Let’s face it: as much as we look forward to our end-of-year break, we may also find ourselves somewhat dreading it to the same degree. Why? Because a reunion with the family can be bittersweet.
We are not suggesting that you don’t love your family, nor that you don’t enjoy spending time with them, simply that they can often test our patience to a higher degree than anyone else we know. Think about it: humans are complex! We are all shaped by a unique genetic makeup giving us a unique personality, a unique mood-set, and a unique set of preferences. Chuck in a unique cultural upbringing, a unique environmental context, and a unique sub-set of experiences, influences, and stressors, and we are left with the dynamic nature of who we are and the specific way in which we view the world.
What’s more, during this entire time and process, we accumulate a whole set of specific biases and assumptions about the nature of people and the universe, that we carry around with us everywhere we go. They are like different sets of lenses, or glasses, that we subjectively interpret every situation from. And the scary thing is, we often don’t even know we are wearing them! So when our manager speaks to us in a certain tone, we might interpret it as condescending simply because we are carrying around with us a particular lens that we picked up in high school when Queen Bitch of the year made a rude remark to us. Could it be that our manager is just having a rough day?
Our point is that humans are beautifully complicated, and that it makes for an interesting concoction when you chuck us together with a bunch of other individuals who are just as beautifully complicated as we are. Especially ones that we had no input in choosing. Add to the mix at least 18 years of duration, minimal personal time and space, as well as all the challenges and stressors that our environment posed at that time. It’s understandable that our relationship with each of our family members, not to mention the family dynamic as a whole, is as complex as we are.
Here’s a concept that we think might be worth trying out these holidays: There is a cool notion that other individuals we come into contact with, are merely a mirror reflection of ourselves. In other words, we notice in others only what must first exist within ourselves. So when we converse with another person, analysing our reactions to them provides an excellent opportunity to determine firstly what it is we may not like about ourselves, but secondly, what glasses we are wearing in that instant in which we are using to interpret the situation from. Once we realise that we are wearing a particular pair of glasses, we then have a choice whether to take them off or not.
Since our families are the ones who we have often spent the most amount of time with over the course of our lives, they have usually seen us with all our complexities exposed. As we subsequently have nothing to hide from them, we generally have less of a filter around them, so we tend to act out the most in their presence. This is why they provide the ideal platform for strengthening the practice of noticing triggers and removing glasses.
Our challenge to you for this summer break when you are sitting opposite your parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles is to continuously check in with yourself. Notice the triggers that start to boil you up inside, and see if you can pinpoint what lens it is that you are wearing in that moment. By realising that you are donning a particular pair of glasses, attempt to take them off for a while, and notice how it feels. Who knows, maybe you prefer viewing life without them?!