Do you dread the holiday season? Have you had a history of holiday events that have left you feeling angry, hurt and lonely? When you think about spending time with your family are you immersed in self pity because you feel more pain than pleasure being around them? You are not alone. These feelings are experienced by millions of people who have been emotionally abused by someone they love. Emotional abuse can be subtle or obvious, direct or indirect. Here are some examples:
- Constant criticism
- The person can’t be pleased
- Regular use of sarcasm
- Consistent focus on your faults rather than strengths
- Constant disrespect
- Regular swearing, bullying or intimidation
- Manipulative and controlling behavior
- You feel damned if you do and damned if you don’t
Some emotional abuse occurs in every relationship occasionally. However, people who regularly engage in any of the above behaviors are emotionally abusive. Family members who are emotional abusive are not fun to be around and can take the joy out of the holiday season.
There are things you can do to minimize, even eliminate subjecting yourself to emotional abuse on the holidays, or any day for that matter.
Suggestion 1: Holiday time does not have to be family time.
You deserve to enjoy yourself on the holidays. If you find that family time over the holidays has always been a time of emotional pain, choose to spend the holiday with people that you feel good about being around! Good friends can be family that you choose and if you want to be in a more positive family environment, invite yourself to a supportive friend’s house.
Suggestion 2: Think outside the box.
Just because you’ve always celebrated a holiday in a certain way doesn’t mean you always have to do the same. If holidays are miserable for you, get creative. Find a new more satisfying ritual. One New Year’s Eve I was in a foreign country all alone. I could have felt sorry for myself but I went exploring the city and had a wonderful massage at a spa instead! I chose to give myself a wonderful time. Instead of engaging in conflict after Turkey dinner, go outside with a family member and have a snowball fight. Or how about spending a Christmas serving the homeless in a soup kitchen?
You can choose to have a happier holiday if you 1) think of something you love to do or have always wanted to do 2) do that in conjunction with or instead of time with an emotionally abusive family member.
Suggestion 3: Just say no!
Say no to the abuser; set a boundary. For example, to the constant criticizer, say“I won’t talk to you until you have something nice to say about me,” then find someone else at the party to talk to. Or, “I don’t like the sarcastic humor, it hurts my feelings, please stop.” Or to your family member who swears at you “I will speak to you when you stop swearing at me,” and walk away.
You can choose to make your holiday pleasant. You can do that by planning pleasant activities with pleasant people or setting boundaries with those who make it unpleasant.
Happy holidays…..it is your choice!
© Copyright 2010 by Felice Block, MA, LCPC, therapist in Lake Zurich, Illinois. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.