Holiday peace doesn't always exist at home - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Holiday peace doesn't always exist at home

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Whenever most of us think of family and going home we becomeexcited with anticipation. We may think of hugs, smiles and good food. For manypeople this is not their going home experience. For many, images of fighting,caustic words flung carelessly, and rough touch comes to mind. They dread theholidays, they dread leaving work, and they dread the conversations that willlead to hurtful words and actions.

When the people who are supposedto love you don't, or the ones you share your name with humiliate or cause youshame, the feeling of loneliness and abandonment become insurmountable. Angergrows in this type of environment and when you react by holding anger in, youmay become depressed, anxious, and cynical. Nothing matters more than beingloved by the people you call family, and every human being needs to be loved bytheir family. I have witnessed people trying to fit into a family that is toxic,and in order to function every day they have to medicate with anti-depressants,anti-anxiety medications, alcohol, drugs, food, and a whole list of othermedications or vices that don't really work. Sometimes the key is to giveyourself permission not to go home for the holidays. If the thought of going homemakes you nervous, gives you a sick feeling in your tummy or a headache, yourbody is trying to tell you this is not a healthy environment for you to be in.Finding a healthy group of friends and/or selective family members that helpyou feel welcomed and loved without having to worry about what will happenduring the day's events can help make your holidays less stressful and moremeaningful.

In a healthy family there is no place like home for theholidays. However, in unhealthy families almost any place but home is where youshould be for the holidays. If your home is not healthy and you arecontemplating whether or not to go home, these suggestions may offer a guide:

  1. Ifyour family is toxic, limit your time or avoid entirely family members whoshame or humiliate you. No one should be around people who make them feel badlyabout themselves. Being related by blood or name does not give permission tobeat someone up, whether it is verbal, emotional, or physical.
  2. Bulliesaren't only on the playground. They can be people in your family. If you havebeen bullied all of your life, standing up and pointing out that you will nolonger allow yourself or your children to be bullied can free you from a sickfamily member. Bullies like a scene, so don't give them this advantage. Letthem know prior to the holidays and before you step your foot in their homethat you are no longer going to tolerate their insensitivity and/or cruelbehavior.
  3. Neverspend the night in a home with people who are supposed to love you but don't.When you do this, you become vulnerable to their schedule and control. It isbetter if you have a "safe, loving place" to retreat after the get together. Ahotel, a good friend's home, or making the long trip back home afterfestivities are healthier options.
  4. Ifyou do decide to go, make sure you don't drink. Toxic families get more toxicwith alcohol. If you need to escape, you need to be able to drive, and thinkclearly.
  5. Peoplewho are depressed or angry often use the holidays as a bargaining tool. This iswhen they try to make other family members feel guilty or ashamed for numerousreasons. I liken them to being a terrorist as they are trying to "make a deal"and they believe they have the power to manipulate you. Dealing with aterrorist of any kind (even if you are related to them) is not wise.  

In this changing world we all benefit from having a strong,loving family home to spend the holidays. If you find yourself feeling anxiousor depressed being around your family, that is a sign that something needs tochange. Look inside first, but also look around. Listen to the conversation. Your family is supposed to guide, mentor,love and believe in you. Life is precious and when going home begins to bean experience in feeling shame, guilt, betrayal or misery, it is time to findor create a healthier "family" to celebrate.

– Mary Jo Rapini

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