There is no family so perfect that not even one person is a toxic cloud that rains discord and strife down on the family during the holidays. Whether there is just one narcissist, psychopath, habitual liar, or other toxic person in your family — or even if you are the only sane one – this is how you deal with a toxic family during the holidays.
Overcome toxic family during the holidays by first focusing on what you want out of the events, and take small steps to make things better. You may have to allow that you might be the only one trying to make things better, and agree to take on that burden for the benefit of others. And, make time and space to care for yourself and not get dragged in to the chaos.
Easier said than done, right? Read on for some tips on how you can make this holiday season better than ever before, even while spending it with a toxic family.
Be the Beacon of Light in Toxic Your Family
Research has shown that emotions travel subconsciously from person to person. Even just seeing a stranger smile can may your whole day measurably better. Likewise, every kind word or positive exchange you have with someone else can help but infect their psyche and make them just a little happier.
This fact is incredibly powerful, when you realize that our world has only “10 degrees of separation,” where everyone is only 10 friends of a friend away from knowing anyone else.
With social media, video calls, and global internet access, it is possible that your good behavior is passed from person to person, subconsciously, to 10,000s and thousands of people. Being happy is a powerful stance to take in the face of toxicity and anger.
As human beings, we can’t expect to force or manipulate people around us to change, no matter how much they need to or how much better they would feel if they did. The only person we can expect to change is ourselves. And, that power is enough to change the world.
When you are with your family during the holidays, commit to be a beacon of light and positively.
Even if your good cheer isn’t reciprocated or even mocked and ridiculed, the commitment that you will bear this burden for the benefit of others is such a powerful state of mind that you will be more able to withstand the craziness than ever before.
Focus on What You Want out of the Holiday
When you spend time with your family, you won’t be able to make everything perfect. Things may get out of hand, out of control, or just down right crazy. This is to be expected and even welcomed to the extent that everyone deserves to act out their own free will, no matter how silly it is from your perspective.
However, ignore the toxic elements of your family and focus what is important to you about the holidays.
What does this holiday mean to you?
- Are you there to spend time with aging parents or relatives?
- Is this one of the Christmases that your children or grandchildren will never forget?
- Is this the perfect opportunity to rebuilding worn out relationships?
- Is this the time to strengthen new connections that are intended to last a lifetime?
When events or activities come up that aren’t conducive to furthering your goals — and there is nothing in your power to change course — then don’t fight it. *8If you feel angry or frustrated with how things are going, follow these steps —**
- Acknowledge that not everything is your fault or in your control
- Withdraw emotion and energy — remain calm and even distant or unattached if necessary for a time
- When you can feel positive, try to find things you can do to benefit other people and make their holiday wishes come true
One of the most power questions that you can ask during family events is, “How can this be better for everyone?”
That doesn’t mean what can you give in selfless sacrifice to become the martyr, sacrificed at the feet of selfish toxic family members. It also doesn’t mean what can I get out of this, whether other people like it not.
Rather, the skillful application of this principle is finding things you can do, even little things, that makes you happier and raises the mood of the gathering.
Practice Empathizing with Toxic Family Member’s Past Experience
During the holidays you will see a lot of bad behavior. And, this will be doubly so for family members with toxic energy or even antisocial tendencies.
The strongest stance you can take with these people is forgiveness.
Realize that many people with serious issues such as narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, aggressive or angry tendencies have developed these traits because of pain they felt in their own past. In many cases, during childhood due to unmet emotional requirements.
Asking people to tell stories about their past can often bring up some of these issues and help you better understand. Although, for some it may be too painful for them to speak about truthfully, and they might even lash out if you ask them about it. But, try understand where they are coming from, even if they don’t fully understand why they are the way they are.
And, if you do have a truly vile grump on your hands who is ornery for no particular reason, forgive them in their state of weakness. Even if you would have been much better and stronger — able to overcome whatever selfish tendency they have succumb to — why despise those weaker then yourself?
Have a Place and Routine Where You Can Recuperate
It can be easy to get worn down over the holidays, with toxic family members never letting up and grinding you to a pulp.
Make space for yourself and have a plan on how you will recover.
Before you get bogged down in the non-stop energy of the holidays, identify a physical place or method you can use to have a little mental space for yourself. This can be —
- Your own room
- A quiet place to take a walk
- Your own private spot in the house
- Time alone in the bathroom or taking a bath
- A chair out on the porch
- Taking a drive around the block
Wherever it is for you, make time to be there and refocus when you need to.
I also highly recommend that you have some recuperative mental practice that you use to reorient daily. Right now for me my practice is daily yoga and breathing mediation. For you I recommend you choose something that you are very comfortable with and can do without thinking much.
The stress of the holidays with a toxic family is not the time to start a brand new or strenuous practice if you can help it. However, if you don’t have anything that you do that helps you relax, I recommend you start with a simple breathing practice like so —-
- Breath in for five seconds
- Hold in for five seconds
- Breath out for five seconds
- Hold out for five seconds
Continue this for about 2 – 10 minutes, until you are fully relaxed and focused. As you practice, this pattern will begin to feel easy to follow without getting at all out of breath. When you can do five seconds easily, increase the time to six, seven, etc. Times of 15 or more seconds are easily achievable if you practice consistently, although there is no point in trying to push yourself to get longer times. Just do what feels natural.
Be Proud If You Can Move the Energy Up One Notch
There is a theory of emotional energy levels links every type of emotion with a level of “power” or vibration. All the way from shame on the side of low energy to joy, peace, and enlistment on the high energy high power side.
As the theory goes, you cannot expect yourself or others to jump up instantly from a low energy level to a high energy level without first passing through all the others. While they experience moments of joy or happiness while living in fear, these moments are always fleeting.
The best thing we can hope for our toxic family members is to move them one rung up the ladder to a better state of being.
Here is the complete list from highest to lowest —
When you spend time with your family during the holidays, take a moment now and again to identify which energy level each member of your family, and the group as a whole, falls in to at that particular moment.
Then, try to encourage movement up to the next higher energy level by focusing your attention on thoughts and observations that reinforce that way of thinking.
However, don’t necessarily feel the obligation to lower your thought process down to whatever level everyone is at, if that doesn’t suit you at that moment. The more grounded you are in the energy level that suits you, the more you will be able to exert a positive influence on those around you.
Separate Yourself from the Craziness of Toxic People without Withholding Love
Lastly, there may be times when your toxic family just goes off the rails, and there is nothing to be done. Emotional outbursts, melodrama, fights, and otherwise insane events that you just can’t abide.
When craziness happens with toxic family, feel justified in breaking off and refusing to participate.
No amount of fighting or convincing will make toxic people rethink their behavior once they in deep control of the ego. At best your participation would be useless, and at worst they would suck you in to their own warped perception of reality.
Instead break off. Leave if you have to. Or go to your quiet place and take time for yourself.
But, don’t make the break out of malice or disgust. The most powerful emotional state to have is love and allowance. Some people need or desire to experience what they are experiencing. The best you can do for them is send compassion their way and love them, no matter how rotten they truly are.
Love, after all, overcomes all evil specifically because it is given unconditionally.
Happy holidays and best wishes from us here at Overcoming Toxic People!