Family gatherings are an opportunity to connect, to make new memories, and share in old ones. They can also be a barometer of our spiritual growth. For those on a  journey of self-awareness, there is no better place to test if we can really walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Now, well into the holiday season, we can often feel the tension of upcoming festivities, anticipated obligations – good and bad — and the stress of our families.

My childhood was certainly not without stress, and it was often heightened by the drama of the adults during our family gatherings. The paternal side of our family was wrought with tension. Any two adults in a room would inevitably result in raised voices and heated scenarios about any number of things. If there were more than two people in the mix, then it was best to take cover.

Because of those experiences, as tweens, my brother, my cousins, and I made a pact. We called it, “breaking the family curse.” We would not carry on our families’ dysfunctional ways of communication.

Our commitment to each other was: We would not allow the past to control our present. Of course, nothing is perfect, and we certainly have had our disagreements, but we have used the power of communication not to allow those differences to disrupt our own family gatherings as adults.

Our families, whether extended or blood, have an uncanny way of pushing our buttons.  Often, it is a knee jerk reaction, and before we know it, old wounds or those festering can open up, resulting in anger, resentment, or hurt feelings.

We cannot control the actions or words of others. However, we can control our reactions to them. When we have a lifetime of buttons that have been pushed, though, this can be challenging.

Communication is about being heard when we transfer information from one person to another. When the conversation gets adversarial, each party ceases to hear, wanting only to convince the other of their point of view, resulting in a stalemate. We must find ways in which the people we are speaking to can truly understand.

To navigate those vulnerable areas, we can implement self-awareness in our interactions by merely making a conscious and mindful decision not to overreact.

How to Walk the Walk

Don’t take the bait. Baiting usually happens when someone is trying to engage you in an argument. Once you take that bait, the tables may turn on you. Instead, don’t react. By not responding, the conversation can move on.

Let go of your need to justify. Justifications can come because we have guilt over an action we’ve done, we are insecure over a decision made, or we want to clarify a situation and may be looking for validation or approval. But the past is over. Instead, move forward. Start fresh today.

 Slow down. Before you open your mouth, take a deep breath. Speaking without carefully choosing our words can often be what stokes the fire that leads to disagreements. Instead, listen, then pause before you respond. How you react is within your power.

 There is no winning in being right. Remember, a person cannot be wrong about their own beliefs or feelings. The need to be right is a moot point. It will only serve to alienate the other.

 Let go of your expectations. Having expectations of what you want, usually through rose-colored glasses, will always bring disappointment. When what we envisioned is shattered, heartache, frustration, or defeat may ensue.

When you’re confronted with an adversarial tone, walk away politely – not in a huff. Step outside, get some fresh air, look at the stars, and count to 10. Returning with a new perspective will allow us to redirect the conversation.

 Don’t fall prey to a conditioned response. Only we have control over how we feel. No one makes us feel anything. We react because we believe someone else’s truth about us is more valid than how we think about ourselves. Knowing yourself is enough.

 Most importantly, don’t engage in caustic behavior. There is no better time than now to accept your family with all of their idiosyncrasies.

 Above all, Be Kind.

If we want to effect any change in our ability to make family gatherings more enjoyable, we must first step within ourselves. It starts with deactivating the buttons and letting go of the triggers.  By changing how we react, or better yet, how we don’t react will alter how others act towards us. It is a quiet transition, almost invisible.  It is a phenomenon of the chain effect. One change will affect the whole.

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  • Charisse Glenn

    Casting Director, Equestrian and Creator of The Let Go

    Charisse Glenn, Casting Director, Equestrian, and Creator of The Let Go She is 63 pushing upwards, gray, aging gracefully and has lots to say.  She is half Japanese and has the wisdom of that culture she was born into. US-born she has been a casting director for commercials in Los Angeles for 35 years and is an equestrian having competed in 100-mile horse races around the world. The blog she writes called The Let Go serves as a reminder to let go of all that no longer works in our lives, opening a pathway to happiness, love, and balance. Proudly she embraces the freedoms age provides serving as a role model to both men and women. She is a badass with a beautiful soft touch. You can find her on either of her websites or follow her on social media. Follower her on Clubbhose: Let That Shit Go!