’Tis the time of year for crackling fires, amazing smells coming out of the kitchen, laughter, and family-togetherness. Well, at least, that’s what the made-for-TV movies want us to think.
For a lot of us, though, who come from families that were dysfunctional and abusive, family gatherings are a source of extreme stress and anticipatory anxiety. Gathering some resources to help us navigate is vitally important to surviving the holidays: you get to choose your level of involvement and how you frame it for yourself. You matter!
I get questions from clients all the time about how to start to set boundaries, what to do if someone continues to crash through them, how to “make” the other person abide by them.
Setting boundaries is hard, so please cut yourself some slack. As you start to practice setting boundaries, you will get more comfortable with it. It’s very uncomfortable at first, and that’s okay. We are starting to do something that we’ve spent years — decades, perhaps — not doing! There is going to be a learning curve, so please tell your inner critic that your kind, inner coach says “shup, you are doing great just trying!”
There is a misconception that boundaries are to get someone else to do or stop doing a behavior, to stop treating us in a way that is harmful and hurtful. In reality, any boundaries you set are all about what you will allow and what you won’t tolerate. When we set boundaries, we are saying we value ourselves enough to say “no” and stop accepting the harmful behavior.