Five Ways to Love Your Family
(Not only at the holidays but every day)
by Julie Matheson
For years as a young adult I would leave family visits wishing for a better overall experience and connection. For many of us there’s a natural urge to evolve and improve, but what if your family isn’t built that way? Personal growth and evolution aren’t everyone’s thing. Differences in commitment to one’s inner growth can make the gulf between you and your family feel even bigger.
Family members can push our buttons and trigger our core wounds like no other. They know best how to do it and they do it often out of pure habit. And unless we are conscious of our own intentions and behaviors, we do it to them, too.
Success with family interactions is all about keeping the focus on your own clear, pure intentions. We can’t change anyone else. However, we can adjust our own philosophy and approach. Here are five mindsets for your consideration. Pick your favorite to try this holiday:
1. Fully commit to making your life a great one: It’s easy to blame others for how our life has turned out yet it’s each person’s job to keep their own love tank full and to keep the focus on the one life we have any right or volition to control: our own. There comes a time when we decide to deal with where we are now regardless of where we learned our limiting beliefs and to make our own inner world a wonderful place to live. When we keep the focus on what’s ours to do, it takes the pressure off our relatives and allows space for new relating to move in.
2. Nothing is ever personal: Everyone is carrying a heavy burden of some sort. Everyone has core emotional wounds yet to sort out, personality quirks waiting to be addressed, and life experience scarring of every possible kind. You only need heal your own emotional issues this lifetime and leave others to theirs. When you get triggered, note it, evaluate why it hurts so badly, discover what it’s rooted in and the beliefs you adopted as a result. Perhaps it’s time for a new perspective. Rarely is anything truly personal. Being triggered simply offers us clues to deeper work we can do.
3. Commit to non-reaction during your visit: It may take keen awareness to achieve this but embrace the challenge. Unconscious people have unconscious agendas and behaviors. If you react to their behavior, they will only see your reaction and may actually think you started it. Therefore, the best way to deal with this, for now, is non-reaction. You can always have a conversation about it later when you are both present and outside of the family dynamic. Then evaluate how you did. This is hard. Be kind to yourself.
4. Choose one spiritual practice for each visit: For example, this holiday practice self-acceptance. Let that be your hammer and let everything look like a nail where you can apply self-acceptance. With this you offer a fresh start. It will change the energy in the room; as does greeting everyone with a smile and compassion. No matter what has happened in the past, let your approach and spiritual practice be your focus. Then rate yourself after the visit. Were you able to stay present to your practice while with family?
5. Love is not a zero-sum game (although many families operate with this premise): “It’s not their job to love you. It is your job to love you and to love them” - the first time I considered this idea, it took me from “seeking” to “giving”. Unfortunately, some families aren’t capable of loving us the way we want, and expecting otherwise is unrealistic. So be the one who knows and practices that there is plenty of love, praise and attention to go around. Practice pointing out the goodness you see. Repeat the mantra: “There is plenty for everyone.”
If any of this seems like a tall order or feels depleting in any way, it’s okay to take breaks from family and only visit when you have the energy for giving it your best.
Miracles can occur when we become a loving, safe, honest, dependable haven for others. Any time we commit to a new practice, learning inevitably occurs. We all have to do our inner work, face what we came here to face and each design a life we love to live. No one can do that for us. Families offer us a place to practice and to give our love.
If you would like professional assistance with your approach to your family, and need someone to listen, ask great questions, and to help you set spiritual goals, please reach out.
Julie Matheson is a holistic mental health counselor and author. Her new book is
on Amazon in paperback, Kindle, Audible and in bookstores near you –
Lotus Flower Living: A Journaling Practice for Deep Discovery and
Lasting Peace: Untangle Your Mind and Heart Once and For All.
You may listen to the Introduction at LotusFlowerLiving.com/book.