Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Staying Out of Judgement /Holiday Edition

This season, from Thanksgiving through New Years, we are each presented with opportunities to interact and spend time with our extended families. What a wonderful time to release the habit of comparing people in your family to yourself, or to others. This is also a great chance to let go of your expectations that family members will or should read your script, behave how you think they ought to, or generally meet your needs. They won't. You'll be okay anyway.

Reduce your expectations of family members. Cultivate the belief that they are probably doing the best they can. You cannot find peace or serenity while judging others and causing conflict.

When we begin to practice tolerance for differences in our family, we take a huge step towards inner calm. Think radical acceptance of family members at holiday get- togethers. Decide in advance not to let anyone knock you off your center. You can always tell the true size of one's character by noticing the size of the thing that upsets him.

Set limits that protect yourself. I have been working with some of my patients this past few weeks on how to self-protect and buffer when relatives show up for the holidays. Plan outings or watch movies together. Get a board game out to play (Apples to Apples is my personal favorite---low-key, maximum interaction, silly, not competitive). Get out and go by yourself on a walk to check out the holiday decorations in the neighborhood. Ask family members to do specific tasks that will reduce the workload on one or two people, and share the leadership on the holiday.

Think of all this non-judgmental training with your family over the holidays as good preparation for carrying that non-judgmental spirit to work, school, relationships and life in general in the year ahead. Not judging others? It's a muscle in your character and personality that can be practiced and perfected. It helps to think about they way you would like to be loved by others. Acceptance, relinquishing control, lowered expectations, and living without comparisons really can contribute to making you a happier person and a beneficial presence to others. Bring on the merry making, and the refraining from judgment!

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