Boris Thomas, JD, PhD

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Forgive, But Don't Forget: Family Visit Survival

We've just left Thanksgiving, the first big event of the holiday season.   For those of you who will be spending time during the holidays with family, I am re-posting the Nine Family Visit Survival Strategies that I shared last year and adding one more recommendation.  

Forgive, But Don't Forget

Yes, I'm going against the commonly used refrain, but with good reason. The idea behind forgiving and forgetting is great and is based in moving forward, not being mired in the past and generating positivity rather than holding on to resentment and negativity. These are aspects of mindfulness, connected to being in the present moment rather than the past or future. Consistent with my recent blog posts regarding mindfulness and meditation, rest assured I strongly support all of those tenets.

Manage Expectations

That being said, there's something else that I strongly support, and that's the healthy management of expectations. Expectations--what we expect from others and from situations in which we place or find ourselves--have several components. One of the most important components is first hand data collected from our lived experiences.  Knowing that year after year Uncle John always drinks too much and then gets abusive, or that second cousin Maya is jealous of the close bond you have with her brother Chaz, are helpful as you navigate family gatherings.  Remembering how others have behaved in the past is helpful:  It provides a roadmap for reasonable expectations and tools for protecting ourselves.  If Uncle John hasn't checked what might be a drinking problem or if Maya has no awareness of what underlies her jealousy, their respective behaviors will remain the same.  It would be unreasonable for us to expect anything different than how we've experienced them in the past.

Build Helpful Boundaries

If there have been past slights, upsets, or deeply upsetting conflicts, try not to walk into the family scenario with a chip on your shoulder ready to relive the old drama, pre-rehearsing everyone's role in your head.  If you can, recognize the characters in the drama--one may even be you--and do your best to let it go.  Okay, that can be hard for us to do especially if we've been deeply hurt.  The best approach may center around creating distance, setting boundaries or limiting contact with particularly challenging family members.  Reviewing the Nine Family Visit Survival Strategies will provide several approaches for managing these situations.  

Happy holidays and best wishes for easy and safe travel, hopefully without delays or other inconveniences.


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