As much fun as the holiday season can be, it can be equally stressful and emotional. Returning to your family home, even thinking about returning to your home, can cause heightened blood pressure and eye twitches. Even when there is a lot of love and there are many positive activities, deep, dark emotions can bubble up to the surface.
Most of us can be proud of our development into adulthood. We have come a long way from our childhood. We are sophisticated, wise and mature. But somehow, when we visit parents and siblings, the gravity of going home sucks us into a vortex and we become our former selves; we become 16 again. Our old vulnerabilities surface and we become reactive. As dysfunctional as this phenomenon is, it is normal. In fact, the "vortex" is probably working on all members of the family simultaneously. I'll bet you think your other family members are always this immature, but chances are they are more mature and charming when they are not in family gatherings as well.
Family system experts explain that there are unseen forces that pressure us to keep the status quo in the family. Even though time may go by and people may change, when the family gets back together it's business as usual. We fall back into old, outdated roles and ways of relating. Lifelong rivalries, grudges, and cliches play out.
But they don't have to...
Stephanie Patterson, M.S., LMFT
1190 Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo, CA