Is your family happy and supportive? Are your holiday family gatherings warm, loving and festive? If so, that is wonderful. And you can stop reading this article now.
Is your family complicated? Do you often feel hurt, pained, disappointed, damaged, or let down when your family is together? If so, this article is for you. Never fear, help is here. (For more about painful family dynamics, take a look at last week’s article, 4 Subtle Family Dynamics That Can Ruin Your Holidays.)
No, of course we can’t fix your family issues before this year’s holiday gathering. But we can give you some new tools to get you through it. One of the most powerful tools to cope with a painful family is a mantra. It’s a sentence that you repeat inside your head over and over throughout the day. You can call upon it whenever you need to feel calmer and stronger. It serves to remind you what’s really going on in your family. It focuses your attention, and it provides you with the strength and resolve to get you through the day.
While going through the list below, choose the one that feels most right to you. It should be one that you can feel in your gut. It should make you feel a little stronger as you say it.
Here are Ten Mantras to choose from:
- I didn’t cause this problem, and I can’t fix it. Almost never did one member of a family cause the problem. And almost NEVER can one member of a family fix the problem. The best you can do is tolerate it, and this mantra will help you do so.
- It’s not my fault. In most families, the people who are the least guilty feel the most guilt. Don’t succumb to it. Fight it with this mantra.
- Just smile and get through it. This mantra works for families that have low tolerance for anything negative, and require everyone to seem happy (an example of Emotional Neglect).
- This is not a competition. Sibling rivalry? This mantra can help you stay out of it.
- There’s not enough love to go around in this family. This is helpful for a family in which one or both parents are not capable of the type of love that the children need. It will make you less vulnerable to the feeling that you’re unlovable.
- I am a loveable person. This mantra approaches the “not enough love” problem from a different angle. You’re reassuring yourself to fight off that painful feeling.
- My parents can’t give me what they never got. This is helpful for the emotionally neglectful family. If your parents were not emotionally validated by their parents, they will not be able to respond emotionally to you. This mantra will remind you that it’s no one’s fault. It just is.
- Today, I’m giving my family the gift of tolerance. This mantra helps you continually reframe the discomfort you are putting up with as a generous gift (which it is!)
- It’s not just me. Everyone is hurting in this family. If you feel pained by your family issues, then chances are, so does everyone else. Most bad behavior is actually an expression of pain. Use this mantra to remind yourself that you are not alone in this.
- Who cares what _____________ thinks? If you have a mean or attacking family member: mother, father, sib, aunt, uncle or grandparent, this mantra will make you less vulnerable to their jabs.
If you have a different mantra that has worked for you in the past, or one to suggest, please help other readers by sharing it in the Comments below.
To learn more about Emotional Neglect in families, how invisible it can be, and how to recover from it, see the book Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children.