No.6 – “The survivor’s guide to the (possibly) festive season!”

If your Christmas is guaranteed to be filled with peace, love and laughter – or, if it’s not a festival that you celebrate – then this edition of Top Tips may not be directly relevant to you. However, I write it in the hope that it may be useful for someone you know or for any other festivals/family occasions which
you may be part of in the future!

I think most people would agree that there are a lot of expectations around the Christmas period how it’s celebrated, and that it can be a difficult or emotional time for many people. Over the years I have coached many people on issues with which they are faced at this time of year. For example…

  • Deciding where to spend the holidays – “your folks or mine”!
  • Feelings of guilt at not inviting the relatives you’d rather avoid
  • Feeling torn between what you ‘have’ to do, as opposed to what you really want to do
  • Pressure to spend money you can’t really afford
  • Dealing with the ‘inevitable’ family rows
  • Feelings of panic about making the whole thing perfect if you’re hosting the event
  • Believing you have to be the one to keep everyone happy and ensure they have a good time

So, if any of those are familiar to you, here are a few questions and/or insights which seem to have
been helpful for people in the past…

  • How can you best stay true to yourself?
  • When thinking about the most adverse aspects of those people that you’d rather not have spend any time with…
    • What is their “unconscious positive intention” towards you? (This takes the assumption that there is a very high value learning for you buried somewhere inside even the most adverse of situations!)
    • In what way is their behaviour/attitude representative of something inside you? (This does not have to be exactly the same thing, or be expressed in the same way, but it will have the same core essence.)
  • Even if you are likely to be in a situation that is not ideal, how can you make the best of it? For example, given where you’re starting from, what would be a really good outcome?
  • How can your current feelings be explained in Graves’ Values Systems terms (for those of your familiar with Dr Clare Graves’ work)?

At the end of the day, remember that “being happy” is purely a state of mind and therefore (bah, humbug!) within your control. Zen philosophy has a couple of interesting and potentially useful concepts in this area…

  • The first is to do with the idea of ‘optional suffering’. This relates to those situations which may be unavoidably unpleasant or challenging in some way, but which we choose to make even worse by constantly dwelling on the negative aspects – the situation may not be in your control, but your reaction to it is.
  • The other is the belief that happiness comes from outside rather than from inside ourselves. So what matters most – that all the decorations are in place, the food is perfect and the presents beautifully wrapped, or that your time is spent (however it is spent) in a state of inner peace and harmony?
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