Holidays are meant to be happy, joyous and life-affirming times. Filled with joy and gratitude we return home to our families, fill our bellies with delicious food and our hearts with cheer. Right?

Well, truth be told that in most cases this just isn’t true. Instead of happiness, anger brews. Instead of joy, tolerance rules. Instead of gratitude, resentment surfaces.

Here are three reasons for this:

1. Unhealed issues between family members have never been addressed and dealt with in a safe and healthy way. Often times, years of repressed anger (which turns into “unforgiveness”) surfaces just by being physically around the person who hurt you previously.
2. Many bitter divorces leave children in a state of anger toward one of their parents, unconsciously or consciously taking sides. It’s a residual affect from growing up with a parent that spewed anger at the parent who left and/ or feeling abandoned by your parents.
3. People don’t honor their own intuition that is telling them to stay away from the family gathering this year. They believe they don’t have a choice. When a person feels they don’t have a choice, they almost automatically blame someone else, find a way to justify their unconscious and un-owned choice and then beat themselves up.
Then they add insult to injury by refusing to forgive themselves for continuing to make choices that are not self-honoring.

This year can be different….if you act differently.

Below I have listed three ways to prepare for your holiday visit so you experience more joy, more gratitude and more love.

1. Prepare yourself emotionally for the visit.

Know who your enemies are. These are the family members who wreak havoc on your self-esteem. You don’t even know why, but you feel bad about yourself when you are around them.

a. Plan to limit your time with them.
b. If you know that you’ll have to spend some time with them, think of some topics you could talk about that won’t push your buttons.
c. Don’t engage in codependent conversations and behaviors with them. For example: If Aunt Ida starts talking about your ex-husband who was no good to you in front of your new boyfriend who is standing next to you I give you permission to not only ignore her, but walk away while she is in mid-sentence. (Bring your boyfriend with you) If this is too much of a stretch for you, instead smile and when you can cut-in (preferably within a minute) say, “Excuse me,” and physically leave. DO NOT ENGAGE in the conversation! She’ll get the hint. Be kind and forgive yourself for judging Aunt Ida and try forgiving Aunt Ida too (she’s doing the best she can)---but don’t let her do it again.

2. Stay in balance when others are acting crazy.

Are you the one sane one in the family? Do you sometimes question how that is. Partly it’s because you’ve been able to distance yourself from your crazy family members and set up healthy boundaries with them. You don’t have to regress just because you are around them.

a. Make sure to find time to sit in silence for a few minutes each day. Meditate if you can. Guided meditations are great because they help stop the mind talk that’s going on so you can really relax. From that relaxed state you can gain perspective and see the bigger picture. If you are having trouble staying present contemplate the word forgiveness in your silence.
b. Remove yourself physically. If family members are drinking and getting nasty go outside, take a walk. If you have a car, go to a movie. Give yourself space.
c. Visualize how you would like each day to go. How would you like to feel physically and emotionally? Setting an intention for a well-balanced day is a very powerful technique that can be used throughout your entire visit. Do it at night or in the morning when you wake up.

3. How to deal with your anger so it doesn’t hurt you.

So you’ve been visualizing all good, limiting your time with Aunt Ida, not reacting at those heating moments but you are angry and because you haven’t expressed it, you feel frustrated and mad. Here’s a couple of things to do for your relief and healing:

a. Keep a journal. If you are triggered and haven’t dealt directly with the family member who angered you I want to congratulate you. Why do the same old fight again? But it is important that you let the anger you are feeling out in a healthy way. Write it all down onto the page. The curse words, the reasons. Write until you have no more energy on it.
b. Find a gym where you can work the energy out of your system in a healthy way.
c. If someone has crossed a line and you can’t seem to get back in balance give yourself permission to leave and not see this person again until you’ve cooled down. That might mean you don’t see the person for another year or ever. Sometimes you can handle the anger in therapy and reconcile with the person in the future when you have healed. And if in the moment you expressed your anger how about being kind to yourself in the aftermath instead of beating yourself up? Forgive yourself and learn the lesson so you can act differently next time.

4. How to support yourself if you make the decision to spend the holidays alone.

Congratulations! This is a really tough decision to make and it is brave and courageous. You are changing a family pattern that has become a habit. You are choosing not to spend time with your dysfunctional family because of an obligation that you or other family members have imposed upon you or out of habit. You are instead taking care of yourself first.

This is not for everyone because there are consequences and the person making this decision has to be ready to take full responsibility for their actions. However, once they do they are fully empowered and a whole new world of joy and possibility opens to them.

a. Decide to be of service. Find a food bank, a homeless shelter, or a children’s hospital where you can spend your time and share your love where it is not only needed but appreciated too. Forgive your family (send loving thoughts their way) so you can be present with the good you are adding to this world through your loving service.
b. Nurture yourself. Spend the money you would have spent on tickets and travel to get a massage, go to a spa, spend the day at a museum.
c. Hold a dinner party at your home and invite others who can’t or who have decided not to spend the holidays with their families this year. There are so many people who are single, have lost their parents or can’t spend the money to go home---be family for each other this holiday season.

You’ve just learned three reasons that might be unconsciously sabotaging your holidays. And I gave you four practical ways to bring more joy, more balance and cheer to your life.

As Shakespeare says, ‘This above all else: To thine own self always be true”

Happy Holidays.

Copyright 2008 Brenda Adelman, www.forgivenessandfreedom.com

Want to reprint this article in your ezine or website? You may, as long as it remains intact and you include this complete blurb with it: Brenda Adelman, MA in Spiritual Psychology, The Queen of Forgiveness, teaches people who have a lot to offer how to become present, enjoy more success and peace in their relationships and lives by letting go of old and new resentments using the art of forgiveness. For FREE tips on how to finally be happy and free visit www.forgivenessandfreedom

Author's Bio: 

Brenda Adelman, MA in Spiritual Psychology, The Queen of Forgiveness, teaches people who have a lot to offer how to become present, enjoy more success and peace in their relationships and lives by letting go of old and new resentments using the art of forgiveness. For FREE tips on how to finally be happy and free visit ForgivenessAndFreedom.com.