Dysfunctional Holiday Fun
Written By: Mark Smith
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The holidays are upon us already. I don't know about you, but that brings up some unique opportunities for extended family closeness and craziness. At every family gathering that we have had that I can remember, somebody at some point has gotten a little (or a lot) emotionally reactive. I honestly would miss it if it didn't happen. It just wouldn't be the holidays without it. It isn't always the same person. Sometimes it is even me, the experienced therapist, writer, supervisor, Christian and long time recovering person who acts a little nuts. It is part and parcel of our family's heritage. I love and value my dysfunctional family and I wouldn't trade them for anything.
What wacky little things occur with your family system? Can you play with it a bit, or does it get under your skin? I used to have a little cartoon that I would post about this time every year. It showed a stressed out lady bouncing off the walls at a family gathering and it read "Understand that just one visit home for the holidays can ruin a whole year of therapy." It is funny, but I really don't believe that. Actually, if you want to grow as a person and advance in your therapy, one of the best things that you can do is go hang out with the whole family. Something that I have always said to my clients is "never underestimate the power of a gathered family." What that means is that when you get in the not so friendly confines of your family of origin, you might shrink down into a little kid and start acting powerless, reactive and completely unlike yourself. For those of you who were in your 30's in the 80's, you probably watched one of my favorite shows of all time, "ThirtySomething." In one of the scenes, Melissa shrank into a little girl in a frilly dress licking a lollipop as her controlling father lectured her. That can happen. It is all good. Even if you do get into a painful interchange with a member of your family, it can encourage a lot of growth and healing on your part. If you can learn to be real, assertive and non-reactive with your family of origin, then you can do it with anybody.
In spite of your family's particular form of holiday craziness, I want to encourage you to embrace and be thankful for your family. They are your people. You can learn so much about yourself by being around them. Not everybody has family, so treasure them while you can. And a merry dysfunctional Christmas to you and yours!
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