Are you dealing with family stress? Lashing out at your mom for that condescending thing she said? Feeling guilty that you’re avoiding your dad because he drives you crazy? Today you’re going to learn my top three tips to not get triggered by family so you can find joy and peace in your relationship with your parents and siblings.
Ahh, family stress…. I was watching an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert and she said, “I had a great teacher in India who said to me, ‘If you think you’re spiritual and evolved and enlightened, go home for Christmas and see how it goes.’” Ain’t that the truth!
Dealing with Family Stress: Why Does My Family Bug Me Like No One Else?!
Isn’t it amazing how a stranger can say something to you like, “What’s with the haircut?” and, maybe you’re annoyed but you really don’t give it a second thought. But then your mom says the same thing and you lose your shit?!
It’s because you’re triggered and, as we like to say in the 12-step rooms, “Your family easily pushes all your buttons because they’re the ones who installed them.”
When we’re with our parents or siblings, we can easily get triggered. The problem is that, when you’re triggered, it’s generally happening below your conscious level of thinking.
You don’t think, you just “do.” An emotional trigger is basically anything that happens currently that reminds your brain of something that’s happened to you earlier in life. What’s happening is that you’re regressing to an earlier emotional state so you can’t access your adult emotional skills as easily. This is old conditioning come back to haunt you.
When you’re triggered, you lose your ability to think something through, problem solve or make a thoughtful decision. This leads to falling into the same negative patterns and arguments over and over again. Everyone’s got triggers, it’s just that the ones related to our parents and siblings are often the most challenging to move past.
Having said that, it’s not impossible!
Top Three Tips to Not Get Triggered By Family and Move Past the Family Stress
Tip #1: Get Yourself Ready
The secret to so much of not getting triggered is to be in the right head space first. Make sure you’re relaxed before you jump on a call with your sister. Learn how to set intention before you walk into your parents’ house.
Don’t answer that text or phone call right away. Take a moment and center yourself first, so you’re in the right frame of mind.
Getting yourself ready also means that you might have an exit plan or limit your time with family. Do you need to love from a distance?
Tip #2: Have a Cognitive Reframe
Cognitive reframing is all about finding a new perspective or point of view so you can think differently and therefore feel differently about a person or situation. There are three specific cognitive reframes that I find highly effective. Choose one that suits you:
Reframe A: Your family members are the greatest spiritual teachers in your life.
Enter into each interaction with your mom or brother thinking, “This is a teachable moment.” What are you being asked to learn here? How can this interaction help you? What is it calling you to pay attention to? Do you need to look at your boundaries? Work on your compassion (not just for them but for yourself too)? Are you getting a lesson in patience? All of these lessons will help you in the rest of your relationships.
Reframe B: Ask yourself, “Do I want to be correct or effective?”
Sure, maybe it’s correct that your sister is always competing with you or that your dad doesn’t respect your job, but is it effective to get entrenched in that battle with them? If an effective interaction with your family means that you feel loving and walk away at peace, then you’re going to need to figure out how you could be effective in making that happen. Right or happy – you decide.
Reframe C: How do you know?
We’re sooooo sure we’re right about things: “He knew that would bother me, that’s why he said it!” “She clearly doesn’t care about me or she wouldn’t do that!” We assign meaning everywhere and we’re so sure we’re right about it. Instead, ask yourself, “What else could be true about this situation or what they said?”
Tip #3: Be Mindful Throughout Your Time Together
You can’t just get yourself all centered and groovy before the interaction and then do nothing the rest of the time you’re with your family member. If you’re spending more than an hour together, you need to create ways to stay mindful throughout your time together.
- You could set a reminder on your phone for every hour you’re with them. When it goes off, take a moment to center yourself and remind yourself that all is well
- Take breaks often. Go wash your face, step out of the house, go to the bathroom, or whatever you need to get yourself away for a few minutes so you can re-center yourself.
When you’re mindful, you still might get triggered, but you’ll be able to identify when you’re triggered so you can act and not re-act.
Other Thoughts on Dealing with Family Stress and Triggers
There are two other very important things I want you to think about with all this:
1. You love, but do you accept?
There comes a time when we need to stop raging against the machine and love our family not despite all the things that make us crazy, but including all the things that used to make us crazy. This is them. Just like you want to be accepted for who you are, so do they.
2. You can’t control other people.
If your mom is mean to your dad and you don’t like it, that’s between your dad and your mom. Stay out of it. You’re just looking for justifications to be angry at your mom and you’ve got to step back. If you think your dad needs help but he’s refusing it, you’re going to need to find a middle ground or hire someone else to help so it’s not so personal.
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