Help, My Family Triggers Me!

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As promised last week on our Back to Basics blog post, I wanted to hop in early this week so I could offer you additional tips and tools as you make your way into the Thanksgiving holiday.

My hope is after reading the last post you have been giving yourself the gift of taking care of your most basic needs. Remember, if you aren’t able to take care of yourself first, you have nothing to give others. You cannot pour from an empty cup. When you take care of yourself you are truly giving yourself and everyone around you one of the greatest gifts you can—the gift of your complete presence.

We are about to head into the Thanksgiving holiday, and then all the Black Friday craziness happens, and before you know it, it’s Christmas and you’re ringing in the New Year. And, if you’re anything like most people, this could be an incredibly trying time.

Maybe when you get honest with yourself you realize you didn’t even want to go to dinner at your mother’s Aunt Sally’s boyfriend’s daughter’s house and felt like you were pushed into it because that’s what was expected of you, because that’s where everyone was going this year. And perhaps when you take the time to love yourself and connect with yourself from a place of compassionate and rigorous self-honesty, you realize, the reason you did that was because you didn’t want to make waves in the family.

If that was the case, that’s okay. It’s nothing to worry about because you will have ample opportunities to try again. I believe we live in a world filled with opportunities to do things differently, so trust me, if you weren’t proud of how you did it this time, you WILL have a chance to do it again.

In the meantime, as you find yourself at your mother’s Aunt Sally’s boyfriend’s daughter’s house, you will have TONS of opportunities to re-live your childhood. I can guarantee that too. And here’s the cool part about that: when you are learning to love yourself and have made the commitment to take care of yourself, you will get to have plenty of opportunities to see where all of your old stories and beliefs about yourself come from. I believe the Universe is always conspiring in your favor and when you say, “YES” to healing, you will get plenty of chances to do so.

So, while you are in a house full of your family members, and then some, you will likely get triggered. In addition to taking care of yourself through concrete things, such as taking deep breaths and stepping outside for a walk if it becomes too much, there are some really deep and soulful things you can do as well.

The best suggestion I have is to become an observer. Allow yourself to observe the interactions around you. Notice how your mom responds when your brother shows up, notice how that triggers you to feel less important, notice how when that happens your feelings of not enoughness lead you to act like a child and either withdraw into your shell or get snappy and make it all about you.

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While you are taking the time to observe these old familiar patterns as they are unfolding, you are to do so from a non-judgmental place. Your job is to simply observe. You are not to judge it as good or bad, or right or wrong. You are simply to notice what is happening and how everything is unfolding. You are also to notice where you are getting pulled into the drama and where things start to feel really old and familiar. If you do find yourself wanting to judge things as right or wrong or good or bad, simply observe that too. There’s valuable information there for you as well. Awareness is the first step to making lasting change in your life. Then comes Acceptance. Then finally is Action. And the process of waking up to awareness can be a long and uncomfortable part of the journey.

Once you have allowed yourself to observe the patterns of the dance your family dances, then start to take note of the script itself: the words. What are the words you are hearing that lead you to feel triggered? What words pull you into the drama and what words put you right back into that place where you feel like you’re 12 years old again?

Take note of these things and then allow yourself to take a break, go for that walk or head into the bathroom for a mini-meditation session, and come back to your adult self. When you are back in your adult body remind yourself you aren’t 5, or 7, or 12, or 16 years old anymore, and you don’t have to be if you don’t want to be. Remind yourself you are an adult and you have choices. You have the choice to stay, you have the choice to leave. You have the choice to do what works best for you. If the choice is to stay because you aren’t ready to deal with the after effects of the waves you will make if you leave, so be it. That right there is a moment of conscious choice and is a powerful act of love and care for yourself.

When you are back in your adult body and ready to move forward with whatever you decided you were going to do, go back out there and take your grown up self with you. You will be more grounded and have a different experience when you do.

Feel free to rinse and repeat this process as often as you need. Being in your center and in your adult body is going to be the best way to take care of yourself through this, and any other experience you have.

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