I clearly remember that feeling of anticipation and dread whenever I would have a family affair to attend. The worry that my life was about to be criticized, belittled, and joked about. I dreaded sitting around a table or in a circle around the living room with my family. The pressure to be a nice, happy family was enormous, and it usually ended in some sort of fight over an insignificant detail. Depending on the size of the affair, I would be nervous about it for ages. Imagining all the ways in which my family would be able shame and blame me.
Dreams of Dread
I’m sure I am not the only one that has felt nervous when it comes to family gatherings. Christmas may be the ultimate attempt at perfection within a toxic family. The pressure that this brings to victims of emotional abuse is massive. I know I used to spend weeks trying to figure out how I could make it all perfect so that I would not have to suffer so badly on the day. I would try to plan the perfect feast that would take me days to prepare. All in an attempt to buy approval and make up for how awful our family situation was.
What I realize, now, is that I may have approached this from the wrong angle. Making plans is fine, good even, because you focus your attention on keeping yourself safe. We spoke about some ways to do that a few weeks ago. Planning is actually a very good idea, but the secret is in what you are actually planning for.
Plan For Your Success
For years I was thinking about all the bad things that could happen when my family would get together. The hurt they would inflict on me. Fear, however, is not a very good foundation for life. So how should you plan for a confrontation with toxic people (this does not only apply to the holidays, by the way)?
Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what could go right.
Instead of focusing our attention on all the different ways that the toxic person can hurt us, think about the ways you can successfully protect yourself! I know that may sound like the same thing, but it really isn’t. The latter implies that you believe you have it in you to be strong and successful at protecting yourself from their toxicity. It is just that belief that will give you the boost in confidence to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So when emotionally preparing yourself for the holidays, remember to plan for your success!