Holiday gatherings can be tricky, but this year, with our current political climate, Thanksgiving could feel downright dangerous. If we recklessly enter this emotional minefield, we could blow up friendships and family. However, armed with a few ninja strategies, we can protect our relationships and create a stress-free holiday.
Every goal begins with two things: intent and commitment. We have to know (truly know) what we want; and we have to be willing to commit to making it happen. So, with this in mind, ask yourself:
What kind of experience do I want?
While we can’t always change situations or the behavior of others, we do have the ability to mold and create personal experience—how we perceive, feel, and react to circumstances. This concept, when truly understood, embraced, and practiced, is akin to waking up with a super power. It could also make the difference between an enjoyable holiday and a family apocalypse.
The trick is honesty. We have to be absolutely honest with ourselves about what we want. If we’re harboring a hope that we will finally be able to sway our parent, sibling, or friend from their misguided point of view and show them the evil of their ways, then our secret agenda will sabotage our peaceful goals. Our true feelings will seep through our verbiage, tone, and expressions. We can replay the conversations and congratulate ourselves on our restraint, but it won’t be the truth. Our secret agenda will have contributed to whatever disaster occurred.
So how are we supposed to disregard everything we feel and believe? And if we somehow managed to stuff this inside, how can that possibly be honest?
Consider the original question: What kind of experience do I want?
If we want peace, we must behave peacefully. If we want joy, we must behave joyfully. If we want a caring environment during our holiday, we must care—for the people around us! This isn’t as difficult as we might think. In fact, it has everything to do with HOW WE THINK.
Thoughts have power. If we focus on what makes us angry, it feeds the anger. Same applies for resentment, frustration, and old wounds. Even if we zip our mouths tight, our thoughts can poison our hearts.
Policing our thoughts is not an easy task. Memories wander in unannounced. Words, tone, and expressions trigger emotions. Before we know it, whatever we are hearing or seeing is added to the proverbial haystack of transgressions, bringing us dangerously close to “the last straw.” So what can we do?
Recognize emotionally charged thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts about the person aggravating you.
Switching negative for positive gives our mind something tangible to do. Much easier than commanding it to not think! And don’t forget, we’re not just talking about any person—this is someone you care about who has been and will hopefully continue to be a valuable part of your life. If we can’t find something positive to think about this person, we have bigger problems to consider than a Thanksgiving dinner.
These strategies will help keep our intention and thoughts on a peaceful path, but they may not effect the behavior of others. (I say “may not” because these strategies definitely can have positive effects on other people.) So how can we keep ourselves emotionally safe when our dear ones inadvertently or intentionally hurt us?
Remove yourself from danger—figuratively and literally.
- Don’t engage in political discussion or debate.
- Change the conversation by asking meaningful questions about another person’s life, thus switching both the focus of the conversation and the person speaking.
- Keep a sense of humor.
- Leave the table or room for a logical purpose: ie. help in the kitchen, visit the bathroom, get a jacket from your car that you might have intentionally left for this exact purpose.
- Give yourself emotional and physical space to cool off and regroup—sneaky ninja stuff.
And most importantly…