimately, if you learn to temper expectations, you will learn to be at peace with yourself and others.
Therapy and coaching in Tucson Arizona
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions a counseling and life coaching practice in Tucson, Arizona. Ugo helps individuals and families in office and online. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book an appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.