‘I shall probably do the usual at Christmas – row with a relative!’ a friend said to me last week. The family reunion at Christmas can be wonderful, or challenging! We can be confronted by relatives who have well established perceptions of who we are – but perceptions and expectations of one another can be difficult to shift. You may find yourself reverting to old behaviours or being treated as the youngest, the oldest, the ‘clever one’, the ‘sporty one’, ‘the difficult one’, ‘the clown’, etc. But these labels can be outdated and lead to misinterpretation. The expectations of others – and those we have of them – can limit us from revealing our true selves.
Being back within the family reminds us of the messages we received growing up: some encouraging, some critical and some no doubt frustrating! So returning to the hearth, or having family to stay, can remind us of how our identity has been shaped and gives us the opportunity to question whether this identity is still relevant today. What might it feel like if you were able to remove those old perceptions and labels and start again? For a moment to imagine you have no history, no name, no role, status, or reputation within your family. What might that feel like? For me this felt both frightening and yet also liberating.
We all have a responsibility for our impact on others. How might you help your family to recognise who you are today rather than seeing you as the person you were last year, or ten years ago? What do you need to express differently? How might you approach members of your family with new eyes and see beyond the image you may have constructed years ago, especially if that has been negative? It’s easy to imagine that people don’t change but everyone evolves, and sometimes it’s even for the better!
If you find other people irritating over the festive period consider what their pressures and intentions might be. See beyond the behaviours. There’s no book of life and how to live it. We all muddle along and try to find our way. Sometimes this results in developing unhelpful defensive behaviours. But we can choose not hook in to old patterns or give other people the power to upset our day. We can choose compassion.
How might you set old relationships up on a new and more constructive footing that reflects the present rather than the past? What would this look like? How would you be acting differently so as to reflect the person you are now, the person you wish others to see and acknowledge?
In that spirit of enquiry I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a new year that brings you and those you love happiness in 2011.