While the holidays are typically seen as a time of giving, gratitude, and time with family, we rarely discuss that it can also be an immensely triggering time for us all.
When you spend time with your family over the holidays (or don’t), triggers are almost certain to come up. Parents, siblings, cousins, partners or children are naturally those that trigger us most—our deepest wounds can get scratched open again and our survival strategies/defenses come roaring back in response. No matter how much personal growth work I’ve done, my wounds and defenses always get stirred around the holidays.
I would like to share with you some of the ways I support myself when this happens in the hopes that theses ways may support you too. I find that one of the best things I can do is activate my healthy self—the part of me that can notice my triggers, yet detach and see the bigger picture. The part of me that is compassionate and connected to grace.
Here is what I find really helpful when I go home for the holidays:
First, I notice when my defenses and wounds begin to stir. For me, this can be when I start getting quiet, or people pleasing, or getting overwhelmed by trying to make everyone happy. For others, this may be trying to be “perfect,” or needing to be right, or intellectualizing everything, or isolating oneself.
Then I pause to bring my awareness and compassion to the wounded little one under the defense. As we teach at COR, under every survival strategy is a wound.
Whenever I feel defensive, it means my own little girl is worried about getting approval, being wrong, or gaining love. So, I take a moment to acknowledge and give compassion to the little girl that is stirring inside me. I do this rather than shut her down, ignore her, or make her wrong for feeling upset. Often, this means imagining my hand over my heart and mentally saying to myself, “Oh hi there, little one.”
The act of noticing and compassionately holding my own wounds naturally activates my healthy self, and my healthy self then takes the driver’s seat.
From there, I turn my attention outwards to whomever is triggering me and do the same.
I acknowledge that their defenses may be coming up as well and see these as survival strategies—things they had to create in order to protect themselves from feeling pain. And I give compassion to their own little girl/boy underneath. I recognize they also may be hurting or craving approval and love.
The recognition and holding of our own wounds, along with theirs, is what gives us the space to act from our healthy self to perhaps honestly share what is truly happening for us, to make a request, or to simply be an act of love.
From there, our triggers can be a space of healing and can help us get closer to our family rather than farther apart.
If you are looking for further support in how to navigate conflict in your relationships with family members with more honesty and ease, then I highly suggest The Honesty Practice: Proven Skills to Navigate through Relationship Conflict to Greater Ease, Attraction, and Connection by COR’s very own Aaron Steinberg.
Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed holiday season, triggers and all!
Shandra and the COR Team